Democratic People's Republic of Korea
|Democratic People's Republic of Korea|
Territories of Korea presently occupied by the United States are shown in light green.
and largest city
|Government||Socialist state guided by the Juche idea|
• General Secretary of the Workers' Party
• President of the Presidium
• Prime Minister
• First Vice Chairman of the State Affairs Commission
• Premier of the Cabinet
• Chairman of the Supreme People's Assembly
• Founding of the DPRK
|9 September 1948|
• Start of partial US occupation
|8 September 1945|
• 2020 estimate
(77,048,000 including Koreans under neocolonial occupation)
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), also known as People's Korea and incorrectly referred to as North Korea by bourgeois media, is a socialist country in East Asia. Korea is one nation, but the southern half of Korea is occupied by the US-backed anti-communist Republic of Korea.
The DPRK is led by the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK). According to its constitution, the DPRK is an "independent socialist state", guided by the ideology of Juche which is a derivative of Marxism-Leninism originally codified by Kim Il-Sung.
In 2017, DPRK's Minister of Foreign affairs, Ri Yong Ho, stated at the United Nations General Assembly that "The U.S. had put sanctions against our country from the very first day of its foundation, and the over 70-year long history of the DPRK can be said in a sense a history of struggle, persevering along the road of self-development under the harshest sanctions in the world." Ri also stated that the essence of the situation of the Korean peninsula is a confrontation between the DPRK and the US, where the DPRK tries to defend its national dignity and sovereignty against the hostile policy and nuclear threats of the US, and points out that it was the US who first introduced nuclear weapons to the Korean peninsula. Ri stated that "The very reason the DPRK had to possess nuclear weapons is because of the U.S., and it had to strengthen and develop its nuclear force onto the current level to cope with the U.S. [...] Our national nuclear force is, to all intents and purposes, a war deterrent for putting an end to nuclear threat of the U.S. and for preventing its military invasion".
Minister Ri also clarified DPRK's nuclear policy by quoting Kim Jong-un as saying that international justice can only be achieved when the anti-imperialist independent countries are strong enough, and that possession of nuclear deterrence by the DPRK is a righteous self-defensive measure taken as an ultimate option, pursuant to this principle, and further clarified that the DPRK "do[es] not have any intention at all to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against the countries that do not join in the U.S. military actions against the DPRK."
DPRK representative Kim Song stated at the 2021 UN General Assembly, "If the U.S. wants to see the Korean war, the most prolonged and long-lasting war in the world, come to an end, and if it is really desirous of peace and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula, it should take the first step towards giving up its hostile policy against the DPRK by stopping permanently the joint military exercises and the deployment of all kinds of strategic weapons which are levelled at the DPRK in and around the Korean peninsula."
Following the defeat of Japan and the end of the Second World War, Japan lost control of its colonies, including what was formerly the Korean Empire. As a result of negotiations between the Soviet Union and the United States, the Korean Peninsula was divided into occupation zones along the 38th Parallel North. Although there was an attempt at establishing the People's Republic of Korea, the nascent state was outlawed by American forces.
Pre-Fatherland Liberation War
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea was founded the 9th of September, 1948. The illegitimate government of the occupied portion of Korea (often referred to as South Korea, or Republic of Korea) was also established the same year, when dictator Syngman Rhee came to power due to American influence. Kim Il-Sung became the first Premier of the DPRK, a position he would hold until 1972.
The Occupied Korean government was hostile to socialism and to the DPRK. Even though Western media accuses the DPRK of initiating the Fatherland Liberation War (often referred to as the Korean War), numerous acts of violence were perpetrated by the illegitimate southern government that were tantamount to war -- namely the massacre on Jeju Island that targeted communists. The death toll was composed of civilians, many of whom were not affiliated with the Workers' Party of South Korea or communism at all. Paramilitary groups from the Republic of Korea illegally crossed the border into the DPRK on multiple occasions.
Fatherland Liberation War
See main article: Fatherland Liberation War
During the Fatherland Liberation War, DPRK forces almost repelled the illegal occupation army; however, additional forces were sent by the United Nations and the United States to fight DPRK troops. Western forces pushed DPRK forces all the way to the border of the newly formed People's Republic of China, which had itself repelled reactionary Kuomintang forces from the mainland. PRC forces intervened to protect Korean sovereignty, repelling Western troops once more as part of the War to Resist the U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea campaign. The majority of the fighting during the rest of the Fatherland Liberation War took place near the 38th Parallel North, with only minor border changes occurring after a ceasefire was signed. The DPRK technically remains at war with its illegitimate southern neighbour as no truce has been signed between the two.
US sanctions on DPRK began in conjunction with the 1950 escalation of the war, with the US imposing an export ban on DPRK and forbidding financial transactions by or on behalf of DPRK. This began with U.S. President Harry S. Truman ordering naval blockade of Korean coast and imposing a total trade embargo against north Korea in June of 1950. This was followed by the Trading with the Enemy Act in December 1950, to terminate all US economic contacts with north Korea and freezing north Korea's assets. Truman also imposed an embargo against China, freezing Chinese assets in US at this time. In 1952, an embargo was imposed on all exports of industrial equipment and raw materials.
Post-Fatherland Liberation War
After the armistice agreement, the US continued to prohibit all US economic contacts with DPRK in line with its general strategic controls against communist countries.
In 1988, South Korean and the US eased isolation of north Korea by opening bilateral dialogue and allowing limited export of goods to the North for humanitarian purposes. Some travel restrictions were also lifted on a case-by-case basis. However, in that same year, DPRK was added to the U.S. State Department "State Sponsors of Terrorism" list.
A unified team under the name Korea (KOR) competed in 1991 World Table Tennis Championships and FIFA World Youth Championship with athletes from both North and South Korea. In 1991, the team used the Unification Flag and the anthem "Arirang".
In 1992, the ROK announced suspension of the "Team Spirit" military training exercise normally conducted each year in conjunction with US forces stationed in South Korea. On January 22, US Undersecretary of State Arnold Kanter and Korean Workers' Party Secretary Kim Yong Sun held the first of a series of bilateral talks, focusing on the future of US–North Korean relations and unification issues on the peninsula. However, following difficulties regarding the Joint Nuclear Control Committee, the US and ROK decided to conduct the Team Spirit exercise after all, and DPRK refused to negotiate bilateral nuclear inspections unless the Team Spirit exercise would be cancelled. By 1993, the US and South Korea confirmed that Team Spirit would proceed as planned, and DPRK ended negotiations.
In July 1993, President Bill Clinton, during a visit to the South Korean side of the DMZ, warned that the United States would respond to DPRK use of nuclear weapons with massive conventional or nuclear retaliation. In later January/early February of 1994, US officials in Washington let it be known they were considering transferring Patriot missiles to South Korea as a defensive move. In Seoul, a Defense Ministry official called for the resumption of Team Spirit unless the North agreed to full nuclear inspections. The US warned DPRK that unless it would allow inspections, it would bring a sanctions resolution before the UN Security Council.
In July 1994, Kim Il-sung passed away.
6.15 Declaration and ROK's "Sunshine Policy"
The South Korean policy towards DPRK from the late 1990s to mid 2000s is known as the "Sunshine Policy" and is primarily associated with the Kim Dae-jung administration (1998–2003) and the Roh Moo-hyun administration (2003–2008). During this time, a notable attitude of reconciliation between north and south Korea was expressed by south Korean leadership.
On June 13-15, 2000 leaders of south and north Korea meet for the first time since the war. South Korean president Kim Dae-jung and DPRK leader Kim Jong-il signed an agreement calling for family reunions, economic cooperation, social and cultural exchanges and follow-up governmental contacts between the North and South to ease tensions. This is known as the June 15th North–South Joint Declaration or the 6.15 Inter-Korean Joint Declaration.
The date "6.15" would subsequently become a popular reference among the Korean reunification movement. Additionally, the phrase uri minjok kkiri (Hangeul: 우리 민족끼리), which can be translated as "among our nation" or "between our people" can be found in the joint document signed by Kim Dae Jung and Kim Jong Il at the 6.15 talks. The phrase implies the idea of solving the questions of unification and peace on the Korean peninsula without the influence or meddling of outside powers. The numbers "6.15" and the phrase "uri minjok kkiri" can frequently be seen and heard in Korean unification-oriented media, publications, and activism.
Since the beginning of the DPRK nuclear tests in 2003, the Bush and Obama administrations respectively lifted some sanctions to facilitate negotiations around DPRK denuclearization, and then reinstated them when the negotiations failed to produce the results desired by the US.
According to Nodutdol, in 2018, 3,968 people in the DPRK, who were mostly children under the age of 5, died as a result of shortages and delays to UN aid programs caused by sanctions.
In January 2020, South Korean President Moon Jae-In expressed interest in developing tourism to North Korea, but the US ambassador Harry Harris blocked this effort. Harris claimed that "independent" tourism plans would have to undergo US consultation. He emphasized that the items inside South Korean tourists' luggage could violate sanctions, demonstrating the extent of US interference in inter-Korean affairs.
The DPRK has maintained one of the most centralized economies in the world since the 1940s. For several decades, it followed the Soviet pattern of five-year plans with the ultimate goal of achieving self-sufficiency. DPRK is also one of the most sanctioned countries in the world, and has been subject to sanctions since just after its foundation.
The US first imposed sanctions on DPRK during the 1950s. Following the country’s 2006 nuclear test, the US, EU, and others added more stringent sanctions, which have periodically intensified since then. Sanctions now target oil imports, and cover most finance and trade, and the country’s key minerals sector. However, 49 countries, including Cuba, Iran, and Syria have violated these sanctions and traded with the DPRK anyways.
The economy is heavily nationalized. Food and housing are extensively subsidized by the state, education and healthcare are free, and the payment of taxes was officially abolished in 1974.
Foreign trade surpassed pre-crisis levels in 2005 and continues to expand. The DPRK has a number of special economic zones (SEZs) and Special Administrative Regions where foreign companies can operate with tax and tariff incentives while DPRK establishments gain access to improved technology.
The United States has targeted the DPRK with severe sanctions, citing its nuclear weapons program as their reason. According to Foreign Policy in Focus, sanctions on DPRK have "demonstrably failed." FPIF notes that sanctions didn’t deter DPRK from pursuing a nuclear weapons program, nor have they been subsequently responsible for pushing it toward denuclearization, and adds that DPRK has been under sanctions for nearly its entire existence and it doesn’t have a strong international economic presence that can be penalized, and "has been willing to suffer the effects of isolation in order to build what it considers to be a credible deterrence against foreign attack."
My delegation takes this opportunity to extend strong support to and solidarity with the Cuban government and people who are fighting to defend national sovereignty and realize international justice against the high-handedness, arbitrariness and unilateral embargo of the U.S.
We also express strong support to and solidarity with the government and people of Venezuela who are fighting to defend the national sovereignty and the cause of socialism.
The unjust and contemptible acts such as turning a blind eye to the heinous acts of Israel while condemning in every manner only the Syrian government fighting to protect its national sovereignty and security should not be tolerated any longer.
The DPRK government will certainly defend peace and security of the country with its powerful nuclear deterrence and also contribute to safeguarding world peace and security.
The DPRK representative Kim Song at the 2021 UN General Assembly spoke on the DPRK delegation extending "its full support and encouragement to the Cuban government and people who continue to move forward holding aloft the banner of socialism in the face of the U.S. moves to impose illegal sanctions and blockade and to undermine Cuba from within" and expressed "constant support to and solidarity with the independent countries including Syria and Palestine and their peoples in their unyielding struggle to defend the national dignity, sovereignty and territorial integrity."
In a 2021 speech to the United Nations General Assembly, the DPRK's representative Kim Song stated, "In the course of the DPRK-U.S. showdown spanning over half a century, we have been very much accustomed to the U.S. military threats, and we know well how to deal with the U.S., the most hostile country. We have learned the mode of existence to cope with the U.S. hostile policy and accumulated rich experience." The representative further characterized the DPRK-US relationship in the following way:
From the first day of the foundation of the DPRK, the U.S. has not recognized our sovereignty, treating us as an enemy state, and openly showed its hostility towards the socialist system chosen by our people. The U.S. designated the DPRK as a "communist state" and a "state of non-market economy", and it completely blocked, both institutionally and legislatively, the establishment of relations between the DPRK and the U.S. in the fields of politics, economy and trade, under the unreasonable pretexts of "human rights issue", "proliferation of the WMD", "sponsoring of terrorism", "oppression of religion", "money laundering" and etc.
If it is not a hostile policy, should it be called a "friendly policy"?
The U.S. hostile policy against the DPRK finds its clearest expression in its military threats against us. Not a single foreign troop, not a single foreign military base exists in the territory of the DPRK. But in south Korea, almost 30,000 U.S. troops are stationing at numerous military bases, maintaining a war posture to take military action against the DPRK at any moment. The DPRK has no record of having conducted a military exercise even a single time around the U.S., but the U.S. has annually staged all sorts of war drills on and around the Korean peninsula and in the Korean waters for the last several decades, by mobilizing army, naval and air forces across the world including the U.S. troops in south Korea, and it has threatened us through military demonstrations of intimidating nature while deploying numerous armaments to south Korea from time to time.
The representative also noted that the possible outbreak of a new war on the Korean peninsula is contained "not because of the U.S.’s mercy on the DPRK" but because the DPRK "is growing reliable deterrent that can control the hostile forces in their attempts for military invasion".
Kim Yo Jong, First Vice Department Director of Central Committee of Workers’ Party of Korea, in response to being called a “rogue state” by the US Defense Secretary, has been quoted by Nodutdol as saying, "the sufferings imposed upon us by the U.S. have now turned into the hatred for the U.S., and this hatred would drive us to break through the blockade of persistent sanctions led by the U.S. and to live our own way by our own efforts."
Among the political leadership, bourgeoisie, and working people of South Korea, there is variation in attitudes toward DPRK. For the majority of South Korea's history, its leaders have been far-right anti-communist military dictators as well as corrupt oligarchs. A handful of ROK presidents are notable for their "Sunshine Policy" stance toward DPRK, a stance of reconciliation. Most notably associated with this attitude are Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun. The more recent president, Moon Jae-in, has been described as having revived certain elements of the Sunshine Policy era. However, his presidency was followed by the right-wing Yoon Suk-yeol who took office in 2022, and has a much more aggressive pro-US stance.
In regard to public opinion in South Korea, the 2021 KINU Unification Survey reported that positive responses to the question “If North Korea open the borders to each other and cooperate on political and economic matters, such a state can be considered unification even if the two Koreas are not one country” have reached 63.2%. In addition, the survey found there is a growing tendency to be indifferent to DPRK and to "give up expectations" rather than a negative view for the future of inter-Korean relations. The IMF generation and millennial generations clearly show a high level of indifference toward North Korea compared to the older generations. (IMF generation 68.3%, Millennial generation 74.1%).
According to the survey, the gap between ‘Prefers unification’ and ‘Prefers peaceful coexistence’ is very huge in the millennial generation. In the 2021 survey, the percentage of ‘Prefers peaceful coexistence’ was 71.4% and the percentage of ‘Prefers unification’ was 12.4%, showing a difference of 59%P. The summary of the results suggests that "the trend that younger generations view North Korea as the subject of coexistence and not unification will become stronger in the future." The younger generation tends to loosely favor confederations. The Millennial generation most actively preferred confederations and has the lowest percentage of preference for unitary state system at only 6.5%. The preference for unification in the unitary state system, which is the traditional unification view, was relatively high among the war generation (17.8%). However, more` than half of the War generation (52.1%) preferred confederations.
67.7% of survey respondents agreed to the statement “The agreements between the two Koreas should be continued regardless of the government's change” and 90.3% of the respondents said ‘necessary’ to the question “Do you think that U.S. Armed Forces in Korea is needed now?” 69% of respondents showed a positive attitude toward the question “Do you think U.S. President Biden should hold a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un?” The survey also found that people under 30 are apparently more vulnerable to fake news about DPRK than those over 40. Income level, residence area, political ideology, and party identification also seem to influence the reception of fake news on DPRK and unification issues.
The US consistently interferes in inter-Korean affairs and polices Korean reunification efforts by citing sanctions. According to Nodutdol, only a few months after the Korean leaders signed the Panmunjeom Declaration, the US-led UN Command which oversees the DMZ, blocked development of the inter-Korean railway. In January 2020, South Korean President Moon Jae-In expressed interest in developing tourism to North Korea, but the US ambassador Harry Harris blocked this effort. Harris claimed that "independent" tourism plans would have to undergo US consultation. He emphasized that the items inside South Korean tourists' luggage could violate sanctions, demonstrating the extent of US interference.
During Moon Jae-in's presidency, a number of inter-Korean activities took place, such as the 2018 inter-Korean summit. In the 2018 Winter Olympics, the teams representing DPRK and south Korea entered the Opening Ceremony marching under the Korean Unification Flag, while in women's ice hockey there was a single united Korean team. A music concert titled "Spring is Coming" was also held in 2018, in which a number of south Korean artists performed alongside north Korean artists in Pyongyang, DPRK.
Pro-DPRK voices in South Korea are stifled by the existence of the National Security Law. The National Security Law is a south Korean law enforced since 1948 following events such as the Jeju Uprising where Koreans opposed the division of the country into north and south. The National Security Law has the avowed purpose "to secure the security of the State and the subsistence and freedom of nationals, by regulating any anticipated activities compromising the safety of the State." Behaviors or speeches in favor of the DPRK or communism can be punished by the National Security Law. In an article from The Diplomat, it was referred to as a "Cold War holdover" that "allows the government to selectively prosecute anyone who 'praises, incites or propagates the activities of an anti-government organization'" which the article describes as "a deliberately vague clause that broadly implies the North Korean state and its sympathizers." The article continues, explaining "Under Article 7, individuals have been prosecuted and imprisoned for merely possessing North Korean publications or satirically tweeting North Korean propaganda. In recent years this clause has been harshly criticized by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, who claim the government abuses the law to repress dissenting voices."
According to the People's Democracy Party (PDP), a revolutionary workers' party in south Korea, the continued U.S. military occupation of south Korea is the primary barrier to peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula.
On August 13, 2022, thousands of south Korean unionists and their progressive supporters rallied in downtown Seoul to protest against joint US-south Korea war game exercises. In a video uploaded by Press TV, Oh Eun-Jung of the National Teachers Union was quoted as saying "The threat of nuclear war is growing on the Korean peninsula, conservative forces of Yoon Suk-yeol in south Korea and those in the U.S. are frantically conducting aggressive war drills in the sky, the land, and the sea, and are about to start large-scale military exercises, aimed at the invasion of north Korea. We must stamp out this behavior of anti-reunification forces." In the same video, construction worker Lee Seung-Woo stated, "We not only oppose the war exercises, but we want the U.S. Forces Korea, which is actually controlling and interfering with the Korean peninsula to leave this land. We believe that only then will the eighty million Koreans from both north and south be able to live peacefully."
Unconverted long-term prisoners
Unconverted long-term prisoners is the north Korean term for northern loyalists imprisoned in south Korea who never renounced their support for DPRK. Many of them were arrested as spies, and some spent over 40 years in prison for their refusal to disavow the DPRK. While in prison, many of them were held in solitary confinement and subjected to extensive torture. In the late 1990s, amnesty was declared for certain elderly and ill prisoners and they began to be released from prison and allowed to live in south Korean society, with limited rights due to their refusal to disavow their loyalty to the DPRK. As the unconverted long-term prisoners began to be released, many of them sought repatriation to the DPRK. Some were able to return to DPRK, notably many of them in the year 2000 during the Sunshine Policy period, but others remain in the south, being denied their requests for repatriation. Those who returned to the DPRK were met with celebrations and fanfare welcoming them as heroes, while those remaining in South Korea generally live in poverty and in nursing homes, some without social security numbers. Former unconverted political prisoners, upon being released, are also subjected to ROK state surveillance under the Security Surveillance Act. Giving examples of this, former political prisoner Anh Hak-sop explained in a 2020 Liberation School interview, "[T]here are security police who follow me. Whenever there is a problem with the North and South, they raid my house and stand guard outside my property. One time at a demonstration, conservative forces attacked me. The police did nothing to protect me. Every week or every other week, the police come to my house and ask about my activities, who has visited my house, and so on. Once every other month I need to report to them about what I did, who I met, and who visited me. Every two years I need to go to court."
Additionally, many who participated in the repatriation in the year 2000 and many of those who remained in South Korea made their decisions based on their impression at the time that there was going to be more freedom of movement between ROK and DPRK thereafter. According to Ahn Hak-sop, who chose to remain in the South when the 2000 repatriation happened, said one of his reasons was that he "thought it was a temporary situation." Anh also notes that "Those comrades went to the North because they thought that shortly there would be free movement between the two states. They went to the North to study and thought they would come back later." Regarding his own intention to stay in the south temporarily, Anh elaborated: "[T]here were young progressive people here in the South, and they asked me to stay. [...] We have to keep struggling here for the withdrawal of US army, the peace treaty, and peaceful reunification. I decided to stay here to fight for these goals. In 1952, I came here to liberate the southern half of the peninsula, and I need to stay here and continue that struggle.
Those who oppose the repatriation of these former prisoners generally do so on grounds of demanding that DPRK start repatriating people back to the south as well. In 2003, south Korean director Kim Dong-won released Repatriation, a documentary about the unconverted prisoners and their experiences, based on more than 12 years and 800 hours of filming. The film documents their views on Korea's partition, their daily hardships as they attempt to adjust to south Korean society, as well as their struggle for repatriation.
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