More Information Monday: North Korea

More Information Monday: North Korea

We’re back this week to discuss one of the biggest current events: North Korea


Anytime I hear about North Korea, it’s scary.  Can you give me a basic, non-terrifying explanation of what is going on?

North Korea is a completely isolated country (located in Asia and borders China and South Korea) that has been a huge topic of concern for the international community because they are known for military actions and nuclear weapon testing.  The United Nations, United States, and other countries have issued a number of trade and economic sanctions (which are basically the global equivalent of taking away their toys and putting them in economic and trade time-out) until they stop messing around with nuclear weapons.  Countries are not allowed to trade, ship goods, exchange services, or do business with North Korea.

Source: 1, 3 and 4


How is that sanction/time-out going?

Honestly, not well.  It’s like dealing with an international relations two-year old.  Agreements and promises have been made, and then North Korea will do something that blatantly shows that they just don’t care about the rules.  Since 2006, they have tested 5 nuclear bombs and are apparently working to develop intercontinental missiles (called ICBMs).  Outside countries will promise help in the way of food and aid if they promise to suspend nuclear and missile tests. Then North Korea tests a missile less than a month after negotiations.  Previous administrations (Clinton, Bush, and Obama) all have gone about negotiations in various ways with an array of sanctions and different non-aggressive tactics like cyber and electronic attacks to sabotage missile launches.  President Trump has decided to take a less patient wait-and-see approach and has threatened more aggressive military action.  

Source: 1 and 2


What exactly is happening inside North Korea?  Don’t the people there want to avoid nuclear war??

Based on research (since there is no visiting North Korea without dire consequences and we just aren’t THAT committed to getting you information), life is TERRIBLE for those living there.  People have been starving for decades because there isn’t enough farmland to feed people, and they can’t get food shipped in due to the sanctions against the country.  There have been millions of people who have died from starvation.

The country is known for having numerous human rights violations, including arrests, detentions, torture and execution.  Anyone who speaks out against the government can be arrested and/or killed.  Those who speak out or escape are put in “labor camps”, as well as their families.

There is also extreme political repression. The media is entirely state-run and manufactures the news and entertainment. There is no internet connection so the people have absolutely no idea what is happening outside of North Korea.  People found watching a foreign film could be jailed or executed.  

People who are returned trying to escape are either imprisoned or killed.  They are trapped in terrible living conditions and there are dire consequences for leaving.

Source: 2 and 3


How did North Korea end up like this? Has this always gone on?

So here is the really quick history lesson – are you ready?  Pencils out!  

World War II ended and the Japanese had to leave Korea (because they lost the war) and Russia took the north part of Korea and the United States took the south (because they were the winners).  U.S. and Russia tried to unite the country as one, but it didn’t work. Then, the North invaded the South and then the Korean War broke out officially dividing the country.  North Korea aligned with the Communist USSR and South Korea became an ally of the United States.  This is when the Kim family began ruling (the same dictator family that runs it today)  

North Korea would only deal with Communist countries (i.e. USSR and China).  After power changed in China in 1979, they didn’t see North Korea as a priority. Then the Soviet Union fell between 1989 and 1991 and suddenly there was no one to trade with and North Korea began to run out of food.  

Source: 1 and 3


So what is going to happen now?  This hasn’t exactly given me the warm and fuzzies – can you give me any good news so that I don’t panic?

A number of experts and articles (i.e. Foreign Affairs journal and the BBC) say not to panic for a few reasons.  First, no one wants to go to war.  The rest of the world doesn’t for obvious reasons and North Korea doesn’t because it is trying to survive.  Secondly, while there have been big words spoken, there has not been any military action taken by the current administration to actually escalate anything.  Finally, we have been living in a world with a nuclear North Korea for over a decade.  There have been other previous points of contention, like we’ve seen recently, and nothing has happened.

Other things to keep in mind, we are not the only country that is worried or watching North Korea.  You can believe its neighbors also have a close eye on the nation.  We also have a Department of Defense here in the United States that has a budget that is more the ½ a TRILLION dollars – which is a big check mark in the “plus” column!

Source: 5, 6, 7

Join us tomorrow to see what the various debates are related to North Korea!

Also, please be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter!



1: Hosansky, David. “North Korea Showdown.” CQ Researcher, 19 May 2017, pp. 433-56,

2: “North Korea: Should the United States Take More Aggressive Action to Prevent North Korea from Building a Nuclear Arsenal?” Issues & Controversies, Infobase Learning, 21 Sept. 2017, Accessed 12 Nov. 2017.

3: “North Korea.” Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2017. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, Accessed 12 Nov. 2017.

4: “OFAC FAQs: Other Santions.” U.S. Deparment of Treasury Resource Center, 9 Nov. 2017, Accessed 12 Nov. 2017.

5: “North Korea-US tensions: How worried should you be?” BBC News, 25 Sept. 2017, Accessed 12 Nov. 2017.

6: Ratner, Ely, et al. “What the U.S. Can Do About North Korea.” Interview by Gideon Rose. Foreign Affairs, 10 Aug. 2017,

   what-us-can-do-about-north-korea. Accessed 12 Nov. 2017.

7: “Department of Defense (DoD) Releases Fiscal Year 2017 President’s Budget Proposal.” U.S. Department of Defense, 9 Feb. 2016, Accessed 1 Nov. 2017.