[Academic] North Korea Issues

Kim Jong Un and Provocative Action

Since the death of Kim Jong-il in late 2011, Kim Jong Un, who are Kim Jong-il’s youngest son, continues his father position as the supreme leader of North Korea. He was titled as great successor and officially declared and the leader of DPRK on December 28th, 2011, as the following of the state funeral for his father. With this assignation, Kim Jong Un became the youngest leader and head of the state in the world (at 29-30 years of age).

In the end of January 2013, Kim issued orders for preparing for a new nuclear test and introduces martial law in North Korea. And on March 7, 2013, this young dictator announced threat for the US and its allies with pre-emptive nuclear attack like launching missiles and detonation of nuclear devices. Why he does these provocative activities?


To understand this issue, I’d like to analyze from level of analysis; individual level, domestic level and systemic level/ international system. Particularly for DPRK decision for nuclear program, I will take Kim Jong Un as the key actor on individual level as the decision maker.

As the successor of his father leadership, Kim Jong Un relatively still very young, new and inexperienced to lead North Korea. To gain more legacy and power, Kim needs to do some actions that can leads and helps him to be seen as “strong” leader with strong military tradition and dictatorship, as his father and grandfather did. Beside of that, he also wants to continue the personal philosophy of Juche, or self-reliance that was introduced by Kim Il-Sung, his grandfather. Not only Juche, he also continues the Kim’s dynastic policy of sending out mixed out signals to foreign countries (BBC News, 2013).

Kim’s lacked of military experience didn’t stop him for doing security threat to the regional. He got some back-up from his uncle, Jang Sung-taek, as the mentor, as well as support from DPRK’s military institution. With this nuclear missile launched, it also became a “show off” sign of North Korea military power.

Kim’s act also related to the domestic situation in North Korea. BBC wrote that in February 2012 Kim Jong Un agreed to suspend long-range missile tests in order to receive US food aid. It can be analyzed that nuclear launched become a cover for domestic problem inside North Korea; poverty, starvation, and bad economic condition. As mentioned in the beginning, North Korean economy is heavily dependent on foreign assistance. Here, DPRK as a state/ institution are failed to bring prosperity for its people.

And for the international system level, North Korea needs nuclear power as its bargaining power to the international world. At this level, which state aligns with which other states and which state negotiates with which other states. In other words, North Korea provoked the US and its allies, such as; South Korea and Japan. It also might be caused by the contested situation of East Asia, where Korean peninsula has been becoming the buffer zone for US-China influence. However, in this latest North Korean provocation, China seems dilemma. In one side, China is angry with North Korea behavior which disadvantage China for some reasons.

Many scholars and analyst said that North Korea’s act is not a real threat, since the quality of their military is far away from US and its allies’ military forces. But if the war could be happen for a real, it will cost a lot of human life (in both part of Korea, and the US). As well as it will destroy the stability of the region, and the most important thing is will brook Asia’s economy.

Kim’s Third Dynasty

There are several dependent factors for analyzing the Kim’s dynasty in the future. Will it be last long? In my opinion, unlike his father and grandfather, Kim Jong Un still young, inexperienced, and lacked of military experience. However, he got strong back up from the military institution and officer/ citizens that loyal to their leader and communist. So that, as long as Kim Jong Un is still have the support, Kim’s dynasty will still stand on.

The things that can make Kim’s dynasty end, is in the domestic level, for the example the revolution inside the country and willingness of the Korean people to reform. If the economic situation and the violation of human rights worsen, and more people starving into death, it might be bursting the anger of the civilian.

But, in my opinion, the strongest factor that can influence North Korean Kim’s dynasty is in international level, especially China’s policy and stakes. Ones says that one of way to prevent North Korea from getting nuclear weapons is to work with China to bring about the collapse of the North Korean regime and reunification of the two Koreas. But for China, it will be dilemmatic since there are fears that if the North Korean state collapsed, it would cause a flood of millions of hungry refugees into China. Furthermore, North Korea is useful buffer for separating U.S. troops from the Chinese border. So, in other means, it seems that still long way to go for Kim’s dynasty end.


  • BBC News. (2013). North Korea Profile, BBC News Website, updated on April 9, 2013. Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-15256929
  • Nanto, Dick K. (2006). North Korea’s Economic Crisis, Reforms, and Policy Implications in Kihl, Young Whan and Kim, Hong Nack (eds), North Korea; The Politics of Regime Survival. M.E. Sharpe, Inc; New York.
  • Nanto, Dick K and Avery, Emma Chanlett. (2010). North Korea: Economic Leverage and Policy Analysis. Congressional Research Service, January 22, 2010. Retrieved from: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL32493.pdf
  • Manyin, Mark E. and Nikitin, Mary Beth. (2012). Foreign Assistance to North Korea. Congressional Research Service, April 26, 2012. Retrieved from: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R40095.pdf

Author: Sunu Family

We are an Indonesian family living in Bonn, Germany since 2017. Our family consists of Ayah (Radit), Umi (Retno/ Chiku), Kakak (Zahra), and Adek (Faiq). We will share our experience living in Germany, our trips, thoughts, Umi's related research on her study, etc.

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