North Korea's Nuclear Weapons Program

North Korea's Nuclear Weapons Program

North Korea (officially referred to as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or DPRK) is a communist dictatorship that has recently been the source of much controversy, particularly regarding its possession of nuclear weapons. The president of the country, Kim Jong-il, has alienated many parts of the world, including the United States, which he claims has imposed unfair sanctions on North Korea through the United Nations.

Critics of U.S. foreign policy tend to highlight the similarities between Iraq and North Korea in order to critique the United States' vastly different reactions to the two countries, while supporters maintain that there are key differences between the two countries that cursory critiques fail to grasp, thus endorsing differing responses to the two crises.

Many critics claim that the U.S. government has been essentially ignoring Kim Jong-il's assertions that his country possesses weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), particularly since the alleged presence of WMDs in Iraq was the Bush administration's rationale for attacking that country in 2003. Critics also claim that the retroactive rationale for the Iraq war, that Saddam Hussein was a murderous dictator who needed to be removed from power, applies equally well to Kim Jong-il. Many see President Bush's disparate reactions to the similar situations as evidence that the Iraq war has less to do with protecting Iraqi and American citizens than with protecting American business interests in Iraq, and urged Bush to take stronger action against Kim Jong-il in response to alleged human rights violations.

When in office, President Bush and his supporters said that the best way to deal with North Korea is through negotiation and diplomacy, rather than military offense. Bush stated that the six-party talks he initiated in 2003 successfully kept North Korea's weapons development plans in check and prevented the country from inflicting harm on the United States. Official U.S. policy is that North Korea is a hostile nation, part of the Bush administration's so-called "axis of evil," along with Iraq and Iran, but Bush maintained that the United States would be willing to help North Korea out of its economic and social quagmire if Kim Jong-il finally and definitively ended the country's nuclear weapons program.

Basic Terms, Concepts, and Definitions Related to North Korea

Juche (also Chuch'e, Juche Sasang): The official ideology of North Korea, originally proposed by Kim Il-sung as part of his "Kimilsungism" philosophy. Essentially, Juche requires that the state allow individuals to have independence and self-reliance in thought, action, politics, economics, and defense, and that policy embrace the needs and desires of the public.

National Defense Commission (NDC): The principle military organization in North Korea, which is also possibly in charge of all political and economic affairs. Kim Jong-il is currently chair of the NDC.

Socialism: An economic system, pioneered by Karl Marx, in which property and wealth are distributed based on communal decision, rather than by individual merit. Communism is considered a type of socialism; both are direct reactions to perceived shortfalls of capitalism. North Korean socialism, referred to internally as "socialism of our own style," incorporates both democracy and dictatorship; Kim Jong-il has claimed that dictatorship is necessary for making class-conscious objectors conform to the socialist ideas. Those who accept North Korea's socialism are ostensibly ruled by democracy.

Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD): A weapon capable of causing widespread and indiscriminate destruction and death.

Worker's Party of Korea: The dominant political party in North Korea, and, according to Kim Jong-il, the only party that should be allowed to have power, since it represents the working class. Kim Jong-il is currently general secretary of the Worker's Party.

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