The division of Korea occurred after the defeat of the Japanese in World War II. The Soviet Union occupied the north while the US occupied the south. The country was then divided at the 38th parallel by the United Nations. While this division was meant to be only temporary, it resulted in the formation of separate States of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Republic of South Korea in 1948. On June 25, 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea, starting the Korean War which lasted for 3 years. A ceasefire agreement was reached between North Korea and the US on July 27, 1953, which ended the conflict. However this was only an armistice and no peace treaty has been signed, meaning that the countries are “still” at war. Conflict with North Korea resurfaced during the 1990s with its pursuit of nuclear technology. Despite allowing the IAEA to conduct inspections within the country, North Korea refused to allow inspections of suspected nuclear facilities that may have contained nuclear weapon technologies. In 1996 North Korea went through a severe famine as well as a decline in the economy. These had resulted from the inefficiencies of its agricultural system which was a Stalinist-style and was outdated. In addition North Korea, spent a quarter of its GDP focusing on military such as developing nuclear weapons and creating a draft which kept all of its males between the ages of 18-30 in the military, leaving the economy to crumble. North Korea continued with its increase of military focus with the sending of troops into the demilitarized zone, which went against the armistice.
Tensions were also increased in 1998 when North Korea launched a rocket over Japan which ended up landing in the Pacific Ocean, but North Korea claimed that it had not fired a rocked but instead insisted it was only a satellite. Relations between North and South Korea improved in 2000 after a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and South Korean leader President Kim Dae-jung. This then followed with the reopening of the border, allowing relatives from both sides to be reunited with each other. However this period of improved relations was only temporary, in June 2002 a skirmish between naval vessels of North and South Korea occurred, which resulted in the death of 30 North Korean and four South Korean sailors. This was then followed with North Korea admitting to have secret nuclear weapons programs, international inspectors were throw out and North Korea reactivated its Yongbyon reactor. North Korea then withdrew from the NPT in 2003, which was the international responded with the Six-Party talks, which was between the countries of China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Russia, and the United States. These talks appeared to be working when North Korea promised to discontinue its nuclear weapons programs and rejoin the NPT in 2005. On October 9, 2006, North Korea’s test of nuclear weapons resulted in sanctions by the EU, UK, Switzerland, Australia, and Canada. The United States ordered their first sanctions against North Korea against the nuclear tests they were carrying out in 2008 through the National Emergencies Act. In 2009, talks between North Korea and the Six-Party broke down after North Korea was internationally condemned for its rocket launch, as a result North Korea stated that they would not abide or acknowledge any of the talks made regarding denuclearization.
The sinking of South Korea’s warship Cheonanan by the North resulted in the United States enacting further sanctions upon North Korea, furthering tensions in 2010. Food shortages became worse in North Korea when foot and mouth disease infected livestock in 2011, adding additional problems in North Korea. Obama of the United States renewed sanctions against North Korea which maintained the penalties from the first sanction in 2008 and added prohibition on all North Korean products. In December of 2011 Kim Jong-il died, which then left Kim Jong-un as the new leader of North Korea raising concerns in the international community since he was so young and inexperienced. The Security Council approved further sanctions upon North Korea after they carry out another nuclear test in February of 2013. Japan then sanctioned North Korea Foreign Trade Bank on March 20, 2013; China also sanctioned the bank on May 08, 2013. North Korea's latest action was in March 2014 when two medium-range Nodong ballistic missiles were tested, which was a violation of UN resolutions.
The situation of North Korea is an issue that must be addressed by the UN. Multiple human rights violations have occurred in North Korea. For example it has struggled with its food situation, according to WFP and FAO approximately 2.8 million people lack enough food, causing malnutrition with the lack of nutrients. North Koreas labor camps are also another concern with as many as 200,000 people in these camps who are beaten, starved, and tortured. Other human rights violated include public executions, labor rights, freedom of press, unfair trials, forced abortion, forced prostitution, and freedom of religion. In addition North Korea is believed to have 4 to 6 nuclear warhead which presents a danger to the international community. The United Nations and international community must take action to solve the current situation of the DPRK who has violated numerous human rights and possesses nuclear weapons which is a danger to the global community.
II. UN Involvement
The UN became involved with North Korea in the creation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which dealt with the non-proliferation and disarmament of nuclear weapons while also promoting the peaceful use of nuclear technology. North Korea withdrew from the NPT after declaring its pursuit of nuclear weapons in 2003. The UN Security Council has pass three major resolutions which sanctioned North Korea’s pursuit and development of nuclear weapons. In 2006 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1718, which prohibited North Korea from any further testing of nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles. Sanctions included in the treaty were asset freezes and travel bans on people who were involved in the nuclear program, nuclear technology, training and large scale arms were prohibited from North Korea. The next major resolution passed was Resolution 1874 in 2009, which tightened sanctions on goods and persons, any cargo found that violated the arms embargo was to be destroyed.
Sanctions included in the resolution were strict financial transfers to aid North Korea and the addition of arms embargos to ban all imports and exports of weapons. Resolution 2087 was passed in 2013, which condemned the launch of North Korea’s satellite, recalled previous sanctions imposed against the country with its weapons, and also called for North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons programs and to cooperate with the IAEA. Also included in the resolution were the strengthening of sanctions in Resolutions 1718 and 1874 and also reinforced travel bans of any personals involved with North Korea’s nuclear program. The UN Security council passed Resolution 2013, which imposed further sanctions against North Korea after its nuclear test on February 12, 2013. The most recent resolution passed was on 5 March 2014, which was Resolution 2141. This resolution extended the mandate of the DPRK Sanctions Committee from Resolution 1718 until 5 April 2015.
Five NGOs that have been active in humanitarian works in North Korea are Mercy Corps, Samaritan’s Purse and World Vision, Global Resource Services, and Christian Friends of Korea. These five NGOs are the “US NGOs” and have been working in the DPRK for more then a decade. Together, these five NGOs have delivered 71,000 metric tons of US funded food aid to the areas of Chagang and North Pyongyang provinces, which included about 900,000 North Koreans.
Questions to Consider:
What does the DPRK hope to achieve with its pursuit of nuclear weapons?
How can the UN get DPRK to cooperate?
What can be done to prevent North and South Korea from escalating into armed conflict?
Would reunifying the Korean peninsula aid the issue?
Should food aid still be continued to be sent to DPRK despite failure to comply with the UN?
Should sanctions continue to be imposed upon DPRK?