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Part II: North Korea’s Foreign Relations

The Torturous Dilemma: The 2008 Six-Party Talks and U.S.-DPRK Relations, by Shin Yon Kim
Shin Yon examines the progress made in 2008 with regards to the denuclearization of North Korea. Her paper chronicles North Korea’s implementation of key six-party agreements, and analyzes how the shifting power dynamics among the six-party members affected this process throughout the year. With North Korea failing to meet the December 2007 deadline to submit a full declaration of all its nuclear activities, the tone for the 2008 six-party process was contentious from the start. Despite these rocky beginnings, the United States was able to negotiate a compromise on the format of the declaration, and North Korea submitted its nuclear accounting to the United States and to China, the host of the Six-Party Talks, in late June. As an added gesture, North Korea also toppled a cooling tower at its Yongbyon nuclear facility.

Despite progress made on disablement, Shin Yon points to deadlock over the issue of verification. Verification was seen as critical to ensuring the accuracy of North Korea’s nuclear declaration, and the United States pushed forward a rigorous draft verification protocol which warranted objections from North Korea, as well as China and Russia. The issue of verification caused North Korea to stall disablement measures, and the U.S. failure to delist North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism (SST) spurred North Korea to not only to halt disablement measures, but began to reverse them as well. Although further concessions were made in order to come to an agreement on verification and prompt North Korea to resume disablement measures, including the delisting of North Korea from the SST, Pyongyang later denied making any such agreement. Amid a grim outlook for sustainability on the deal itself, the six parties gathered in Beijing in early December for the year’s last round of talks, only to fail to come to an agreement on a verification protocol. Shin Yon argues that the latest failure of the Six-Party Talks to adopt a written verification protocol seems to portend an even more precarious path ahead in bilateral and multilateral negotiations with North Korea.

U.S. Alternative Diplomacy towards North Korea: Food Aid, Musical Diplomacy, and Track II Exchanges, by Erin Kruth
Erin analyzes alternative diplomacy towards North Korea, including food aid, musical diplomacy and Track II exchanges. Amid major concerns about a severe food shortage in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Erin asserts that significant progress in the area of humanitarian assistance to North Korea occurred in 2008, including the resumption of U.S. food assistance for the first time since 2005. Erin’s analysis explores the worsening food shortage in the DPRK and focuses on developments in U.S. humanitarian assistance. Furthermore, it provides an in-depth look at how the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), U.S. government agencies such as the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and their South Korean and North Korean counterparts are working together to address the shortage, and provides prospects for the continuance of this aid in 2009.

Erin’s analysis also examines the role of cultural exchange and Track II diplomacy in building relations between the two countries. She points to the landmark performance that the New York Philharmonic gave in Pyongyang in February 2008 as a key example. As “musical diplomacy” was a precursor to formal diplomatic relations in the Soviet Union and China, Erin evaluates the role of musical diplomacy in the case of the DPRK. Along similar lines, Erin also examines the role of informal diplomatic efforts or Track II exchanges in U.S.-DPRK relations. She reviews the exchanges that took place in 2008 and the general prospect these meetings have for playing a larger role in impacting formal relations between the United States and North Korea in the future.

North Korean Human Rights and Refugee Resettlement in the United States: A Slow and Quiet Progress, by Jane Kim
Jane examines the slow and quiet progress that was made on North Korean human rights and refugee resettlement in the United States in 2008. Large-scale efforts to increase awareness about the human rights atrocities in North Korea have advanced to a point where governments are both conscious of the issue and have started to include human rights in their dialogue with North Korea. Additionally, the discussion has broadened to include debate and concrete solutions for the safety and security of North Korean refugees. Jane argues that a large portion of today’s debate regarding North Korean refugees, concerns their permanent resettlement. Although South Korea is the country of choice for most defectors, the North Korean Human Rights Act passed into public law by the U.S. Congress in 2004 opened new opportunities for North Korean defectors to resettle in the United States.

Jane’s analysis looks into the North Korean refugee resettlement issue, particularly in the United States. More specifically, it examines the significance and shortcomings of the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004, as well as events in 2008 that impacted North Korean refugee resettlement.