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On Understanding and Responding to the Hermit Kingdom: The Effect of Current U.S. Foreign Policy Formulation Modeling and the DPRK


After the death of Kim Il Sung in 1994, there was a period of uncertainty over the future of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Based on the limited information available, it seemed almost a certainty to Western analysts that the regime was unsustainable—that it had neither the ability nor the resources to survive the country’s hardships at the time. Despite those predictions, it became clear by 1998 that the regime would not topple under Kim Il Sung’s son and successor, Kim Jong Il. In the lead-up to 2012, history repeated itself when observers again predicted the inevitable collapse of the DRPK regime after the death of Kim Jong Il and the succession of Kim Jong Un. Unfortunately, none of these predictions has been realized. This begs the questions as to why predictions about the future of the DRPK regime have consistently been incorrect. This paper will seek to consider the theoretical foundation of U.S. foreign policy and its weaknesses and to consider how U.S. policy makers have sought to overcome those weaknesses in relation to the DPRK. Based on these findings, this paper will propose a shift in the U.S.’s theoretical approach to North Korea and offer operational recommendations.

Andrew Kwon is a Master of International Security graduate of the University of Sydney Centre for International Security Studies (CISS). He received his Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Politics and International Relations, from the University of New South Wales. In 2013, Andrew was based in Washington D.C., completing a research internship at both the Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI) and the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). Deeply interested in the role of the Asia-Pacific on international security, his writing on the subject (single and co-authored) has been published on The Diplomat, The National Interest, Foreign Policy and CNN.