Analysing Global Security Implications after DPRK’s Rescind of Korean Reunification Policy


Since the establishment of Democratic Republic of Korea in 1945, under the leadership of the infamous Kim Il-Sung, the North Korean administration’s stance on the question of Korea has been leaning towards ‘liberating’ their South Korean counterparts from the ‘tyranny of the West’, espousing a Korean reunification led by DPRK. However, with the symbolic destruction of the ‘Arch of Reunification’ in Pyongyang and harsh words spoken in North Korea’s parliament, Kim Jong-Un has officially rescinded the long-standing goal, calling South Korea a ‘hostile country’ and a ‘belligerent’. 

Through this paper, we aim to analyse the security implications of this reversal of foreign policy, taking into consideration the nuclear capacity and strength of North Korean armed forces. We will analyse the policy responses and stances of stakeholders in the scenario, such as South Korea, Russia, China, the United States, etc., as well as consider India’s stance on the same. Finally, through a policy alternative analysis, we will attempt to create an ideal Indian response for the same. 

Keywords: security, North Korea, nuclear weapons, reunification, foreign policy. 


Korean Reunification, or North-South Reunification, is an active policy historically pursued by the Democratic Republic of Korea (or, North Korea) for the status of the Korean peninsula. The South Koreans have been open to the idea too, but their perspective on the reunification surrounding introducing ideals of democracy, capitalism and other Western concepts which are vehemently denied by their North Korean counterparts. Their policies suggest an active interest in promoting and creating a unified state of all Korean people under the umbrella rule of the North Korean lineage of leaders, Kim Jong-Un being the latest in line. 

It is with him that the pursuit of reunification has taken an interesting and divergent route, creating an interesting fork in the road that seems to have major geopolitical and security implications for Asia as well as for the world. Kim Jong-Un’s recent statements and the destruction of the ‘Arch of Reunification’ most definitely usher in an era of policy change. The problem we aim to tackle is threefold: to make rational sense of the decision-making and analyse the purpose of such a decision, to study the international stance and potential reactions, and most importantly, to understand India’s position in this case. We must also contextualise these stakeholder decisions and positions by taking into account historic relations with the core states, and the conditions forming the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ). Finally, we will consider the implications of modern globalisation on the economic and military connections made by the Korean states, and what role that plays in the manifestation of this policy. 

Thus, this paper tackles the policy design perspective from the North Korean side, while also considering the potential design of Indian foreign policy. Finally, this paper aims to propose certain recommendations. However, to avoid becoming a policy brief, the policies proposed will be purely theoretical and rational. 

Literature Review

The scarcity of scholarly discourse on the matter is unfortunately obvious. With a situation as recent as the one currently engaging the region, it is understandable that the academic industry, characterized by rigorous research methodologies and peer-reviewed analysis, is yet to acknowledge its complexities. For the sake of this paper, the available literature primarily comprises news media reports, supplemented by occasional opinion pieces and hastily composed analyses. Scholars and researchers must turn to alternative sources—namely, reputable news outlets like the Financial Times and the New York Times—to gain insights into the unfolding events.

Scholars are facing the challenge of identifying and utilising information from often politically influenced sources while maintaining academic integrity. By reconfirming information from multiple sources and creating our analysis on it, scholars can contribute to a more nuanced understanding of the situation in North Korea, even in the absence of traditional literature. Unfortunately, in this case, we act as ‘first responders’ in the academic community and thus, need to continue our investigations based on the aforementioned methods. 

An area where previous scholarly literature does benefit our research is an analysis of the North Korean capacities. The objective of these studies is to shed light on the intricacies of North Korea’s military prowess, offering insights into its strategic objectives and the challenges it poses to regional and global security. For this, we will mainly refer to two credible and publicly available articles, due to misreporting and unfair/underestimation quite common in governmental sources, which are rife with disputed and contradictory statistics and analysis. 

The first article, published by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) as a backgrounder, provides a comprehensive overview of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, missile tests, and military capabilities. It highlights North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons as a means to ensure regime survival, deter external threats, and bolster its status on the international stage. The article understands North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons despite international condemnation and sanctions, citing its numerous missile tests and advancements in nuclear technology.

Additionally, the article outlines North Korea’s military capabilities beyond its nuclear arsenal, including its large standing army, ballistic missile arsenal, and unconventional warfare capabilities. It emphasizes the threat posed by North Korea’s ballistic missiles, which have demonstrated the ability to reach targets in the region and potentially even the continental United States. Furthermore, the article discusses North Korea’s asymmetric capabilities, such as cyber warfare and special operations forces, which pose challenges to its adversaries.

The second source, a journal publication penned by Tae-Hwan Kwak, also delves into the historical and strategic context behind North Korea’s military posture. It explores North Korea’s militarized state ideology, known as “military-first politics,” which prioritizes the military over other sectors of society. 

Moreover, Kwak analyzes North Korea’s military strategy of “self-reliance” (Juche), which emphasizes indigenous development of military capabilities and resilience in the face of external threats. He discusses how North Korea’s isolation, coupled with its adversarial relationship with South Korea and the United States, has driven its military-centric approach to national security.

From insights from both articles, it is evident that North Korea possesses a formidable military arsenal, including nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and conventional forces. Its pursuit of nuclear weapons and robust military capabilities reflect its strategic imperatives of regime survival, deterrence, and regional influence. However, North Korea’s militarized state ideology, coupled with its confrontational stance and disregard for international norms, poses significant challenges to regional stability and global security.

Across the Peninsula: A Brief History of the Korean Peninsula and Reunification Policy

Throughout history, the Korean Peninsula has been characterized by its division into North and South Korea following the end of World War II in 1945. This partition resulted from the agreements made between the Soviet Union and the United States, which controlled the northern and southern halves of the peninsula respectively. The Korean War (1950-1953) solidified this division, leaving the two Koreas in a state of animosity, separated by one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world, the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

In the aftermath of the Korean War, both North and South Korea pursued different paths in terms of political ideology and economic development. North Korea adopted a communist system under the leadership of Kim Il-sung, while South Korea embraced capitalism and democracy. This ideological difference, combined with geopolitical tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States during the Cold War, made the prospect of reunification a complex and contentious issue.

Despite periodic attempts at dialogue and reconciliation, progress toward reunification remained less than fruitful for decades due to clear ideological differences and geopolitical considerations. Both sides maintained a contrasting vision for the future of the peninsula, with North Korea advocating for a socialist reunification under its leadership, while South Korea pursued a democratic and capitalist model.

Throughout the latter half of the 20th century and into the 21st century, various efforts were made to foster inter-Korean dialogue and cooperation. One notable initiative was the “Sunshine Policy” introduced by South Korean President Kim Dae-jung in the late 1990s. This policy aimed to engage North Korea through economic cooperation and cultural exchanges, with the hope of building trust and laying the groundwork for eventual reunification. However, the Sunshine Policy ultimately failed to achieve its primary objective of bringing about lasting peace and reunification. This was followed by periods of heightened tensions exacerbated by North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and provocative actions such as missile tests. These developments further complicated the prospects for reunification, as they reinforced mistrust and deepened divisions between the two Koreas and their allies.