Dr. Benjamin Young, A Revolutionary State: What is North Korea’s End Goal?




  • Abstract: Since the founding of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (the official name of North Korea, hereafterDPRK) in 1948, the Kim family regime’s primary objective has been the reunification of the Korean peninsula under Pyongyang’s terms. Despite South Korea’s rapid economic growth and democratization process, the stated goal of reunification has not changed in North Korea’s official discourse. However, under Kim Jong Un, Pyongyang’s posture towards reunification and nuclear weapons has recently been modified. A revision of the Korean Workers’ Party charter and the enshrinement into North Korean national law of preemptive nuclear strikes suggests a more coercive North Korean grand strategy is now in play. Thus, Pyongyang has likely reached a new stage in its strategic relationship with South Korea, Japan, and the U.S. In addition, Putin’s threat of tactical nuclear strikes in Ukraine has likely emboldened the North Korean leadership to take similar steps in potential future conflicts with SouthKorea or Japan. Despite the importance of these policy changes, few North Korean analysts and scholars have thoroughly discussed or examined these revisions. This is largely due to a theoretical divide in North Korean studies about the ultimate goals of the Kim family regime and its possession of nuclear weapons. This talk will examine these legal revisions under Kim Jong Un and look at the strategic outlook for conflict on the Korean peninsula.