Rethinking Sanctions

Sanctions on North Korea seem to evoke rebellious responses. On February 12, 2013, a nuclear test was conducted in North Korea despite United Nations’ resolutions and global sanctions. It is apparent that the country will not be backing down on its nuclear program. Increased global condemnations will not change Kim Jong-un’s mentality that nuclear weapons are a necessity for his nation. It is time to rethink how global communities are communicating with North Korea.

In a report by Fareed Zakaria, Global Public Square and CNN reporter, Mr. Zakaria suggested that commerce and communication are long-term solutions to change North Korea. This strategy was effective for Myanmar: “Asian countries traded with Myanmar, invited it to diplomatic gatherings and, over time, persuaded the military junta to open itself up, both domestically and to the world.” Scientific collaborations between Syracuse University and North Korea’s Kim Chaek University of Technology brought about the first digital library in the country. This enabled cultural exchanges, such as the broadcasted New York Philharmonic’s concert in Pyongyang. Entrepreneurs, like Eric Schmidt, Google’s founder, visited North Korea to talk about  “the free and open Internet.” These small but significant olive branches are part of building a peaceful foundation with North Korea.

It seems that cultural and economic exchanges are the best tools to use while building relationships. Many people have insecurities, varying in degrees and issues. If the insecurities are not managed well, bad decisions are made. This seems to be the case in North Korea. With its people facing starvation, political oppression, and other human rights violations, the internal security of North Korea is, well, insecure. The underlying theme to feeling secure is acceptance from peers. Cultural exchanges allow an understanding of each other and tolerance for one another. Economic exchanges can yield positive results for two or more parties which evoke amiable relations. Through communication and time, positive results from exchanges may eventually develop acceptance. Having a volatile nation feel accepted by the global community is a foundation for peace. It will also beckon the question: what does the world have to offer me? Even though the question is egocentric, it allows a nation and its people to think beyond its own borders. It kindles imagination and hope for a better future.

The road to North Korea’s acceptance of and by the global community will be an arduous one as mentalities are difficult to change. Government officials of North Korea need to first acknowledge that the nation’s security does not solely depend on its arsenal and military power, but also the well being of its citizens. If basic human rights are exercised within the country, then there would not be so much silenced frustrations and fears. Silencing its citizens may stymie a revolution in the short run; an accepted and respected government by its citizens will yield sustainable progress for North Korea. If North Korea allows its people to connect to the rest of the world, the nation will benefit from shared knowledge and skills. In the future, North Korea will be able to offer its resources to the global community, smoothing its relationship with foreign nations, and bring wealth to its citizens.

Sanctions are meant to punish and deter. They are not persuasive and do not foster diplomacy. Peace cannot be built on sanctions. Peace can be built on goodwill.

Overview of Non-proliferation Sanctions

Non-proliferation Designations: Office of Foreign Assets Control’s Specially Designated Nationals List Update

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Updated on February 26, 2012
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