A woeful mélange of preposterous, warmongering propaganda and divine fantasy provide the basis of North Korean governance. Like a structurally unsound statue to a fanatical ruler, North Korea is doomed to collapse. The only remaining question is when and how.
To the North Korean leadership, America, imperialistic and power-hungry, threatens the sovereignty of a country ruled by God. Prophetic in nature, North Korea’s narrative paints a literal battle between good and evil, God (North Korea) and Satan (America and its allies). No surprise is warranted, therefore, by any extreme governmental actions. When dissenters disappear from the public sphere and concentration camps spring up, it is justified—to the North Koreans—by the need for solidarity. Who cares for human rights when you’re fighting evil incarnate? The only way to defend the racially superior Korean people, Kim Jong-Un believes, is through the acquisition of nuclear weapons, enacting that great equalizer: MAD.
Of course, Nietzsche’s observation on evil here holds true. The abyss has gazed back into North Korea’s eyes, and those fighting supposed monsters have become ones themselves. The country is becoming much worse than Hitler’s Germany, with mass killings, famine, and rampant destruction. In one facet, however, North Korea has been successful: the development of nuclear weapons.
Since the days of George W. Bush, North Korea’s nuclear program had successes in the launch and detonation of dozens of atomic warheads. In 1997, Choi Ju-hwal, a defected North Korean colonel, stated that “North Korea… has produced, deployed, and stockpiled two or three nuclear warheads and toxic material, such as over 5,000 tons of toxic gases.” Kim Jong-Un’s weapon program has developed further, recently culminating in the successful launch of an ICBM. At the whim of a despot, Los Angles could be gone in thirty minutes.
Such dire statistics ignore political reality. Insane he may be, but Kim Jong-Un is a shrewd leader. Since his rise to power in 2011, Jong-Un took North Korea from an isolated outpost of primitive dictatorship to one of the most feared countries in the world. This rise was formulated on an understanding of the power of nuclear weapons. Mutually assured destruction works only if two countries have nuclear arsenals, and, by developing ICBMs, little doubt remains in American minds that North Korea has just that. Of course, Mutually assured destruction must be mutual, and Jong-Un knows this. North Korea cannot destroy America (as it vows to do), but America could easily destroy North Korea. Invasion, even by an administration as volatile as Trump’s, is unthinkable, and the status quo, with North Korea continually expanding its nuclear arsenal, is bound to continue.
Much more worrying than the development of nuclear weapons is what will happen to them when North Korea collapses. Defectors state that the nation is in shambles, with some even estimating the regime’s fall within the next ten years. A nation which starves its people and faces sanctions from most of world cannot survive for long. North Korea is falling fast, but now is not the time for underestimation.