North Korea has been a problem child in the world-at-large for longer than most of the world has been alive. The DMZ is one of the largest permanent military operations in the world, and every act made by the nation is scrutinized thoroughly and treated with the utmost suspicion. A sort of prejudice against any action taken by N. Korea has formed in the world consciousness.

Tomorrow, Kim-Jong Al* usurps Kim-Jong Un in a violent takeover because he's sick of seeing his people in a famine state, he's sick of his people being denigrated, and he's sick of constantly wondering if eagleland will get sick of his nations antics and use nuclear weapons to make South Korea an island; but most of all, he's sick of the embargo that keeps him from upgrading from iPhone 6 to the iPhone 6s.

Given the current hostility towards anything North Korean, what would he have to do, and what would the world have to do, in order to bring North Korea gracefully into the world economy? At this point it seems like the mistrust would run too deep to gracefully let the nation become a world player.

*A fictional "Second Prince" to Kim-Jong Un if you will

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    $\begingroup$ Maybe take a look at Myanmar. It seems they are pretty much testing this at the moment. $\endgroup$
    – Burki
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 15:40

5 Answers 5


First, open the borders for anyone to import outside goods and food. Open the communication pathways to let the outside world in, through radio, TV, unfiltered internet, etc. Let people see what it's really like outside, and then start bringing those goods in. Figure out how to stabilize power and food distribution.

Then open the borders for people to cross if they want.
Allow in journalists and let them take any photos they want.
Hire a PR firm to start cleaning up the countries image. Spin it to the media as a new country, with new branding, new flag, possibly a new country name, and new policies with regard to caring for it's people.

Open up to new businesses to open plants and factories in the country with favorable taxes to bring new jobs in.

Get rid of existing politicians (Except for Al of course) and hold elections. Local first so people can vote for people they know to get used to the idea of voting, and then for higher levels.

Appoint new, uncorrupted judges. Launch an investigation in to human rights violations, and dole out appropriate sentences with an emphasis on rehabilitation when possible.


The first thing would be to try to feed the population well.

The second thing would be to open the borders with South Korea, allowing people to move freely north and south to visit loved ones, find work etc. and ease up a bit on the whole oppression thing.

Of course just flipping the switch from extreme totalitarianism to free and open economy generally doesn't go well and can actually cause more problems than it solves. So it would have to be a process. But starting with the first two items I listed would go a long way to engendering trust, though it would likely take a decade or more, constantly moving in the right direction, to build up trust. People will take a while to quit wondering if this is some kind of trick.

  • $\begingroup$ I think it would take a good 3 to 5 years for the open borders policy to even be trusted enough for anyone to try and cross legally, just due to the sheer mistrust in people's minds. I know that if I lived on either side of a border like that, having it suddenly be "open" I'd be raising a lot of eyebrows and looking for the trap. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 15:35
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, but it wasn't long ago that they did let some families meet. So some would take it up immediately others would wait and see. $\endgroup$
    – bowlturner
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 15:36
  • $\begingroup$ The "early adopters" would be super cautious and insure that they have a "way out" in case they get snared by the authorities. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 15:42
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, but he is doing this for international recognition, so as long as his soldiers don't screw it up, or even help an old lady cross the bridge it will slowly work out. $\endgroup$
    – bowlturner
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 15:46
  • $\begingroup$ If the open borders is done with the purest intentions, yes, nothing bad will ever happen. The problem is that people will suspect a trap for years. Even if that snare never snaps shut. The idea that it's all a ruse to lure people into a sense of security won't go away quickly. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 15:53

"Uncle Al" has a long and steep climb, to be sure. It won't happen overnight.

He must immediately denounce North Korean ambitions of a "Democratic Federal Republic of Korea" (reunification on the North's terms), and express a willingness to engage in open negotiations regarding potential re-unification.

He should start by convening a constitutional convention. Among the invitees must be representatives from all areas of the country and all walks of life. He must also invite observers and consultants from all around the world. At the end of it, the current system must be declared null and void and the framework for system of, for, and by the people put in place. This will also be an important step in further talks of re-unification, if that remains a goal.

Given the concern regarding "eagleland will get sick of his nations antics and use nuclear weapons to make South Korea an island," no one would expect him to make any quick changes regarding the military. In fact, it would be foolish of him to dis-arm or draw back. However, he must demonstrate a gradual change from a threat posture to a common defense one. How this will happen is beyond my current scope.

I don't know of any precise thing he can say or do to get the embargoes lifted. He will need to seek out the leaders of other nations and engage them in open honest and friendly conversations, and take to heart any advice he gets. He needs to be cognizant to the fact that the first thing his people need is food- the iPhones 6s may have to wait a while.

[ Aside: Coming back to the real world, I think this will happen, possibly even in my own lifetime. Germany re-united, and the USSR is no more. Not tomorrow. Not next year. Not in an instant. But it will happen. ]

  • $\begingroup$ Comment on the aside: I have the same feeling about the USA fracturing. Probably within my lifetime. :( $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 15:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Draco18s: Not gonna happen. We're too lazy to revolt. :) We'll just complain about it on twitter instead. $\endgroup$
    – cobaltduck
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 16:19
  • $\begingroup$ The Occupy Movement could be classified as a revolt. It just didn't get anywhere because the local regime started arresting people, plus it got cold, so people couldn't continue to occupy due to the weather. It wasn't successful but it did happen. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 16:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Draco18s, nah that was not a revolt, just a protest (and a pretty small and harmless one by historical standards). $\endgroup$
    – user16107
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 17:21

The only threat North Korea posses is nuclear arsenal. It's military and economy are so weak, that it would take USA just few days to conquer them. The only thing they can do is to do as much damage with their nukes as possible in that short period of time.

So to simply start gaining trust of other countries, simply stop developing nuclear weapons, sell rest of the nukes to either China or US and allow anyone who asks to conduct open investigation if they are suspicious.

After that, international community should be willing to help the poor country in any way possible, if it means improving people's standard of living and maybe aiding in unification of North and South.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Considering the way North Korea came into being in the first place, what you ask is no less than total and unconditional surrender. $\endgroup$
    – Burki
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 11:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Burki That is true. It will be bad for leading caste in NK, but will drastically improve life for common people. As long as international community is benevolent. $\endgroup$
    – Euphoric
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 11:48
  • $\begingroup$ Als long as it is... which is quite optimistic. $\endgroup$
    – Burki
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 12:09

Your fictional Uncle Al has a real problem. If he has studied history, he has learned about the fate of Gaddafi, or the decades-long standoff between the West and Iran. He should assume that the West will settle for nothing less than regime change. So what can be done?

  • Genuine regime change was mentioned by another poster.
  • Fake regime change. He changes his name, destroys all evidence of his former identity, and uses his old contacts to engineer a "genuine" popular revolution. Execute the old generals, promote some reliable colonels. The new regime doesn't have to be democratic as long as it isn't the old regime, and doesn't rock the boat.

The problem with those is that the DPRK might well disintegrate, forcing the ROK, US, and China to move in as an occupation force. A terribly risky situation, from weapons scientists going rogue to US and Chinese forces trying to 'secure' the same military base.

  • Reduce the hostility and propaganda and become useful to China. Hope that the West values a good relationship with China more than the vendetta with North Korea. How to become useful to China? First and foremost, by being a stable buffer to the US forces in South Korea and Japan.
  • Reduce the hostility and propaganda and become useful to the West. Imagine that North Korean special forces capture half a dozen ISIS leaders and then offer to extradite them to the International Court of Justice. The West would hardly say "no, you can keep them ..."

The problem here might be that the regime can't survive without an external emeny to blame for shortages and starvation.


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