North Korea strategy: the playing field and major players

November 19, 2011 by Joshua
in Freedom, Leadership, NorthKorea

The playing field for North Korean strategy, which reduces the number of relevant players, simplifies North Korea’s strategic situation more than almost anything else. Few other nations see such a combination of global importance and simplicity.

The map below, from Wikipedia, shows nearly everything you need to know about the playing field.

Map of North Korea

Map of North Korea

North Korea shares borders with three countries: China, South Korea, and Russia. Farther to the east lies Japan. No other countries are close.

For a few reasons, mainly that North Korea developed nuclear weapons and its involvement in the Korean War, the United States is involved.

Within North Korea I distinguish between the government and the people.

Each of these players contains multitudes of sub-players with divergent interests. Nonetheless, I think treating these seven groups as the relevant ones and each one as homogenous gets the main structure.

The main players are

  • The North Korean government. Kim Jung Il is the head. In many countries the division between the military and civilian power is significant. I treat the government as one monolithic entity.
  • The North Korean people. They obviously have diverse interests, but one relevant common behavior: they don’t rebel against their government.
  • The South Korean government.
  • The Chinese government.
  • The Russian government.
  • The Japanese government.
  • The United States government.

The United Nations and the people of the other countries play minor roles, but smaller than these players.

Back to the playing field, China has a long border with North Korea and Russia has a small one, both allowing people and goods to pass. South Korea has a long, heavily fortified border that allows almost no people or goods to pass. Japan is an ocean away. The United States is nowhere near, but has a strong military presence in South Korea.

Next: Relevant players and their motives

EDIT: I included much of this post and this series on strategy (edited and polished) in my ebook, Understanding North Korea: Demystifying the World’s Most Misunderstood Country. I wrote the book to help increase understanding, communication, and freedom.

Joshua Spodek Understanding North Korea cover

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2 responses on “North Korea strategy: the playing field and major players

  1. Pingback: North Korea strategy: a primer on strategy | Joshua Spodek

  2. Pingback: North Korea strategy: preview | Joshua Spodek

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