Even if he wanted to, could Kim Jong Un end the nuke program?

As I understand it, nuclear weapons have become a matter of immense pride and importance to the North Korean government, leadership and populace. The international community has been applying severe sanctions of late to try to get Kim Jong Un and Co. to end the nuke program.

That leads to a question: Even if Kim Jong Un wanted to do so, could he end the nuke program and still keep his head?

Ending Pyongyang’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and caving in to the international community’s demands would be seen as appeasement and capitulation of the highest order. It seems perfectly plausible that this might lead to Kim being assassinated or overthrown.

So, is Kim truly free to accommodate the West’s demands even if he wanted to - and, if not, how should the international community adjust its demands?

They way they spin things, I imagine they could come up with some sort of GLORIOUS reason to end the nuke program that most of the general population would swallow. The Generals and elite would be a different story…

I sometime have this thought myself (perhaps I need a hobby).

If I woke up tomorrow and found myself as the Kim Jong Un, other than eating a salad, what could I do to make my life better and end the hell that is North Korea? Would it be possible to end the dictatorship? Move away from the horrendous economy? Trim the military? Become a more open society? I’m guessing that he can’t get too far afield before he lost his head.

You’re essentially asking, “What are the internal power dynamics of the North Korean regime?” I don’t think anyone outside that government can answer that question with even the slightest reliability.

For all we know, there may be a developing consensus within the NoKo establishment that the nuclear program’s drawbacks exceed its value, and abolition is only awaiting confirmation from Kim. Or not.

We had a thread for that in 2014:

Pretty much this. The inner workings of North Korea are as opaque and mysterious as any Byzantine court ever was. No one (outside of, perhaps, some deep government think tanks on NK) really knows how things work. We get hints, such as when Lil’ Kimmy V3.2.4 whacked his uncle using mortar shells. That might have meant that the Chinese faction in NK had some sort of power struggle and lost…or something.

My WAG is that pizzeria Un’o is on shaky ground wrt at least some of the various factions in North Korea, and that he’s trying to brazen it out by playing to the military faction (well, one of them anyway) and being as crazy and belligerent as they could hope for. That means he couldn’t simply ‘end the nuke program’ even if he wanted too…and it’s unlikely he DOES want to, even if it wouldn’t be his head. He’s not particularly bright from what I’ve read of his time going to school in Europe, but he’s bright enough to know that this would probably be a bad thing for the faction he’s been trying to side with.

I’ve always wondered about Kim Jong Un being sent abroad for schooling. Wouldn’t he have been heavily exposed to Western ideas? Why wouldn’t his family worry that he might pick them up, come back disloyal to the regime and try to liberalize the country?

Yes, I wondered about that also. Still, I’m certain there were minders/handlers with him to make certain to put the proper ideological slant on what he saw and learned in Switzerland.


Exposure to Western ideas is very overrated, mostly by Westerners themselves.

Exposure to Western “ideas” is hugely influential is getting immature kids hooked on pop culture and the freedom to enjoy themselves. And by all accounts Kim is just as committed to enjoying himself as anyone else.

Exposure to Western ideas has a much more dismal record in getting people to reject a system that enormously benefits them personally. There are any number of Third World dictators and thugs who have been educated in the West (Bashar Assad comes to mind offhand, along with any number of African dictators and Saudi princes etc. etc.) and the impact on these people’s ideology is very minor if any, by all indication.

As I understand it, education in the West can actually harden some people against the West. Admiral Yamomoto, for instance, IIRC, was educated at Harvard, but the racist treatment he experienced there made him more anti-American than he was before. Later on he engineered the raid on Pearl Harbor.

Kim was reported to have ventured off campus only to eat dinner at the home of NK’s Ambassador to Switzerland.

Not exactly looking to broaden his views.

Here’s an analyses/prediction from someone who follows DPRK closely:

An interesting take, and I suggest those interested in the DPRK to bookmark that site.

A very interesting take. Thanks usedtobe