So, here’s a hypothetical scenario. Hypothetical conditions:
Nobody within your country is going to assassinate or overthrow you. But you have plenty of enemies outside of the country.
North Korea remains desperately poor and hungry as always.
Your country has a tiny nuclear arsenal.
North Korea has considerable natural resources.
China, Russia, the USA, Japan and South Korea remain the same as usual.
You have the power of a dictator, for life - vast, but even still, with its limits.
Redeploy most North Korean forces on the DMZ to the Yalu River instead, facing China. South Korea isn’t a threat. China will be, once Beijing realizes the new DPRK regime doesn’t support Chinese interests.
Propose a treaty/pact with the USA, Japan and South Korea - non-aggression by all parties involved and termination of the North Korean nuclear weapons program in return for pledge of US-Japan-SK defense against Chinese or Russian attack.
Ask for massive international humanitarian aid.
Set a timetable for democratic elections in 25 years’ time.
Continue to allow a very small number of foreigners to visit every year.
Cut size of military in half.
Modernize military with a small purchase of fighter jets, long-range radars, SAM batteries and diesel submarines.
Cut military budget in half, diverting the freed-up funding towards health care, industry, energy and agriculture instead.
Secure support form the US and UN, allow dismantling of nuclear weapons, ask for aid during the transitional phase to a republic. Draw up a charter of rights for the people of North Korea. Possibly start inroads into a possible reunification with South Korea.
In reality, I’d wager I’d be shot by some ass-hat general before I got to do any of that though.
Also, no one in the old regime gets to hold ANY sort of public office, EVER. And the current heads of state will probably need to be tried for crimes against humanity.
Appoint advisers to engage responsibly in reunification of the Koreas. That is what all Koreans want, on both sides of the border. In other words, work immediately to turn over North Korea to the South Korean administration.
It wouldnt be easy to just open things up seeing that so many in the NK command are firmly entrenched in the system and will be reluctant to let it go. All those people would need pensions and immunity from prosecution.
And one doesnt just end such a system so quickly. Everyone has gotten so used to the NK government running everything and nobody trusts anyone. It would have to be a gradual transition.
I was wondering about that. How many billions of dollars will it cost South Korea to bring North Korea up to the same standard of living? What did it cost in Germany after reunification? And North Korea is much less developed than East Germany was.
Yeah, immediate re-unification would be a disaster. Better to do internal reform and peace seeking first. It should be pretty much along the lines of the OP, although I’d be worried about pissing the Chinese off. But I would definitely sign a peace treaty with the South, and remove the weapons currently threatening Seoul and other places.
End the deification of the Kim dynasty. Remove their faces from public works, bury their remains with dignity, and make it clear in state propaganda that, though well-intentioned, they were greedy and did not act in the best interest of the people.
As Leader, make myself anonymous. I will not make public appearances and my praises will not be sung from the rafters, and my proclamations and acts will be announced as decisions from the National Defence Commission, not from an individual. The funds used to pay for the Kims’ decadent lifestyle will be turned towards the public works campaigns described below. Establish a civil service system that will eventually appoint my successors and those of my underlings on a meritocratic basis, and gradually shift the focus of state power from the military onto the bureaucracy.
Embark on a nationwide campaign of industrialization and modernization, coupled with agricultural and mechanical education, to improve the lives of the average North Korean. Set a goal that within 20 years, every North Korean should have electricity, running water, access to paved roads and transportation, and enough food to provide for their families. Allow limited imports from abroad of equipment necessary for this process.
Abolish the policy of purging three generations of a family for the crimes of an individual. Maintain the labor camps for those guilty of crimes against the state, but ensure that every accused person gets a fair trial, treat prisoners humanely, and grant them early release in exchange for dedicating their labor towards the public works projects described above - building of roads, dams, electrical wiring, farm equipment, etc.
Seek a permanent peace treaty with South Korea that ends hostilities, guarantees the sanctity of both nations’ borders, and allows for limited trade.
Exchange nuclear disarmament for humanitarian relief but I wouldn’t go full free market. North Korea needs a protectionist easing from “communism” to capitalism. You can’t just unshackle the masses, throw open the boarders and say “do what you will”.
There are basic infrastructural needs that need to be addressed like food production, housing, education, government (constitution, courts, police), etc. before it’s ready to even participate in the global marketplace.
Also I’m not entirely sure the US would be the best person to appeal to. It’d make much more sense to get China to come build my roads and factories than it would to ask the US.
Reunification with S. Korea is so far out of the picture it’s not even worth considering.
I think part of the reason China wants to keep NK close is they lost over a hundred thousand men in the Korean war and their are Chinese cemeteries all over NK. So until the last veteran dies I doubt they will entertain the idea of allowing American forces or an ally of them to be right on there border.