The cover of the book, which is published in Korean. (Maebong)

A new book by Bang Chan Yong, the president of KIMEP University in Kazakhstan, concludes that the only way for North Korea to preserve its current regime is to “economically modernize through denuclearization.” The book, entitled “Kim Jong Un’s Grand Challenge: North Korea’s Denuclearization and Economic Modernization,” approaches the implications of this idea from the perspective of a political economist. 

North Korea has become increasingly provocative as of late, launching missiles since the start of the year and even withdrawing its moratorium on nuclear tests and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests. With demands for guarantees to preserve its regime and the intensification of its shows of power, North Korea seems to believe that the only means of survival is to move away from denuclearization. 

Bang argues that, in order for North Korea to survive and develop economically, the country must abandon its guiding ideology, Juche.

He argues that a realistic strategy that will allow the survival and economic development of North Korea is renouncing the class struggle-based Juche ideology along with a focus on “economic development through denuclearization.” 

Bang suggests that pursuing substantive change and development instead of adhering to the Juche ideology is a practical way for the Kim Jong Un regime to acquire legitimacy from its people. 

The author points out that North Korean leaders can catch two birds with one stone using this strategy, achieving both economic development and maintaining their regime. 

Additionally, Bang observes that none of the five countries involved in the North Korea denuclearization issue (South Korea, the US, China, Japan, and Russia) has ever attempted to negotiate with North Korea on a basis of a “blueprint” for the country’s “bright future” that is “accompanied reforms for the regime.”

The author argues that, in fact, Kim Jong Un needs to propose a plan to those five countries showing that North Korea can be transformed into a “normal country” in which continuous economic development is possible. This plan, moreover, would require the five countries to guarantee the survival of the regime along with the provision of financial incentives to North Korea. 

Essentially, Bang argues that North Korea must lead the way by presenting a “preemptive vision,” rather than have neighboring nations push for changes in the country.

This argument is in line with Bang’s idea that North Korea must abandon its Juche ideology and nuclear weapons in order to achieve economic development. In short, North Korea must persuade neighboring countries to help itself leap into a new direction, instead of holding on to an old system that is headed for ruin.

Meanwhile, the author emphasizes the great importance of the soon-to-be-elected South Korean administration to help achieve North Korean denuclearization.

While North Korea’s nuclear weapons are just one of the security threats facing the US, they are a matter of life and death for South Korea. Bang argues that the newly elected government must strike an appropriate balance between the positions of both sides.

In the book, the author proposes strategic plans outlining what sort of North Korea-related denuclearization policies must be drafted into legislation and implemented in South Korea to achieve mutual economic prosperity through inter-Korean collaboration.

Bang’s book contains realistic and worthwhile proposals regarding the direction and future of the Northeast Asian political landscape, with a focus on the future of South Korea’s North Korea policies and North Korean affairs. Furthermore, the author offers readers the opportunity to consider what sort of approach would be the most realistic and desirable.

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Mun Dong Hui is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to