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In the present day society sees North Korea as an impoverished warzone, led by a dynastic line of dictators with little care for the state of the world outside their own. As one of the remaining inaccessible locations of the Earth, North Korea begs the question of how a group of humans can persist in such an unknowing and isolated state. The word “brainwashed” is often used to describe its citizens, and holds true when considering that this is a nation without fundamental human rights such as freedom of speech and thought. Meanwhile, society views China as a land of benefits such as economic expansion and cultural Westernization, driven by a desire to modernize in as little time as possible. The physical boundary between the two nations can be seen with one’s own eyes, yet much of the discrepancy between North Korea and China lies under the table. With politics, security, and international relations in account, the world watches as global superpowers attempt to fight the inhumanity of the North Korean regime in the most humane way possible. The border between North Korea and China has gained prominence through a disrupted development of national identity, the constant transgression of boundaries, gridlocked relations with the rest of the world, and an imbalance in their political schemas.
North Korea’s emergence in history comes from a tragic tale of a once-unified people divided by foreign influence. The Korean peninsula was claimed and inhabited in the year 668, marking the beginning of the Silla Dynasty. A dynastic rule was established, and power was transferred between families through domestic warfare. The people of the region found little trouble internationally, with infrequent opposition from self-sustaining neighbors such as China and Japan. They followed the general rule in Asian countries where development occurred separately until one nation ran out of resources. The Korean people grew their culture around the resources they possessed, living well off the land and water surrounding them. As Anderson explains, the people had a will to become a nation, bonding through a culmination of culture. It wasn’t until 1910 that the Korean dynasties fell to expansionist Japan during World War II, starting an era of brutal colonial rule and subjugation of local culture. Despite the oppression, the peninsula was modernized by Western cultural elements such as Christianity. Following Japan’s defeat in World War II in 1945,  the Soviet Union and United States agreed to divide the peninsula equally along the 38th parallel.  In one moment, centuries of unity between the Korean people were torn apart by two foreign superpowers in this perfect example of extraterritorial jurisdiction. Syngman Rhee was appointed leader of the South, and Kim Il-Sung leader of the North. Both men believed that they held power over the entire land, and the Korean War was initiated with military support from their host nations. Prior to this moment in history, China and North Korea had very little contact. In 1950, it was the proximity of the two nations that motivated Mao Ze Dong-led China to assist North Korea in its battle against the South. China threw military assistance, resources, and information at North Korea, while receiving thousands of refugees and students in return. After battle was halted through the  Korean War Armistice of 1953, China and Russia worked together to rebuild North Korea. With the success of the rebuilding, the Kim family dynasty was established, with Kim Jong Il coming into power in 1994 and Kim Jong Un coming into power in 2011. By investing in North Korea early on, the two nations set a precedent for current relations and global statuses. 
Before the modern era of political turmoil, the border between North Korea and China was accessible by the public from both sides. In fact, many Chinese citizens swam to North Korea to escape poverty and hardship— at the present, this direction of movement is just as illogical as it is impossible. While trade occurred between local merchants and fishermen, the two governments did not engage or communicate prior to 1950. Near the end of World War II, a bridge named the Sino Korean Friendship Bridge was built over the Yalu River to mark good relations. However, development of the North Korean sovereign identity dictated that no civilian would be able to leave the country for leisure, marking the surface of the bridge useless. Instead, a heavily-monitored train from the Korean State Railway operator carries people from one side to the other. In order to protect its status as a nation, North Korea needed to restrict its citizens from bailing on the country’s looming political problem. The government enforced rules requiring direct permission to leave the country— this permission was almost impossible to obtain by civilians, and was used mostly by government citizens for business travel. Punctuality in returning to the country was also stressed, even for the highest ranking officials. The question arises of how prominent the government must have been in the people’s lives to convince them to never leave the country; these prison-like restrictions are almost impossible to envision by most living on the outside. This physical boundary has been strengthened repeatedly by harsher punishments for each attempt to transgress the boundary. It resembles the division between Mexico and the United States because innocent civilians are trying to defect from their current collective in order to pursue the Western ideal, mostly due to a course of government inadequacy. In the decades following the country’s initial isolation, attempts to escape the North Korean regime through China became increasingly common. Security wise, the border with China is much easier to cross than the border with South Korea, mostly because of the mindset that China is an allied nation. There are approximately thirty to fifty thousand ethnic North Koreans in China, all granted the legal status of illegal economic migrants. What is surprising is that while China is generous with sending money and resources out to North Korea, it does not want to be liable for intaking refugees and has imposed strict security measures. Refugees caught by Chinese security are delivered back as prisoners and sent to Nazi-esque political internment camps, where they work the most physically demanding jobs for the government with no compensation. The most notable story of defection belongs to Yeonmi Park, a young woman who escaped to China in 2007 after her father was caught by the government for illegal trading of goods. After her escape, Park watched in horror as every female in her family, including herself, was captured and sold off to local human traffickers. She eventually landed in Seoul and worked endlessly to get her story heard, but her family was not so fortunate. Her speeches were recorded and broadcasted across many news networks, exposing the horrid scene of human injustice to the world— it is no coincidence that Western hatred for North Korea spiked in the last five years. The North Korean collective was previously strengthened and tamed for decades, with unilateral support from a community of people falsely promised better lives. From outside, North Korea carries a stigma of uncertainty and lack of identification. The image of the collective is so overpowering that many feel comfortable about speaking of every North Korean citizen as one— it completely overwhelms the individual. It’s so simple for the government to brainwash all of its citizens because they are all of the same ethnicity, have similar routines, use the same language, and are isolated through geography. This highlights Renan’s teachings on how unity is always created through brutality; the collective grows stronger as more hardship is thrown at it, and bonds together as the government gives it more falsities to celebrate. It is no easy feat to pry a family away from the collective that has defined its roots and everyday action since birth, yet the world watches as these families throw away everything they own to attempt to start from nothing across the river.
North Korea has entangled itself in an intricate gridlock of political power. The nation would not be drawing the mass media attention that it currently does if not for the threat that it poses to the safety of all living people. In 2011, following the death of Kim Jong Il, son and current leader Kim Jong Un established himself as the highest seat of power. It soon became apparent that this dynastic regime turned more militaristic with every successor. In the span of six years, Kim Jong Un was able to turn his nation from a passive humanitarian issue to a global safety threat. Given the state of their economy, the nation’s rapid armament came as an unprecedented surprise. Since 2003, China has been involved in six-party talks regarding North Korea’s emergence as an owner of nuclear warheads. Even with immense pressure to cease production and testing, the Kim family has disobeyed the rest of the world by conducting over fifty missile tests, the majority taking place in 2016 and 2017. In September of 2017, seismic activity around the region proved that North Korea conducted their first successful testing of a hydrogen bomb. It has become the global consensus that North Korea possesses working nuclear weaponry and missiles with enough range to reach California and Alaska. After the world witnessed the destructive power of these bombs to close World War II, Kim has given himself a major bargaining chip in international affairs. While China continues to condemn North Korea for its actions, it’s hard to imagine that the armament program could have advanced this far without China’s monetary aid. As North Korea continues to depend upon China and Russia for their own survival, it’s important to consider that the United States must maintain positive relations with its fellow superpowers to avoid large scale conflict. China and Russia are very unwillingly to give up a territory that they’ve essentially held since the end of World War II, and even with their history of military involvement overseas, the United States cannot simply treat North Korea as another Syria or Iraq. This implicit balance of power is also only half of the justification— the 1953 Korean Armistice act, signed between Washington and Beijing to end the Korean War, is still in effect and any attempted takeover of the region would be legally denounced by the United Nations. Relations between the United States and allied nations such as South Korea and Japan would also plummet if war occurred because they are so close in proximity to the enemy, who possesses both adequate weaponry and the advantage of time. Even if China were to suddenly erase interest in North Korea and remove its presence from the region, they are still obligated to protect North Korea in the event of war under the 1961 Sino-Korean Friendship Treaty, extended until 2021. In the present day China continues to deflect criticism from Western nations by pushing for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. If the Kim regime were to collapse, China would lose both a barrier against political encroachment from surrounding nations, and be flooded with millions of refugees with no knowledge of life or society outside their bubbles. This standstill of power between nations is a result of the simultaneous development of many national identities worldwide. Centuries ago, imperialism dominated political mindsets and more land was easily obtainable if a nation had the power to do so. The nations that are seen as strong today have abused the positive feedback loop of acquiring power and abusing power to the extent that there is no more power to gain, no room for their collective identities to grow. China and Russia support North Korea because they see it as an extension of their identity; the United States and other allies worry over the threat of North Korea to the safety of their own identities. 
The development of varying political schemas was integral to the emergence of global superpowers. Nations are birthed through similarities in culture, yet need a system of organization to thrive prosperously. The effect of these schemas, most notably capitalism against communism, on different collectives throughout history plays a great role in justifying their actions taken. The rise of North Korea is heavily correlated with the rise of communism in the nations that supported North Korea: China and the Soviet Union. Then-visionaries such as Stalin and Mao propelled the ideals of communism to the people of their respective nations, who may have gained from those ideals at the time; North Korea would have succeeded without communism, but fell victim to the Kim family’s desire to establish dominant power over its own people. When a nation becomes torn apart like Korea after the war, it becomes prone to adaptation towards the collective that had the greatest presence during that time— hence why the North Korean people were subjected to the harsh reality of complete communism, while the South Korean people experienced rampant growth under assisted capitalism. The discrepancy between these two forces was immense; it is a shame to realize that half a once-united population are experiencing decades of hardship due to drawing the short end of the stick. In 2014 South Korea had a GDP per capita of $33,200, compared to North Korea’s $1,800. North Koreans are truly surviving in an alien society, driven by a never-globalized economy. Although Western society knows that a nation run under complete communism will never succeed, it’s important to note that the same applies to a nation reliant upon too much capitalism. While communism has benefits in teaching people to work in unison towards common goals, it heavily discourages self-interest and disincentivizes an individual from working harder than is needed. Capitalism pushes an economy forward through a culmination of individual efforts to succeed, yet promotes evils in human nature such as greed and a lack of care for those with lesser economic standing. A balance between the two ideals is needed for a living society, yet capitalism prevails in Western culture because of a natural inclination towards relying upon oneself.
With the continued cruelty of the North Korean government, many citizens have realized that the regime they worshipped for decades has diverged greatly from what they once perceived it to be. The abjection of the collective by the people within the collective has taken place— the continued mistreatment of the people has led them to realize that the society they live and breathe does not reflect upon their personal values. While it is clear how the North Korea is defined by China, Russia, the United States, and surrounding nations, it plays an equally reciprocal part in defining the world as well. Only time separates North Korea from succumbing to global pressure or engaging in an all-out war.

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