In his book Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes introduces us to the “Fool’s Challenge”: the idea that contracts between people or nations can be broken at anytime no matter the resulting consequences. Thomas Hobbes spends part of his book refuting this point because he feels that breaking contracts with allies decreases the chance of survival because the allies become less and less willing to help out going into the future. North Korea’s communist regime has been, for the last couple of decades,doing exactly that and my blog post will, hopefully, leave you with a thorough understanding of what I think Hobbes would have to say about North Korea’s current policies concerning diplomacy.
North Korea has been annoying most of the world for quite sometime now. Often, we hear news reports of North Korea attempting to test another missile or threatening to destroy South Korea. North Korea’s aggression towards America and South Korea can be traced back to the Korean War, where the United States defended South Korea against an invasion from North Korea. Since then, the diplomatic ties between North Korea and the United States have been virtually non-existent and when President Bush came into office in the early 2000s, he even took steps to declare North Korea a “rouge state.” At that time, the dictator of North Korea was Kim Jong-il who is the father of Kim Jong-un, the current dictator of North Korea. Kim Jong-il was a ruthless leader who led North Korea with an iron fist. He was responsible for setting up kwanliso camps which housed alleged enemies who were “convicted” of treasonous acts against the state. Over 200,000 North Koreans still work there under atrocious condition such as torture and malnutrition. Kim Jong-il also was a very cunning leader and consistently would say to the world that he would stop research and development for nuclear weapons and that he would start treating his citizens better. Almost every time he would come out and say this, North Korea was suffering from famines or energy crises and right after aid was sent, Kim Jong-il would go back on his word which leads us to how North Korea is a modern day example of the Fool’s Challenge.
In Leviathan, Hobbes talks about how the fool breaks his covenants for his own gains and how this act of betrayal destroys the credibility of the fool moving forward, leading to endless distrust from potential and former allies. He says in his essay, “The fool hath said in his heart, … there could be no reason why every man might not do what he thought conduced thereunto: and therefore also to make, or not make; keep, or not keep, covenants was not against reason when it conduced to one’s benefit.” Using this quote, it is safe to say that Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un are “fools”. In the mid-1990s, North Korea was ravaged by horrible weather and droughts that destroyed much of North Korea’s crops. The United States gave over $1.3 billion dollars in aid to North Korea from 1995 to 2008 to help North Korean citizens avoid the worst of the shortages. The United States, of course, did not give all this aid with no terms. The United States told North Korea to shut down its nuclear program and start treating its citizens better. As we have seen in the news lately, North Korea has ignored most of the nuclear sanctions placed on them and Kim Jong-un is treating his citizens even worse then his father through punishments such as releasing rabid dogs on prisoners. As a result of this, the United States has cut off all aid ties with North Korea just as Hobbes would have predicted would happen. Many other countries have also followed the lead of the United States and aid to North Korea has been decreasing in recent years forcing North Korea to reconsider its stance on its deadly nuclear program.
As a result of North Korea breaking its covenants in the last decade, Thomas Hobbes would probably tell North Korea that it needs a radical policy change if it wants a chance to survive into the future. North Korea is a considerably weak country compared to the United States and has very few allies(China who has been one of its strongest allies has been reducing its ties with North Korea as of late). Until the day North Korea can finally adhere to the sanctions placed forward by the world, its chances of avoiding international intervention become slimmer and slimmer.