Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Surviving Through The Post-Cold War Era: The Evolution of Foreign Policy In North Korea


Between the years of 1989 and 1992, the Cold War Era came to an end with the collapse of the communist Soviet bloc. However, unique among the Soviet imposed communist regimes, the struggling North Korean government has lived on, defying odds and predictions. How is it that the North Korean regime is able to withstand the pressures of change? What impact did the transformation in the international situation have on North Korea’s seemingly contradictory and often unpredictable foreign policy? Most research on this subject has focused on North Korea’s unique internal structure, but this paper will show that, as was the case in Eastern Europe, the answer to these questions can be found in the regime’s geopolitical conditions.

By using articles from the Rodong Sinmun, Kulloja, and the Pyongyang Times from this period, this paper will show that North Korea believed that the changes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union posed a serious threat to its internal system, sovereignty, and legitimacy due to the deteriorating geopolitical environment. This understanding compelled North Korea to implement new foreign policies to adapt to a new world order: establishing friendlier relations with its neighbors and developing nuclear capabilities. This paper will illustrate that both policies were rational and complementary responses that has been critical for the survival of the North Korean regime. Also, as these two policies are inseparable, instead of coercing or enticing North Korea to accommodate, it will be much more effective to change the underlying considerations that led to these policies.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View