World Affairs

Decoding Kim Jong-Un’s North Korea

July 29, 2016  • Mariela Morales

Amid news that North Korea called out the US for “crossing the red line,” panelists at the 2016 Aspen Security Forum, speaking about the so-called “hermit country” discussed this declaration of war along with its underground nuclear tests, the effectiveness of sanctions, and how the US should respond both now and in the future.

Read below for highlights from on and off the stage.

Has Kim Jong-un consolidated his power?

“The regime in Pyongyang is consolidated. It is relatively stable,” said Moon. This means that Kim Jong-un has no real opposition among party elites.

What evidence is there that Kim Jong-un has consolidated his power? Panelists say:

  • On May 7, the Korean Workers' Party celebrated its first Congress in 36 years. A Congress is a chance for party officials to decide where the country should be heading.
  • Kim Jong-un would not have allowed this event to occur unless he knew that party elites would support his platforms.
  • This Congress is an example of how confident he was that he was facing no serious opposition.

What are North Korea’s nuclear capabilities?

“North Koreans now, not only the regime but the people, see themselves in their identity as a nuclear state.”
— Katharine Moon


What are North Korea’s relationships with other countries like?

Some voices in the international community have expressed concerns that North Korea might share its nuclear technologies with Iran. But is this really a threat? The ASF panelists do not believe that North Korea and Iran are colluding in that way.


Though the panelists believed that North Korea and Iran are not sharing nuclear technologies, they were concerned about its relationships with other countries, such as Russia and China. They noted that North Korean hackers are often trained in Moscow or Beijing.

“If you want to know what the North Korean capabilities are [in cyber attacks], we have to track Russian and Chinese capabilities,” said Moon.