Academic journal article Law and Policy in International Business

U.S. Economic Sanctions - Non-Traditional Success against North Korea

Academic journal article Law and Policy in International Business

U.S. Economic Sanctions - Non-Traditional Success against North Korea

Article excerpt


The world has watched recently as the leaders of North Korea and the United States play a dangerous game. Since the end of the Korean War, the United States has applied economic sanctions to North Korea in an attempt to destabilize and manipulate the current communist regime, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea ("DPRK"). However, these sanctions have proved largely ineffective in stopping the DPRK from developing an advanced rocketry program and the potential for nuclear weapons.(1) In August 1998, the DPRK tested a rocket over Japan, which alarmed neighboring nations and the United States.(2) After ensuing discussions between representatives from the two adversarial nations, a compromise was reached in which North Korea promised to suspend testing of its missile program in return for a promise by the United States to relax its embargo against the DPRK.(3)

Critics of the Clinton Administration's concessions claim that the DPRK manipulated the United States into easing long-standing restrictions without sufficient gains or guarantees in return.(4) Others consider this a successful example of the application of economic pressure by the United States.(5) This Note argues that the sanctions, while not terribly effective in the traditional sense, provided the United States with an additional bargaining chip to deal with the unpredictable and dangerous DPRK. This leverage has allowed the United States to continue a policy of containment and appeasement that has kept the crisis on the Korean peninsula from erupting into a large-scale conflict.

Section II details the historical developments leading up to the current crisis. Section III lays out the analytical tools supplied by past academic works that facilitate discussion of these developments. Section IV addresses the questions of whether the recent events constitute a successful application of sanctions, whether this application was consistent with factors previously considered essential for the implementation of sanctions, and what lessons this application offers for future scenarios.


Appraising the recent events in North Korea cannot be accomplished with a myopic view of the history of the DPRK's dealings with the international community. The recent events can be put into proper perspective only through a thorough consideration of the regime's history.

The current crisis in North Korea stems from events occurring over fifty years ago. Following World War II, Japanese troops in Korea north of the 38th parallel surrendered to Soviet forces, while those south of the line surrendered to U.S. forces.(6) North Korea was occupied by communists, despite declarations made at the 1943 Cairo and 1945 Potsdam Conferences, which envisioned a united and independent post-war Korea.(7) After negotiations aimed at reunification failed in 1946 and 1947, free elections suggested by the United Nations were held in South Korea.(8) Following these elections, which covered areas south of the 38th parallel, the UN General Assembly declared the resulting Government of the Republic of Korea the lawful and only government in Korea.(9) Shortly after the South Korean elections, North Korea severed all economic ties between the regions and shut off all electric power transmission to the south.(10) In September 1948, a rigged election resulted in the establishment of the DPRK as the governing body of North Korea.(11)

On June 25, 1950, North Korean forces crossed the 38th parallel and occupuied almost all of South Korea.(12) The United States responded by imposing sanctions against the DPRK on June 28, 1950, and the UN Security Council called upon Member states to aid South Korea in repelling the armed attack and restoring international peace and security in the area.(13) UN forces were deployed under U.S. General Douglas MacArthur in September 1950.(14) After initial successful advances, the UN forces were pushed back by an influx of Chinese "volunteers" until the front lines stabilized at the 38th parallel. …

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