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The United States rhetorically promotes a nuclear-free North Korea with an open economic system, eager for the country to become an integrated member of the global community. Sanctions Washington has imposed on Pyongyang since the outbreak of the Korean War, however, have failed to advance this objective. Indeed, sanctions have proven to be counterproductive. While having a negligible effect on North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, sanctions also restrict the inflow of foreign investment, thereby stymieing North Korea's efforts to recalibrate its economic system. The dearth of foreign investment further limits the establishment of market-based exchanges that would facilitate economic liberalization, a process that could improve economic security in North Korea. It is the North Korean people, moreover, not the governing elite, who bear the ultimate costs and suffer under these sanctions, creating undeniable tension when considering the causal relationship between economic sanctions and human rights. Despite assurances offered by U.S. administrations that sanctions policies exclusively target the government, this article argues that economic restrictions play a significant role in the country's economic woes, inhibiting Pyongyang from improving the standard of living for the North Korean people and failing to promote an improvement in basic economic rights.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2014-01-02

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