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Thursday, 26 October, 2000, 12:11 GMT 13:11 UK
Is the West moving too fast to embrace North Korea?

The UK Government has announced it is planning to normalise relations with North Korea.

This weekend the US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, makes the highest-level visit from a US official to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.

Yet, North Korea remains a repressive regime with nuclear aspirations. It is classed by the US as a sponsor of terrorism.

Should the West be moving so fast to embrace North Korea? Should there be more strings attached? Or is it worth paying any price to bring the secretive country in from the cold?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction

It is weird to see that suddenly the whole world is so impatient to get attention from North Korea. As far as I remember, the North was an undoubtedly serious military threat to the world a few months ago. Then, only in a month, it became a friendly nation represented by a polite and good mannered leader Kim Jong-il. It seems to me that people have forgotten the enormous pain and damage it has caused for the last half a century.
Lee, Inn-kyoung, Seoul Korea


North Korea has an appalling human rights record

Trev, UK
North Korea has an appalling human rights record and is one of the few countries that refuses to admit Western Aid Agencies to see how the aid is distributed. Much of the aid sent either feeds Kim Jong Il's one million (yes one million) strong army and the rest ends up on the black market. In a region of the world where life is cheaply valued, the situation of depravity is only worsened.
Trev, UK

After seeing the terrible pictures of starving children in North Korea, while food aid is diverted to the army and the black market, it is awful to see the USA legitimising such a tyrant. Madeleine Albright should not allow herself to be used by the North Korean propagandists in this way.
Jeff, London, UK

The time is right!
Dolginko, American in South Korea

Closer union between North and South Korea is the key towards ending the regime in the North. There is a strong will among all Koreans for some form of reunification precisely because it will lead to the Westernisation of their economy.
John Elliott, England


The West must be ultra-careful with North Korea

StClair, Brit in USA
The West must be ultra-careful with North Korea. My wife is Korean and she is a total believer in re-unification. However, it will take several generations before North Korea catches up to the West. The effects of mass starvation on the population are horrifying and I do not believe the North Korean leadership is ready, or even able, to "lose face" should the extent of its failure become public knowledge.
StClair, Brit in USA

New ideas are born. A new world is being created.
We enter a new era.
The West is embracing the East.
No more division.
No more clinging to old ideas.
History is going to see a new North Korea.
Albert P'Rayan, India/ Rwanda

If a terrorist learns that he can get money so easily by threatening the world and its neighbours once and then start acting friendly for a while, he will keep playing this game forever.
Kim, South Korea


The sooner the North Korea is opened to the rest of the world, the better for all Koreans and for the safety of the world itself

Louis Massano, USA
The people of North Korea are starving in the midst of a terrible famine. The west should forget the olive branch and crush Kim's puppet regime with their military might.
Patrick Clancy, Republic of Ireland

The West will always do what will benefit itself. If normalising relations with North Korea will prove fruitful to the West then that is exactly what will be done.
Hashir Rasul, Canada

It is a highly dangerous tactic to normalise the tie with North Korea so quickly. They are not showing any signs of changing their regime at all. What we are doing is just helping that government to survive a bit longer. We should not sacrifice the stability of the Far East.
Kazuyuki Marukawa, Japan


It will be a blow to our war industries who will be once again deprived of yet another enemy

Steve B, US
North Korea must accept the "New World Order" and the supremacy of the U.S. by saying "Uncle Sam." If they do it will be a blow to our war industries who will be once again deprived of yet another enemy which in the past has kept the jolly, profitable festivities continuing.
Steve B, US

I have no doubt that Korea has witnessed a historical breakthrough over the last months. The task of reconciliation in Korea is immense now and the absence of conflict is not always enough. We have to go further and try to help bring N. Korea into the international community. However, N. Korea also has to play its part. I think the worlds most secretive state has finally come to realize that without diplomatic recongnition it will be hard to maintain its system and survive.
Sunhee Oh, Seoul, South Korea

Hopefully the Communist government in North Korea will collapse and its people will be free. When that day comes we must still be very cautious. Re-unification of North and South should not happen overnight like it did with East and West Germany! The people of North Korea have been isolated from the rest of the world, and brainwashed all their lives.
Richard, Wales

Always love thy neighbour and forgive his sins, your love will show him the light.
Alex, Brussels


Why does the BBC always insist on referring to North Korea's food shortages as 'drought' or 'famine' - thereby implying that it is the result of some natural disaster?

David John, England
Why does the BBC always insist on referring to North Korea's food shortages as 'drought' or 'famine' - thereby implying that it is the result of some natural disaster and nothing whatsoever to do with Communist collectivist land policies. I suppose the fact that just over the border in capitalist South Korea they've got more than enough food to eat is just an evil, right-wing, xenophobic lie.
David John, England

The sooner the West has dialogue with NK, the sooner the regime (which is a monster to its people) will fall.
Ann Marie, Scotland

I love living in South Korea because - due to my limited Korean - I can't read the ads. I could never argue that living in NK would be preferable, but there are remarkable similarities between some forms of "communist" brainwashing and our own. Why do we have such a miserable choice? I do think we have to bring them in from the cold divide - but it must lead us to question our own ideas about what a good society is.
Becky Branford, UK, living in S Korea

I was very surprised by this announcement. However, I think we should trust and support the efforts of the South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung. He as asked for other countries to help bring the N Korean regime in from the cold, if we can be part of this process, we should. He has taken many risks for the sake of better relations, and if his 'sunshine policy' probably represents the best chance for progress at this point.
Tom Westmacott, UK


It worries me to see the west trying to normalise relations

Penil, Wales
The fact is that North Korea is still a totalitarian Stalinist state. The secrecy in which the country operates is something which the west should not trust. After recently seeing a programme on North Korea, it makes me very worried to see the west trying to normalise relations.
Penil, Wales

I think it is too early to consider North Korea as a normal country since there are so many problems to be solved. Especially between Japan and North Korea, we have problem concerning kidnapping of Japanese citizens. North Korea has to tackle and solve problems before getting approval from the world.
Hideaki Shinomiya, Japan

The North Korean leadership is paranoid, convinced that the rest of the world is out to destroy them. Unfortunately, as is illustrated by your comments, the rest of the world is out to destroy them! Dialogue and normalisation of relations is the only way forward.
Dhiraj Kumar, UK

How can you trust Communists? Lies and deceit are a major part of their arsenal against freedom. N. Korea along with all the other communist paradises (China, Cuba, Vietnam etc) should be treated in the same way as South Africa was as the pariahs they are.
A.Brooks, USA


Don't forget what North Korea has done to South Korea and Japan for the last ten years

Albert M, Germany
Don't forget what North Korea has done to South Korea and Japan for the last ten years. While South Korea and Japan have massively aided the regime, partly from the good will and partly from the hope for normalization of their relationships, North Korea consistently invaded both countries' territories and once it triggered a sea battle that ended with almost a hundred casualties. While the generous aid was consumed to sustain the regime and even beef up their army, almost more than million of North Koreans were reportedly starved to death. Isn't it time that we realized what kind of country North Korea is?
Albert M, Germany


I haven't met a single South Korean who doesn't long for the unification of their people

Chris, Ex-pat in South Korea
It's interesting to read some of the comments on this page from people in England etc... When they say we should have nothing to do with NK or enforce certain restrictions on them to 'allow' them to become civilised they have no conception of the feelings of the people who really matter, it seems to me.
I haven't met a single South Korean who doesn't long for the unification of their people. Of course everybody should be wary of Kim Jong-il but I for one believe he must know there would be nothing to gain from treachery and deceit but the end of himself and his regime. We should do everything in our collective power to bring an end to the tragedy that is the current situation.
Chris, Ex-pat in South Korea

I was a border guard for North Korea in the 80's before I managed to escape into China. North Korea will never open up and anyone who pretends otherwise is mad. It is forbidden to gamble there and there are no poker machines. Even playing cards is forbidden. It could be the gambling capital of North Asia but it is run by a despot. Introduction of a state lottery would be a step in the right direction.
Kim Rhee Suk, Las Vegas, USA

I think the west should embrace N. Korea as soon as possible. If North and South Korea unite there will be a new major player in the region. I think it will be in the west's best interest to ensure the friendship of this new player as early as they can.
Ruli Harahap, Indonesia

Regarding the US's classification of North Korea as a sponsor of terrorism, it's worth noting how many ramifications there are to the chilly relations between these two countries. It is also worth noting that it is not just the Koreans or the Americans who have been paying the price of these strained relations.
As of the present, the US has refused to sign the Landmine Ban Treaty even though two thirds of all nations have denounced these as an inhuman weapons whose primary victims are civilians. The main reason the US has not joined the Treaty is that it wants to keep landmines in its arsenal in a possible confrontation with North Korea.
Ken Takata, USA

We should always embrace a country's attempts to rejoin the world stage. However, it shouldn't be at any cost. We must consider Human Rights issues, not to mention the thousands who were tortured and brainwashed as 'political prisoners' at the hands of the North in the war.
Reconciliation must involve admission and recognition of crimes by all sides, otherwise, the resentment and lack of trust will remain, and the progress will soon be eroded.
Nick, London, England


If there are no communications we cannot influence North Korea

Andrew Torrance, Wales
North Korea has already proved it has the ability to shut itself off, if we start making demands it may do so again. If there are no communications we cannot influence North Korea. In the longer term Korean reunification is a possibility, that would probably be conditional on agreed standards for human rights.
Surely it is right to ease the tensions in the area? The alternative is the status quo. That is the North is isolated, with mass starvation, and two huge armies face each other over the most heavily fortified ground on earth. If we want to improve conditions for the average North Korean, surely we should do so in the most practical way? Turning our backs on North Korea will not achieve this.
Andrew Torrance, Wales, UK

Yes, we are moving too fast. Let's wait for some progress from their side - there's plenty of things that the DPRK leadership could do, such as allowing family reunions, stopping IRBM tests, agreeing to stop nuclear material and technology sales abroad, cutting drug and CITES-breaking smuggling by their diplomats, reducing their immense military presence on the border... need I go on?
AC, UK

Any efforts to aid in the democratising of a once cold-war enemy of the West should be fully implemented. North Korea (NK) has seen its share of famine, floods, etc., and are well aware that its survival as a culture greatly depends on the assistance of foreign governments. Support from the UK and the US is nothing more than a stamp of approval. And in a country just beginning to learn that co-operation is key to acceptance, this stamp comes at a very high cost: NK's national pride.
Martin, USA


The isolation and introspection of this regime has left it paranoid and capable of mischief

James Denning, UK
Fifty years since the beginning of the Korean War it may be beneficial to try and show North Korea that inclusion is vastly more profitable than exclusion. However the isolation and introspection of this regime has left it paranoid and capable of mischief. Also let there be renewed commemoration of those British and Commonwealth soldiers who fell in defence of the South from what was the North's aggression.
James Denning, UK

I think the west should be more inclusive than exclusive. Okay, some countries are under communism and some hard dictatorships, but by isolating them they will never change. So I think that opening links with countries, in this case North Korea, will cause changes happen. Of course, it'll take a generation for effects to really show.
Colin, Netherlands

If the West seriously believes in a moral evolutionary to globalised foreign policy, countries like North Korea must be more than artificially embraced - they must be given their proper place at the international political high table
James Metcalfe, United Kingdom


I'm sure our politicians can take a deep breath and swallow hard as they shake these people's hands!

Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK
Geopolitics at work here ... the strategy appears to be to get them to talk with the south. If that creates a broader stability to the region, I'm sure our politicians can take a deep breath and swallow hard as they shake these people's hands!
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

I don't think we should have anything to do with them until they repair their international relations with other countries. I think we should pressure other countries to follow suit.
Chris Wall, UK


They are one people and the people should not suffer because of their governments

Ralph Simmons, United States
I was stationed in South Korea from 1985 to 1989 with the US Army. I believe any effort to bring North and South Korea together must be taken for the benefit of both peoples. Another war on that peninsula would be devastating and waste millions of lives. They are one people and the people should not suffer because of their governments.
Ralph Simmons, United States

The short answer is 'no.' None of the changes being discussed or already announced are irreversible.
I consider this to be a case of 'which came first - the chicken or the egg?' If North Korea were not a poor marginalized country would they feel the need to resort to terrorism? They are being given a chance to enter the mainstream, but the opportunity will dry up if they do not respond by changing both national and international policy.
Clayton, USA

As long as North Korea is seen as a "rogue" by the US, it has every right to fear an attack on itself so it will continue making weapons. The only solution that makes sense is dialogue.
Michael M, Switzerland


The North Korean government should be held at the end of a very long stick

Kevin, USA
The North Korean dictatorship is one of the most brutal and repressive in the world. This is a Government which allows millions of its own people to starve rather than be seen to lose face. In addition they are threat to their neighbours and if latest reports on their missile programme are true a threat to the rest of the world. The North Korean government should be held at the end of a very long stick with a clear intention to use that stick if they threaten others.
Kevin, USA

I think the west has to move faster in dismantling the tension in this region as they are 90% responsible for the separation which leads to this suspicious looking between the North and South.
Sheik I. Jalloh, Guinea, Conakry

I think that will help democracy to shine. I am hoping that the UK Government will do the same thing for the people of Iraq because the embargoes did not work.
Essey, USA


Both the UK and the US might consider restoring full relations with Iraq and pulling out forces, if this is how they act towards North Korea

Ian Edwards, UK
The fact remains that this country is a "sponsor of terrorism", governed by an undemocratic regime and has plans to develop nuclear weapons. Both the UK and the US might consider restoring full relations with Iraq and pulling out forces, if this is how they act towards North Korea.
Ian Edwards, UK

I would be very cautious in normalising relations with N Korea. The place is like something out of George Orwell's 1984. However increasing contacts is the only way to eventually subvert the regime. As the people get to meet foreigners, get access to Western media etc the society will eventually implode like Eastern Europe.
The problem is that the leadership's only concern is not for their people but for their own power and the maintenance of their privileges. The ideology is only a pretext for despotism of the worst kind. If they feel threatened by change this irrational society could precipitate some global catastrophe by initiating a war with South Korea, Japan and America using their nuclear arsenal but also their extensive chemical and biological weaponry.
William Lack, England


The more business folks travelling there with laptops, mobile phones, attitudes of "can-do" and faces unravaged by starvation, the shorter the life-span of North Korea's authoritarian government

Barry Macleod-Cullinane, Britain
The West is not moving fast enough. It might be thought that we should hold-off opening up to North Korea until human rights situation improves, the government is reformed and the people allowed to farm and trade privately (to stop the planned famines)....
Unfortunately, this type of sanctions and non-engagement plays into the hands of dictators and oppressive governments by enabling them to place the origin of the burdens that they impose on their peoples on the policies of foreign powers. This has been the case in Cuba, in Iraq and was the case in countries like Romania and the Eastern Bloc.
Britain, America, the EU and South Korea could do far more to bring democracy, freedom, and human rights to North Korea by dropping all restrictions on technology exports to North Korea, all investments into and all imports from North Korea.
The more business folks travelling there with laptops, mobile phones, attitudes of "can-do" and faces unravaged by starvation, the shorter the life-span of North Korea's authoritarian government.
Barry Macleod-Cullinane, Britain

If we go by the old saying - you can not teach an old dog new tricks, I would say we have to be careful about the repressive govt of NK. It will be hard for such hard-liners to change overnight, but when we consider the risk from the misuse of nuclear weapons, it will be irresponsible not to start a sort of dialogue with them.
Ade Talabi, UK


As soon as people see and understand what they are missing, they want it

Alan A, UK
No. In my opinion, by introducing Western values into a repressive society you accelerate the change to a market driven, democratic society. As soon as people see and understand what they are missing, they want it - and that leads to change.
Alan A, UK

Yes, it is.
T.J. Cassidy, USA

This is a country that has mistrusted the west for decades. Now that relations may be normalising let's just extend the hand of friendship instead of chattering about it.
Gerry, Scotland

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19 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
UK and North Korea forge ties
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