North Korean Nuclear Program



Nuclear Nightmare - Understanding North Korea

In the 1980s North Korea began to investigate nuclear energy to meet its energy needs. Kim Il Sung, following the goal of juche, wanted North Korea to become self sufficient in agriculture and power. To increase agricultural output, more nitrogen fertilizer would be needed, which is power intensive to produce. For this and the power needs of North Korean industry, Kim want to decrease reliance on imported oil by increasing the use of North Korean coal for coal powered power plants and domestically mined uranium to fuel nuclear plants. The North Koreans had begun building the own gas-graphite nuclear reactor in Yongbyon that could produce plutonium and be purified to produce nuclear weapons.

North Korea says it would never give in to "unreasonable" resolutions against its nuclear program, blaming the US hostility for failing the prospects of a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

Gas-graphite reactors  are good for pruducing bomb grade fuel but not for making electricity. To produce eletricity, a Light-Water Nuclear Reactors (LWR) is needed . This alarmed the U.S. and the U.S.S.R, both of which didn't want an unstable North Korea in possession of nuclear weapons. President Reagan urged the Soviets to help the North Koreans develop a Light-Water Nuclear Reactors (LWR) so it could produce more power without developing nuclear weapons. This the Soviets agreed to do. North Korea did not have the technical expertise or finances to produce on its own LWR. However, this could not be done as the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s. After Kim Il Sung backed the 1991 hard line coup in Moscow, Yeltsin cut off further aid. A further blow came in 1992, when the PRC recognized South Korea and cut off aid as well and demanded North Korea pay for imports at market prices


In this video James Hardy discusses North Korea's recent submarine launched ballistic missile test, and provides analysis of North Korea's Sohae satellite launch centre.

 Work began on a nuclear reactor in the city of Yongbyon, sixty miles south of Pyongyang in 1982. The nuclear weapons program proved to be a valuable bargaining chip after the decline of the North alliances with China and the former Soviet Union.On October 9, 2006, the North Korean government issued an announcement that it had successfully conducted a nuclear test for the first time. Both the United States Geological Survey and Japanese seismological authorities detected an earthquake with a preliminary estimated magnitude of 4.2 in North Korea, corroborating some aspects of the North Korean claims.

Mindful of the fall of Saddam Hussien, the North Koreas wanted nuclear weapons as protection from the US.One of the major developers of the North Korean nuclear program was Dr. Lee Sung Ki, who earned a Ph.D. in prewar Japan and defected to North Korea during the war.American nuclear weapons have been deployed in South Korea for three decades, with about 750 deployed in the early 70s. These were reduced in the Carter years to about 250. By the time of the Bush Sr administration these had been reduced to about 100. Most of these a nuclear artillery shells. In 1991, the last of the nuclear weapons were removed.



News on North Korean missile launch

 World powers have condemned North Korea for test-firing a series of missiles, including one thought capable of reaching the US.  The seven missiles included a long-range Taepodong-2, which the US said failed shortly after take-off .

North Korea has also developed the Taepodong-1 missile, which has a range of 2,500 km . With the development of the Taepodong-2 missile, with an expected range of 5,000–6,000 km,North Korea could hypothetically deliver a warhead to almost all countries in Southeast Asia, as well as the western side of North America


In 1991 North Korea established a free trade zone in the cities of Rajin and Sonbong.In 1998, South Korean President Kim Dae-jung implemented the "Sunshine Policy" (햇볕 정책 ) to improve North-South relations and to allow South Korean companies to start projects in the North. Kim Jong-il announced plans to import and develop new technologies to develop North Korea's fledgling software industry



 The DPRK National Aerospace Development Administration on

 Sunday issued a report on the successful launch of earth observation satellite Kwangmyongsong-4 . Feb 6, 2016 .


 Why North Korea just launched a satellite

Flood and Famine  The Adruous March ( 고난의 행군 )





 North Korea : Starving 23 year-old Homeless Woman

The Aquariums of Pyongyang

Kang Chol-hwan is the first survivor of one of  a North Korean to escape and tell his story to the world,


The 1997 Famine That Still Affects North Korea Today

 Famine (1997): Incredible insight to North Korea's nationwide famine

 in 1997 which left thousands on the brink of starvation.

An estimated 500,000 to 2,000,000 were estimated to have perished in the famines following massive floods and drought in the 1990s and loss of aid from Eastern Europe,economic mismanagement and short sighted agricultural practices such as the overuse of fertilizer and cutting down trees on hillsides. This time is known as the 'The Adruous March' ( 고난의 행군 ) in North Korea.1995 brought the worst flood of the century, with 18 inches falling in a single night in some locations. The UN gained access to previously restricted areas to deliver aid and found malnutrition rampant. A decade of hunger that has left seven year old North Korean children eight inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter than those in South Korea . China, a traditional source of food was demanding hard currency and was importing food itself. The U.S. sent $615 million in food assistance from 1996 to 2003.


 North Korea's state-run media have reported that heavy rain which brought serious damage to South Korea also caused flooding in the North.


 Summer flooding has devastated crops, worsening the severe food shortage in North Korea. The hardest hit are young children, who are also the most vulnerable. Watch this rare footage from inside the reclusive country, filmed by the UN World Food Programme. Sept 16, 2011 .

There was an estimated 2 million ton shortfall in grain in 1994 and in 1995.North Korea appealed to Japan and South Korea for aid. South Korea delivers 150,000 tons of rice and Japan promised 500,000 tons . The US pleged $2 million in aid.However, this was not popular in the South as the North continued heavy military expenditures despite the disaster. True to its unpredicable character, the North Koreand suddendleny announced it would no longer abide by the Korea War armistice and sent 130 soldiers into the DMZ, where previously each side had only sent in 30 soldiers armed with pistols.These viloations stopped after 3 days.One the one hand, the then current president hoped this disaster would lead to the collapse of North Korea and the country could be united on his watch. On the other hand, the reunification of Germany had been much more expensive than planned, and it was feared to reunify with the North would be prohibitively expensive.


N.Korean Defector Recalls

Being Tortured in Camp


In Sept, 1996, a North Korean submarine became stranded in South Korea.11 members of the crew had been executed by their leader. Only one survived, Lee Kwang Su. Over the next two weeks, 11 other infiltrators were killed in firefights.14 South Koreans were killed .North Korea routinely uses submarines to drop off and pick up spies in South Korea. Another incident occurred in 1998, with nine members of the crew killing themselves .


North Korean Prison Camps



There are an estimated 200,000 to one million North Koreans are held in North Korean prison camps , called kwan-li-so ( 관리소).  Others are sent to mines .Many political prisoners and their families are sent to prison together. .Most are involved in hard labor, mining,timber related or farming and are feed just enough to keep alive. One recent account of a North Korean prison camp is The Aquariums of Pyongyang : Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag by Kang Chol-Hwan and Pierre Rigoulot . Officially these are reeducation institutions. Many camps, such as the Yodok prison camp, have two parts.People who found to be seriously politically unreliable are usually never released. Those found guilty of less serious crimes such as illegally leaving the country, listening to South Korean broadcasts or critical remarks on government policy are sent to re-education camps and usually released.



Risking life to escape North Korea

 Documentary following the stories of two families trying to flee

the horrors of North Korea. 2008 .



Escaping From a North Korean Concentration Camp:

VICE Meets Kim Hye-sook

Kim Hye-sook was born in North Korea, and at the age of 13, along with her family, was sent to Bukchang concentration camp (also known as Camp 18) as a punishment for her grandfather's attempt to escape North Korea.  She spent 28 years as a prisoner at the camp and eventually managed to run away and defect to South Korea. Since her escape, she drew maps and pictures of her experience at Bukchang that were used by UN investigators to identify and prove the existence the camp from satellite images.  Ben Makuch met up with Kim Hye-sook in Seoul, where she currently resides, to talk about her pictures and experiences from her 28 years at Bukchang labour camp.


 Amnesty International has published satellite imagery and new testimony that shed light on the horrific conditions in North Korea's network of political prison camps, which hold an estimated 200,000 people. May 2, 2011 .



 The Death of Kim Il Sung 

and Succession of Kim Jong Il


 North Korea sinks South Korean navy ship