U.S. Foreign Policy and Conflict Resolution or Protraction: The Case of North Korea




Wilson, Roland Brent

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This study analyzes the connection between U.S. foreign policy and its mechanisms for either the resolution or protraction of conflict using the case of North Korea. This case is particularly ripe for resolution with regard to the United States’ recent “Pivot to Asia.” Moreover, now that North Korea is under the new leadership of the young, relatively unknown leader Kim Jong-un, this may be an essential the time to explore and implement alternative methods for ending this conflict. The purpose of this study is to enquire whether combining conflict analysis and resolution (CAR) tools and practices with alternative and dynamic soft foreign policy efforts might play a positive role in resolving this conflict. This study was conducted by analyzing current and historical documents on U.S. foreign policy, studying its desired or stated effects and comparing them to the known actual effects on the North Korean regime and its people. To help understand these effects, this study also sought the unique foreign policy perspectives, opinions, needs and desires of former North Korea refugees. The significance of this is in understanding and evaluating where CAR opportunities surface by promoting the participation of stakeholders as catalysts for change from the group of people directly affected by foreign policy: North Koreans themselves. The findings show that the U.S. foreign policy approach towards North Korea has not significantly evolved over the past 60 years. Moreover, even those North Koreans interviewed who steadfastly support a continued U.S. hard policy approach toward their former homeland conceded that positive change would also require alternative approaches that promote direct and indirect high quality contact. The findings also show even in a controlled interview environment, North Korean Refugees can change how they think, interact, and receive information, based on direct HQC and the positive repositioning of self and other. Many also had sustained contact with their loved ones still living in the North, and provide them with aid. Most North Koreans interviewed had received indirect and or direct information about the outside world when they had lived in North Korea including such things as listening to radio, watching movies or drama and receiving aid, which had a positive effect on them. While most North Koreans (still in the north) do not believe in religion, it can be an effective tool for change. The regime has continued for so long due to the structural violence and deprivation it has over society. Finally, local markets in North Korea play a key role in changing the lives of North Koreans and that North Korean diaspora can help change North Korea. The analysis provides innovative conflict resolution methods and offers potential tools and recommendations for a multi-dimensional foreign policy approach, which may affect and alter foreign policy discussions and decisions. This study, the results and recommendations are intended to be an initial step toward rethinking U.S. foreign policy for purposes of “provention.”



Alternative dispute resolution, Asian studies, Social research, Conflict, Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, Korea, Politics, War