TO: U.S. Govt - RE: North Korea

Dear Leaders:

The time has come to effectuate a historic change in North Korea.  Already, the federal government has passed the North Korea Sanctions Enforcement and Policy Act of 2016 and issued an Executive Order increasing sanctions.  The U.S. led the effort to pass UN Security Council Resolution 2270 and has led the increased compliance with U.S. and UN sanctions.  The State Department has named Kim Jong-Un to its list of sanctioned individuals and supported the flow of information into North Korea.  The U.S. provided Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) to South Korea and has sent important military assets to the Korean peninsula.  The joint exercises with the South Korean military has further signaled the U.S. commitment to this important region.  All of this is highly commendable and worthy of praise.

During this potential turning point time, further important steps await to make history:

  1. implement secondary sanctions upon Chinese companies and individuals who are not following the sanctions, as most of North Korea’s economy is tied up with China.  As China’s largest export market, the U.S. can exert considerable leverage along these lines.  Kim Jong-Un must not be allowed to heap lavish luxuries upon his cronies while his people starve.  Weakening Kim’s ability to buy loyalty attenuates his tyrannical reign.  It is outrageous that China has increased trade in 2016 over 2015 with North Korea in spite of the official sanctions.  Our federal government has taken an initial step in this direction, as has China.  It needs to be done completely. 
  2. prosecute Kim Jong-Un and his top leaders in one of several possible ways: a) the International Criminal Court through a proprio motu motion of the Prosecutor, which cannot be blocked by a veto in the Security Council;   b) domestic prosecution in South Korea of these defendants as Korean nationals.  This may be done in absentia (without the defendants present); c) a hybrid tribunal that brings together the best that a domestic and international prosecution can bring.  Kim and his leadership greatly fear such accountability.  A conviction would make them fugitives of the law, which would allow for their capture pursuant to the legal judgment.
  3. eliminate the slave labor of North Koreans in foreign countries (such as in Poland), which reportedly brings North Korea over one billion in revenue.
  4. prohibit tourism by U.S. citizens into North Korea as it adds revenue to North Korea and enables them to take U.S. hostages.
  5. encourage defections by making it easier for North Korean refugees to find asylum in the U.S.  The U.S. is already the greatest haven for refugees worldwide, and we can build upon the roughly 200 refugees from North Korea.  Defections weaken North Korea and provide important sources of information.  In North Korea, it is considered high treason to leave the country.  Thus, repatriated refugees are regularly tortured, sent to concentration camps and/or executed.
  6. continue to include the gross, systematic violation of human rights into the discussion.  Together with humanitarian considerations, including human rights in diplomacy actually increases the chances of addressing security concerns;
  7. consider allowing South Korea to take affirmative, proactive steps to prevent a nuclear and/or other catastrophe.  The joint exercises are already moving in this direction.
  8. in the midst of the flooding, continue humanitarian aid that the elite do not want (like barley) and that spoils within months so that it cannot be ferreted away as emergency war rations.
  9. pass the “Distribution and Promotion of Rights and Knowledge Act of 2016” (H.R. 4501) further supporting information conveyance into North Korea, countering the pervasive propaganda.

All of these things can be employed in a determined and strong diplomatic effort together with South Korea, Japan, and to the greatest extent possible, China.  They would constitute important components in a comprehensive strategy.  Given that North Korea’s 5th nuclear test was of a nuclear device that can be fitted on an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), the urgency of the situation is very high. Admiral Gortney, who was responsible for protecting the US for missile attacks, has stated that North Korea’s road-mobile KN-08 is an ICBM.  The necessity to prevent a North Korean disaster is upon us.  Please take steps such as the ones listed above to foreclose security catastrophes, end the worst human rights situation in the world, and usher in the reunification of Korea, who can serve as an important ally as our national government has pivoted towards Asia.

Please do not hesitate to let me know if I may be of assistance.  On behalf of fellow deeply concerned Americans, who indicate in polls that we consider North Korea as a serious threat to the United States, I write


Morse Tan

Professor of Law, NIU
Author of the book North Korea, International Law and the Dual Crises: Narrative and Constructive Engagement (Routledge) as well as the most law review articles on North Korea.
Emerging Leader, Chicago Council on Global Affairs
(815) 753-1095 (office phone)