New Friends, Old Foes: The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and its Foreign Policy-Making

A round table discussion on North Korea's foreign policy ambitions.


Klaas Glenewinkel, CEO, Media in Cooperation and Transition (MICT)

Stella Voutta, Robert Bosch Stiftung

On April 30th the European Council on Foreign Relations together with the Robert Bosch Stiftung and Media in Cooperation and Transition held a round table discussion on North Korea’s foreign policy ambitions.

North Korean remains a large-scale security challenge for East Asia and beyond. Its foreign policy appears to oscillate between a strategy aimed at survival and irrationality. While still reliant on this particular partnership, it is trying to loosen its tight bonds with China, by reaching out to new allies, such as Russia and approaching enemies like Japan. At the same time, an apparent charm offensive towards the international community, including the EU, is contradicted by persistent nuclear threats and missile tests. Signals of a willingness to cooperate with the international community on human rights issues and an interest in receiving high ranking visits are accompanied by erratic measures such as the Ebola quarantine and tirades of hate towards Western leaders or international organizations.

The debate brought together international experts from a range of disciplines, including politics, diplomacy, media and culture, human rights and humanitarian aid, to exchange views on how to deal with North Korea’s foreign policy-making. Some of the questions addressed by the discussants were: What role can the EU and its member states play in this scenario? How should high-level talks and human rights policies unfold against this backdrop? Is critical engagement still the best response? And how can and should European NGOs react?