The History of North Korean Nuclear Development and Purpose of Possession of Nuclear Weapons
1. Process of North Korea's Nuclear Development and Possession of Nuclear Weapons
North Korea's development of nuclear technology is believed to have begun in the mid-1950s. North Korea's early nuclear research was led by the scientists, such as Do Sang-rok, Han In-seok and Lee Seung-gi, who had gone to North Korea from South Korea.
Do Sang-rok (1903-1990), who majored in theoretical physics at Kyoto University in Japan, was a professor at Seoul National University after liberation, and was the principal professor at Kim Il-sung University in May 1946. Han In-seok served as a professor at Yonsei
University after liberation, and then as a professor at Kim Il-sung University after he defected to North Korea.
Han In-seok then returned from a long-term study of advanced physics in Moscow and published a number of papers on nuclear physics in the 1960s. Lee Seung-gi, a native of Damyang, South Jeolla-Province, defected to North Korea during the Korean war while serving as the dean of Seoul National University's College of Technology after receiving a doctorate in applied chemistry from Kyoto University in 1939. Lee Seung-gi led the production of
Binalon in 1961, served as the head of Yongbyon Nuclear
Research Institute (1967) and the director of the Academy of Sciences in Ham Heung(1987), and was a representative figure of the North Korean scientific community of Kim Il-Sung era.
Since the 1950s, North Korea has already adopted nuclear development as its top national strategy under the leadership of Kim Il-sung and has recruited a number of famous nuclear scientists from the East Germany and the Soviet Union to focus on non-stop nuclear development. It is estimated that North Korea currently has a total of 10,000 nuclear scientific personnel, including 200 key high-end nuclear development workers, 3,000 experts and 6,000 technical workers. North Korea's uranium reserves are around 26 million tons, making it easy to compare how much uranium is buried compared to 70,000 tons on the Chinese continent. In the autumn of 1955, the North Korea's Academy of Sciences decided to establish a nuclear physics laboratory and professional scientists attended an international conference on the peaceful use of nuclear energy in Eastern Europe. In 1956, North Korea participated in the establishment of a multinational nuclear research center, Dubna, near Moscow and signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with the Soviet Union.
At the 4th Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea held in September 1961, Kim Il Sung urged the government to pursue research and development for the peaceful use of nuclear power. As a result, the project to build a nuclear development research base in the mountainous area of Yeongbyeon, Pyeongan-Province, started in 1962. And North Korea completed the construction of IRT-2M research reactor at the nuclear development research complex in Yongbyon, Pyeongan-Province in 1965.
At the 5th Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea in November 1970, Kim Il Sung reiterated the issue of peaceful use of nuclear power. Kim Il Sung came up with a plan of nuclear development from the early 1970s and focused on nurturing necessary talents. Kim Il Sung instructed to select the outstanding children and talented young men from the so-called "fighters for anti-Japanese armed struggle" and sent them to the former Soviet Union to study nuclear physics. And since the 1970s, the Department of nuclear physics has been established in the physics Faculty of Kim Il Sung University and has established and operated a professorship with competent scholars. The key educational institutions in the field of nuclear physics are Kim Il-sung University and Pyeongseong University of Science. Pyeongsung University of Science is a special university consisting of only five departments: nuclear physics, chemistry and mathematics, etc. In addition, Kimchaek University of Technology, Ganggun Military Academy, Pyongyang High School of Physics, and Pyongyang First Middle School are major educational institutions that produce physics research personnel.
However, it is assumed that the nuclear program, which was initially initiated for peaceful purposes, began in earnest in the early 1970s at least as a nuclear weapons program. From the 1970s, North Korea began to focus its research on the development of nuclear fuel cycles such as refining, conversion and fuel production. Since 1973, 10% of the concentration required for IRT-2M research reactors has been provided by the Soviet Union to the nuclear development research complex in Yongbyon, Pyeongan-Province. In 1974, North Korea upgraded its IRT-2M reactor and pushed for the development of nuclear weapons in Yongbyon so that it could use 80 percent of nuclear fuel concentration. Nuclear experts who have trained in nuclear physics at the Dubna Institute of the former Soviet Union were dispatched to Yongbyon to conduct research projects.
From then on, North Korea's nuclear research will be on a certain scale. In 1979, it began construction of nuclear reactor with its own technology and official operation began in 1986. In 1985, North Korea began building a laboratory to extract plutonium using nuclear fuel rods used in Yongbyon nuclear facilities. And North Korea conducted more than 130 high-explosive tests in the sand inside its Yongbyon nuclear facility from 1983 to 1993. North Korea began the design of the 5MWe reactor in July 1980 and began operation in December 1987.
5MWE reactor is similar to the G1 reactor developed by France in the mid-1950s. The main purpose of this reactor is to produce plutonium, and it is estimated that it has the capacity to produce 11 kg of plutonium per year at full operation. In the beginning of 1980s, Kim Jong-il instructed the Ministry of People's Armed Forces, the
Academy of Sciences and the General Administration of Atomic Energy to study the possibility of military use of nuclear power and to begin developing nuclear weapons in earnest.
In the early 1990s, Kim Jong-il stressed to the Foreign Ministry and foreign economic institutions that he could produce about one nuclear weapon with about $200 million. And he instructed to rent from foreign banks to urgently raise $200 million in cash on loans. Under these instructions, the North Korean Embassy in Italy succeeded in obtaining the first $100 million long-term loan from the Italian government in 1993. In 1990, Choi Jong-sun, a spokesman for the North Korea's Atomic Energy Agency, also mentioned that scientists at the General Administration of Atomic Energy attempted to extract plutonium, a raw material for nuclear weapons, from the damaged nuclear fuel rods of the 5MWe reactor.
Since the mid-1990s, Kim Jong Il has been pursuing nuclear weapons development as the basic defense strategy of the North Korean Workers' Party. Kim Jong-il renamed the former machinery division of the Workers' Party of Korea as the Military Industry Department and ordered the development of nuclear weapons as a basic task. Hwang Jang Yuop, the former Party Secretary said that Park Song-bong, who was the first Vice-Minister of the Education Science Department at the Party's Central Committee(1986.6), was appointed as the first Vice-Minister of the Party's Military Industry Department(1998.10) and directed the pursuit of nuclear weapons development under guidance of Kim Jong Il.
Pak Song-bong (1932. ~ 2001. 2. 20) was a graduate of
Mangyongdae Revolutionary Academy and a student of the former Soviet Union (1951-57) who, in fact, had completed North Korea's nuclear weapons development as a Vice- Minister of the Workers' Party(1970s), an alternate member of Party Central Committee(1981.10), and a member of the Party Central Committee(1983.6). The rapid rise of the Ministry of Military Industry to the No. 2 position in the party is directly linked to Park Song-bong's activities, and promoted to the next level of the Party's Organizational leading Deparment to enhance its status. From this point on, Kim Jong-il converted the military industry into nuclear development and long-range missile development, appointed Pak Song-bong as the general manager, and delegated full authority to him.
Kim Jong-il appointed Pak Song-bong as the first deputy director of the Military Industry Department and instructed Jeon Byung-ho, the party's military secretary, not to interfere in the nuclear weapons development project for security reasons in certain sectors. Kim Jong-il elevated his status to senior military officers accompanying him during a field inspection of the military by saying, "You have to look good to First Vice Minister Park Song-bong!". Kim Jong-il allowed unlimited use of 'party foreign currency funds' to pursue nuclear weapons development and ordered the four North Korean brigades under Pak Song-bong in the wake of the first North Korean nuclear crisis in the 1990s.
On the other hand, Kim Jong-il ordered the North Korean Military's General Political Bureau and General Staff to actively cooperate with Park Song-bong. Park Song-bong organized a special unit called 131 Leading Department at the time and used it as a unit dedicated to promoting nuclear weapons development projects by the Ministry of Military Industry. 131 Leading Department was originally an engineering brigade of the Ministry of People's Security, but was promoted to a unit dedicated to nuclear weapons development and expanded 1.5 times the size of a general brigade. The head of the unit is called the head of the Leading Bureau, is listed as 3 general stars, and there is a 'Booheung Trading Company' under the Leading Bureau.
First Vice Minister Park Song-bong disguised himself as a "doctor" for nuclear-related technology exchanges and observations with foreign countries, and visited numerous countries to extract nuclear weapons-related technologies. Kim Jong-il granted whatever Park Song-bong raised, especially when he asked for a special order to spend foreign currency funds, Kim Jong-il's ordered to give his slush funds kept by the Department of the Party's Finance in the Party Central Committee. With this foreign currency fund, Park Song-bong sent to military and special agents at embassies and representatives around the world to collect a number of special materials related to nuclear weapons development.
In particular, first Deputy Director Park Song-bong provided Pakistan with free military assistance and apparently succeeded in paying huge foreign currency funds to Abdel Khan, who was called the "nuclear father," and extracting considerable nuclear technology. Park Song-bong used this huge amount of foreign currency funds to invite nuclear weapons development experts from the former Soviet Union and Ukraine to Pyongyang during the "Arduous March of Struggle" period, when millions starved to death. The accommodation where the former Soviet Union and Ukrainian nuclear weapons development experts stayed with their families was a 25-story People's Armed Forces invitation building just 100 meters behind the Koryo Hotel in Pyongyang. Nuclear weapons development experts from the former Soviet Union and Ukraine worked together with North Korean nuclear experts from 1994 to the early 2000s and finally completed nuclear weapons development North Korea.
North Korea's current nuclear arsenal is estimated to be as follows: U.S. intelligence agencies are estimating that North Korea currently has 20 to 50 nuclear war-heads. The U.S. is also predicting that North Korea has successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear war-heads to Washington D.C. and New York, home to the U.S. Swedish Institute for Disarmament and Peace is estimating that
North Korea currently has about 30 nuclear war-heads. Swedish
Institute for Disarmament and Peace is predicting that North Korea has already miniaturized and lightened its nuclear war-heads.
As far as I know, Park Song-beom, the first Deputy Director of the Department, told his acquaintance in early 2000 that "nuclear development has succeeded, but the problem is that it is urgent to miniaturize the volume." Since then, six years later, on October 9, 2006, North Korea conducted its first nuclear test, judging that the miniaturization and lightening of a nuclear warhead are already an old story. North Korea has already conducted nuclear tests in the early 2000s with its nuclear development in advance and at the right time to induce and utilize international public opinion in an advantageous way. The hydrogen bomb test conducted at 10:30 a.m. on January 6, 2016 was also judged to be a strictly calculated military provocation against the U.S. and South Korea, which had already developed technology and was intended to pressure the U.S. and South Korea.
2. Purpose of Possession of North Korea's Nuclear Weapons
First, it is analyzed that North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons is intended to threaten the U.S. and South Korea. So far, North Korea has wielded a nuclear weapons card, presented it as a condition to exchange North Korea's denuclearization for the signing of a U.S.-North Korea peace treaty, and demanded huge economic rewards. This is the basic purpose of withdrawing U.S. troops from South Korea and then realizing the Vietnam-style dream of unification on condition of a non-aggression treaty after signing a peace treaty between the U.S. and North Korea.
In the future, the U.S. pursuing denuclearization through CVID, and North Korea, which wants corresponding measures from the U.S., along with the step-by-step denuclearization process based on 'action-to-action', are expected to open a sharp war of nerves. And North Korea is expected to insist that the Biden administration first come up with practical alternatives to "un-proliferation" or "disposal" of nuclear weapons and "improvement of relations with North Korea in the event of hostility." Furthermore, the issue of replacing the Armistice Agreement with a Peace Agreement and establishing diplomatic relations between North Korea and the U.S. are expected to be strong.
Second, North Korea considers its possession of nuclear weapons as the best way to maintain its dictatorship. At the eighth Party Congress in last January, Kim Jong Un adopted a line not only to lead the situation on the Korean Peninsula, but also to realize the reunification of the country with his superior defense capabilities based on nuclear weapons and missiles. As North Korea's nuclear and missile capabilities become more advanced in the future, the U.S. and South Korea are expected to be more coercive. In particular, all-out efforts will be made to strengthen the legitimacy of Kim Jong Un's third generation succession while demonstrating his possession of nuclear weapons.
Third, it is analyzed that North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons is intended to block interference from neighboring big countries including China and Russia. Kim Jong-il instructed the Foreign Ministry that North Korean high officials should not to meet the high officials of China and Russia when they traveled abroad via Beijing and Moscow. The reason for this is that Chinese and Russian big nationalists are not loyal to North
Korea, in collusion with U.S. imperialism, meddling in North Korea's nuclear weapons development and recklessly admonishing reform and openness. Especially, if war breaks out on the Korean Peninsula, Russians will be the first to hit North Korea in the back than the U.S.A.
In the early 2000s, Kim Jong-il received a report from Park Song-bong, the first Vice Minister, that he finally had nuclear weapons and said, "We finally blocked the interference of the big nationalists." And Kim Jong Il continued to express satisfaction, saying "China and Russia are not allowed to interfere in our internal affairs in the future any more".
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