As the last four years have shown us, a deal with North Korea is not possible without an improvement in the human condition. In the past, the United States prioritized nuclear negotiations above all else. A new administration and Congress have an opportunity to refocus their attention on human rights in North Korea.
North Korea remains one of America’s thorniest foreign policy challenges, just as it was during the last presidential transition. North Korea’s ongoing drive to develop weapons of mass destruction and the means to deploy them has advanced considerably over the last four years. Its nuclear arsenal is larger and far more potent today. Despite unprecedented engagement with the United States and a South Korean government eager to reduce tensions, North Korea has maintained its belligerent posture toward its adversaries. And although it has not been a focus for U.S. policymakers, the human rights situation in North Korea remains abysmal.