As most readers know, North Korea moved much closer to becoming a legitimate nuclear power last weekend after experts assessed Pyongyang’s sixth underground nuclear test at about 100 kilotons (still a long way from the megaton weapons fielded by the great powers but getting closer).

And while many believe Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal would be the No. 1 threat to the U.S. and its regional allies, one North Korean expert says otherwise:

There are many reasons to be worried about North Korea. It seems that we actually have not been concerned enough about this rogue nation for the past few decades. We kept our head in the sand and levied small economic sanctions on a country whose motto is “Juche,” the Korean term for self-reliance.

Most of North Korea believes Juche is a reason to make sacrifices during food shortages or to tolerate other economic problems. Others believe Juche is a tool of the leadership to suppress the population.

An NKNews.org article on a new book by B.R. Myers, a North Korean scholar at Dongseo University in South Korea, challenges the notion that Juche is the ruling ideology of Pyongyang or was ever central to the North Korean leadership’s policymaking.

Myers argues that “the West’s misunderstanding of Juche has been harmful to our interpretation of North Korean actions. Instead of viewing the DPRK as a state focused on unification of the Korean race, Westerners have interpreted North Korea as a failed communist state that desperately clings to self-reliance in an age of globalization.” Myers sees this misunderstanding of Juche as not only harmful but dangerous, “as it results in the West’s misguided hope for reform in the DPRK or a thaw in relations between the DPRK and the United States.”

Source: InHomelandSecurity

Why it’s on our radar:

The author, a multi-decade military intelligence professional, goes on to say that the North Korean people expect hardships which then leads to a feeling of Junche, not that it’s a naturally-occurring national sentiment on the order of, say, patriotism. Nevertheless, the author argues further since North Koreans expect to endure a hard life that is why the government is permitted to get away with spending one-fifth to one-fourth of the country’s annual GDP (estimated to be around $30-$40 billion) on its nuclear weapons program. He seems to be making the point that North Koreans 

He seems to be making the point that North Korean leadership has decided that obtaining a nuclear capability would be valuable in more ways than one — it would also be valuable as a commodity to sell to other countries (Iran comes to mind). 

See the rest of our analysis on this and other developments in this week’s Executive Intelligence Summary, due out Friday. To subscribe, click here.