Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


International Studies (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Bruce M. Bagley

Second Committee Member

Roger E. Kanet

Third Committee Member

Arthur M. Simon


North Korea is the only state that publicly reveals its willingness to attack the US mainland with nuclear weapons. If there is a total war between the United States and North Korea, the damage will be huge. The North Korean nuclear issue can be a trigger to drag all of Northeast Asia and even the US mainland into the calamity of war. This study explores how the North Korean nuclear issue has progressed through realism and constructivism. Two concepts are used from the realist view. Those are a "security maximizer," which pursues its survival based on defensive realism and a "power maximizer," which pursues hegemony based on aggressive realism. Based on these two notions, this study looks at what position each state has taken in the North Korean nuclear issue. In addition, this paper focuses on identity, which is from the constructivist view, in examining how the United States, South Korea, and China have perceived the identity of North Korea, which is a conflict inducer, and how North Korea has perceived the identity of the US which is a key partner in the North Korean nuclear issue. The analysis results are used to evaluate the current situation and to discuss policy implications. Based on the analysis results this study argues that it is unrealistic for the international community to recognize North Korea as a nuclear power and a war must be avoided, and a stalemate is also undesirable. Finally, the work concludes that the way to pursue is denuclearization through negotiation. In order to make the process of denuclearization begin this paper suggests that the US should not be too strict and South Korea should abandon its security impatience, and North Korea should exclude the withdrawal of the US Forces in Korea from its demands. In addition, this study claims that if the international community can start to normalize North Korea through a denuclearization agreement and continue to maintain it, the North Korean regime is highly likely to first collapse due to internal changes before the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula is achieved. After all, a little concession now may be the most feasible and aggressive option that can eliminate the root cause of the North Korean nuclear issue.


South Korea; North Korea; the Korean peninsula; the North Korean nuclear issue; nuclear weapon; nuclear