Strategic Empathy for North Korea: The Intersection of Machine Learning and Nuclear Diplomacy

November 3, 2023

Why has the approach of the United States and its allies towards the North Korean nuclear weapons issue remained unfruitful for decades? Is our understanding of North Korea’s worldview comprehensive and accurate? If not, what elements have been overlooked in our dealings with North Korea? Can we objectively discern reality and find a glimmer of hope for progress?

To address these questions through the lens of strategic empathy, CNS Research Fellow, Hyuk Kim, provides a unique seminar for policymakers to reevaluate their policies towards North Korea. Utilizing an unsupervised learning technique, Mr. Kim presents a visual representation of the global nuclear political landscape, illustrating the political alignment among United Nations Member States on nuclear issues. The quantitative analysis reveals unexpected outcomes, including a potential area for diplomatic cooperation with North Korea and surprising findings – a reality some policymakers may find challenging to their assumptions. To interpret such anomalies, Hyuk Kim provides a qualitative analysis to help policymakers understand North Korea’s worldview, drawing from Pyongyang’s narratives at multilateral diplomatic venues. The seminar concludes with policy implications that paint a somewhat ambivalent picture of the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.


00:00:00 Moderator: Robert Shaw, Director, Export Control and Nonproliferation Program of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Middlebury Institute of International Studies

00:05:30 Speaker: Hyuk Kim, Research Fellow, Export Control and Nonproliferation Program of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Middlebury Institute of International Studies

01:03:15 Q&A


On November 2nd, the Research Fellow of CNS, Mr. Hyuk Kim, delivered an insightful and though-provoking discourse on ‘Strategic Empathy’. Mr. Kim commenced the seminar by critically scrutinizing the inherent bias in policymakers’ worldviews, which are inevitably shaped by their environments. This predisposition often leads them to conflate their personal perspectives on global peace with the universally accepted viewpoint.

Throughout the seminar, Mr. Kim endeavored to find uniqueness from generalization in his analysis of the global nuclear political landscape. Through the quantitative analysis, Mr. Kim discerned the alignment of United Nations Member States on nuclear issues at large. Concurrently, his qualitative analysis unveiled the nuanced variations in the positions of seemingly aligned states on specific issue areas.

Mr. Hyuk Kim concluded the seminar by elucidating how the insights gleaned from the analytical process could illuminate our understanding of the Korean Peninsula. He underscored the significance of understanding North Korea’s security concerns, thereby casting a new light on the crucial aspect of reassessing the prevailing policy towards North Korea.

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