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Machiavelli Influence on American Government

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Kim Jung Un as a Modern Day Prince: Policy of American Government towards North Korea

In Machiavelli’s “The Qualities of a Prince” he analyzes and creates the supposed perfect formula that makes up a proper prince. These range from military duties, praise and blame, generosity and miserliness, cruelty and mercy, and the concept of being despised or hated as a leader. His writing depicts a ruler similar to what we would consider today a tyrannical rule. Though it may not be all the same there are examples of leaders over the decades who used this style of the rule to control their countries, from Fidel Castro, and Mussolini to more modern-day leaders like Kim Jong Un. They all share similarities with Machiavelli’s writing but Kim Jong Un fits the bill the most of any current leader when it comes to following Machiavelli’s listed qualities of a prince, but that doesn’t make him a good leader in the slightest.

Firstly we can see how Kim Jung Un fits into Machiavelli’s category of, “How a Prince Should Keep His Word” he states, “But it is necessary to know how to disguise this nature well and to be a great hypocrite and liar (22)” this is in reference to a Prince being able to come off as someone grand and amazing but also being deceitful to make people believe he is that way. We can see this in the North Korean dictatorship with how Kim Jong Un uses self-promoting propaganda that increases his own image, making him seem like a supreme being and one that can triumph all. An example of this deceitful propaganda is when the Korean Central News Agency of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea stated,

Leader Kim Jong Un has used ginseng and undisclosed rare earth elements with the use of micro-elementary fertilizers to create a complex compound that acts as a strong-immune-activator that can prevent malicious illnesses such as various cancers, aids, and ebola. (5-6)

These claims help him gain support as a leader in his country but hold little to no credibility in outside countries. Using this deception he portrays himself to be a leader with the ability to do many things, just as Machiavelli says a prince should be. Putting Kim Jong Un in this context shows how well he fits this portion of Machiavelli’s qualities, by appearing to be extremely intelligent, humane, and caring the people praise him more while it’s merely a facade to gain the people’s loyalty through unjust and unethical means.

We can see another quality Kim Jong Un possesses is “ A Prince’s Duty Concerning Military Matters” Machiavelli states

For, among the other bad effects it causes, being disarmed makes you despised; this is one of those infamies a prince should guard himself against, as will be treated below: for between an armed man and an unarmed man there is no comparison whatsoever, and it is not reasonable for an armed man to obey an unarmed man willingly. (Machiavelli, 2)

Its seen time and time again that Kim Jong Un’s use of new weaponry to create the image of a powerful country. From missile launches over other countries to the showing of nuclear warheads, he uses his armory to create an image of a strong, military-heavy leader that has the power to disregard orders from any contesting country. The use of these missiles is a symbol of strength and as stated by the Council of Foreign Relations

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As the power of the North’s nuclear tests intensified, so too did the pace of both the country’s nuclear and missile tests. Under Kim Jong-un, who assumed leadership of North Korea in late 2011, the nuclear program markedly accelerated. Kim has directed four nuclear tests and more than ninety missile tests, far exceeding the number of trials conducted under his father and grandfather. (8)

This constant testing and show of arms is a full-on show and display of power, a sign that as the leader he is armed, prepared, and unafraid to take action if the need for it arises. Just like a prince should, he “never raises his thought from the exercise of war” though this way of thinking could lead to mass destruction and unnecessary lives being expended.

Lastly, another quality that stands out in Kim Jong Un’s dictatorship that matches that of a prince is the concept of cruelty and clemency. Machiavelli goes on to state that as a prince “It is much safer to be feared rather than loved.” We see a prime example of this in Kim Jong Un’s reign, time and time again it’s been stated and reported that as a leader he uses torture and other unethical practices as a form of building fear against those who might seek to oppose him. According to Human Rights Watch, they write,

The government routinely uses arbitrary arrest and punishment of crimes, torture in custody, and executions to maintain fear and control over the population. The government and security agencies systematically extract forced, unpaid labor from its citizens— including women, children, detainees, and prisoners—to build infrastructure, implement projects, and carry out activities and events extolling the ruling Kim family and the Workers’ Party of Korea. (2)

Anyone who is against the regime or the leader himself is made an example through many means, from torture and release to public executions. This keeps the people in check and provides Kim Jong Un to rule with fear, controlling the people of North Korea on the basis of obeying or suffering. It relates to Machiavellianism perfectly, it makes Kim Jong Un seem less vulnerable as a leader allowing him to stand even higher above all others, this installment of fear is what allows him to dictate the country as he pleases with little to no tribulation. Kim Jong Un even uses these methods on people of his own party as a way to stop any sort of internal uprising within his own ranks, this ability to pick off who he pleases and rule his own way makes him a prince who stands above all others according to Machiavelli.

Even though Machiavelli claims these characteristics make a good leader, in today’s society, it merely leads to a dictatorship and or totalitarian government. We can see through the rule of Kim Jong Un that these qualities lead to a country with fear-filled people, a destructive militaristic mindset, and manipulative tendencies, none of which are ethical or morally just. Through his rule Kim Jong Un has killed his own people and party members due to the possibility of an uprising, he has developed weapons of mass destruction that he has threatened to let off at any moment, and he has molded the minds of innocent people to believe that he is a supreme being with powers and judgment over all. These prince qualities are not made for the people but for the benefit of one sole individual, an individual who can’t tolerate the ideas of others, and can’t respect the people they hold power over.

Peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula is the ultimate goal for the United States in its relationship with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The United States works closely with allies and partners in the region toward greater peace and security in the region. The United States and the DPRK do not have diplomatic relations. The Swedish Embassy in the DPRK is the U.S. protecting power and provides limited consular services to U.S. citizens. The DPRK has no embassy in Washington, DC, but it is represented in the United States through its mission to the United Nations in New York.

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Machiavelli Influence on American Government. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 29, 2023, from
“Machiavelli Influence on American Government.” Edubirdie, 27 Dec. 2022,
Machiavelli Influence on American Government. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 May 2023].
Machiavelli Influence on American Government [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 27 [cited 2023 May 29]. Available from:
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