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The Logic of the North Korean Dictatorship

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  • Wintrobe , Ronald

    (University of Western Ontario)

Abstract

In this paper I use my way of thinking about dictatorship, developed in my 1998 book, The Political Economy of Dictatorship, and elsewhere, to “model” the North Korean regime. Initially, under the Great Leader Kim Il Sung it was a simple totalitarian regime but the shocks of the 1990’s –the fall of Communism in Russia and Eastern Europe, the capitalist turn of China, the economic takeoff of South Korea and the succession crisis caused by Kim Il Sung’s death threatened the stability of that regime. Kim Jong Il shored up the regime by marrying it to the military. The instabilities and paradox associated with military rule were resolved through Kim Jong Il’s “military first politics” that is, to exaggerate only a little, by militarizing the entire society. This is the distinctive feature of the regime. I analyze the stability of that regime, and ask whether engagement or isolation is the best way for the rest of the world to deal with North Korea. I come down on the side of engagement, but am gloomy about the likely success of either policy in getting the regime to liberalize politically or economically.

Suggested Citation

  • Wintrobe , Ronald, 2013. "The Logic of the North Korean Dictatorship," NEPS Working Papers 5/2013, Network of European Peace Scientists.
  • Handle: RePEc:ris:nepswp:2013_005
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Wintrobe,Ronald, 2000. "The Political Economy of Dictatorship," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521794497.
    2. Marcus Noland, 2000. "Avoiding the Apocalypse: The Future of the Two Koreas," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 94, October.
    3. Haggard, Stephan & Noland, Marcus, 2009. "Famine in North Korea Redux?," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 384-395, September.
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    Keywords

    North Korea; Dictatorships;

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