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North Korea Working Papers


North Korea’s Future

As much of North Korean scholarship is a speculative exercise, this working paper series attempts to examine issues that are informing the trajectory of North Korea’s future.

WPS 09-04: State Over Society: Science and Technology in North Korea, by Rian Jensen (August 2009). Since the late 1990s, the Kim Jong Il regime has laid an explicit emphasis on the role of science and technology (S&T) as an instrument of national power. Facing external security challenges, domestic economic stagnation, and rising political uncertainty stemming from the succession issue, North Korea has sought greater scientific and technological development for national revival. Yet few analysts have interrogated the contours of North Korea’s S&T policy or explored its dilemmas for the regime in Pyongyang. Considered a means of modernization, S&T strikes at the heart of manifold dilemmas facing the North Korean leadership as technology poses formidable challenges to the maintenance of political control by introducing new pressures to the balance of power between state and society. In this paper, Mr. Jensen identifies the goals of North Korea’s S&T policy, outlines its mode of implementation, assesses how science and technology is recalibrating North Korean state-society relations, and identifies key policy implications for the US government.

Foreign Relations

This working paper series seeks to provide a historical overview of North Korea’s foreign relations. Each paper in the series examines the ways in which the country’s relationship with a foreign country has influenced, and has been shaped by, its understanding of juche. Also, each study analyzes the degree to which juche has had an enduring impact on the North’s foreign policy behavior; at the same time it illustrates the ways in which Pyongyang has changed its policy in response to new developments in domestic and international arenas. Sometimes juche imposes an inflexible constraint on the extent to which Pyongyang’s diplomacy can be flexible; other times it functions as a useful overarching principle under which pragmatic changes are justified. The central analytical question then is about the politics of principle and flexibility: what is the degree to which the North’s juche foreign policy is flexible enough to accommodate changes? What is the extent to which juche is the inviolable principle? What are the circumstances under which juche becomes flexible? When does it become inflexible?

The series explores these analytical questions in the historical context of a set of bilateral relationships. It remains sensitive to peculiarities of each relationship while it also aspires to identify commonalities and patterns among North Korea’s relationships. Each paper may choose to highlight a particular period that has produced a lasting impact or started a major departure; but it will situate that period or episode within the overall history of the bilateral relationship.

WPS 08-9: Alliance of “Tooth and Lips” or Marriage of Convenience? The Origins and Development of the Sino-North Korean Alliance, 1946-1958, by Shen Zhi-Hua (December 2008). In this paper, Prof. Shen traces the development of Sino-North Korean relations and challenges the “tooth and lips” myth often purported as the basis of their alliance, offering instead, more pragmatic roots for their close relations.

WPS 08-8: Dependence and Mistrust: North Korea’s Relations with Moscow and the Evolution of Juche, by Kathryn Weathersby, Ph.D. (December 2008). In this paper, Dr. Weathersby discusses North Korea’s diplomatic history with the former Soviet Union, the Soviet Communist Party, identifying key events which catalyzed the deterioration of the Soviet-North Korean alliance.

WPS 08-6: Japan and North Korea: The Long and Twisted Path towards Normalcy, by Gavan McCormack, Ph.D. (December 2008). In this paper, Dr. McCormack discusses the diplomatic history of North Korea-Japan relations, including the tensions over the issue of Japanese abductees.

WPS 08-3: Necessary Enemies: Anti-Americanism, Juche Ideology, and the Tortuous Path to Normalization, by Charles Armstrong, Ph.D. (September 2008). In this paper, Dr. Armstrong chronicles the development of U.S.-DPRK relations from 1942 to the present, including such contentious issues as the USS Pueblo Incident and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Papers in the North Korea Foreign Relations series are available upon request. To obtain a copy, please email Jenny Town, Research Associate, at [email protected].