Strategies of Political Control under Kim Jong Un: Understanding the Changing Mix of Containment, Repression, Co-optation, and Coercive Distribution

Peter Ward, Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In this article, we trace the strategy of political control employed in North Korea under Kim Jong Un. Using conceptual tools created in the literature on comparative authoritarianism, we consider the roles of repression, co-optation, coercive distribution, and containment with respect to how the North Korean regime responds to external and internal threats. We focus on two areas as case studies in differentiated, contingent political control strategies. First, we consider the role of border as a conduit for unauthorized goods, migrants, and illicit information and the regime’s regulation of it. Second, we examine the regime’s management of internal economic actors, namely urban entrepreneurs and farmers. The main argument of this article is that Kim Jong Un has employed a policy of simultaneous co-optation, repression, and latterly under COVID-19, reemergent coercive distribution, building on but also modifying the strategic approaches pursued under Kim Jong Il.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)557-583
Number of pages27
JournalAsian Survey
Volume63
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2023

Keywords

  • North Korea
  • information
  • markets
  • migration
  • political control

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