North Korea In 2016: Social Swings And Nuclear Roundabouts

Audio of my presentation at the Australian Institute of International Affairs – Victoria on Thursday 25th February 2016, exploring the relationship between the North Korean government’s efforts at strengthening its position, externally through nuclear weapons and internally through economic development; and the relationship of these efforts to grassroots socio-economic change in the DPRK.

The strategic dynamics of nuclear politics in Korea have changed little since turn of millennium: North Korea remains committed to nuclear development; Policy-makers in the United States and its allies retain a rhetorical commitment to denuclearisation in spite of the obvious implausibility of this outcome; and deterrence still prevails. This is the “nuclear roundabout” I refer to in the title of this presentation.

On the other hand, some things in North Korea are beginning to change quite dramatically, the “social swings” mentioned in the presentation title. These are the processes of dynamic socio-economic change that are altering economic, social and political relations between the North Korean leadership, the North Korean people, and the institutions of the DPRK state.

In the presentation, I briefly discuss status of DPRK nuclear weapons program and state of human rights discourse vis-à-vis the Kim regime, suggest some drawbacks to interpreting North Korea through those lenses alone, highlight some processes of dynamic change occurring in the DPRK at the present time, and tease out some lessons for policy-makers from these social change processes.

Title slide

See Also…

Habib, B. (2016) ‘The Enforcement Problem in Resolution 2094 and the UNSC Sanctions Regime: Sanctioning North Korea‘. Australian Journal of International Affairs. 70(1): 50-68.

Habib, B. (2015) ‘Balance of Incentives: Why North Korea Interacts with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’. Pacific Affairs, 88(1): 75-97.



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