Inside the Red Box: North Korea's Post-totalitarian Politics

by McEachern, Patrick

Abstract (Summary)
This dissertation proposes a radically new understanding of North Korean politics under Kim Jong Il and carefully tests this theoretical proposition. Current models describe North Korea as some form of a highly centralized state: totalitarian, personalistic, or corporatist. By contrast, I argue that these monolithic ideal types fail to capture the institutional pluralism that helps distinguish the younger Kims rein from his fathers. While Kim Il Sungs rule can be described as totalitarian, Kim Jong Il governs through a more decentralized post-totalitarian, institutionally plural state. Kim Jong Ils government is highly centralized, but it is less centralized than his fathers. North Korean politics comprises the interaction of the military, party, and cabinet with oversight by the security apparatus. These institutions enjoy limited autonomy in an effort to most productively leverage their expertise while retaining generalist political control over them. Kim and his inner circle of advisers have final authority, but institutional inputs set the decision-making stage and shape most policies implementation. These semi-autonomous groups have opportunity and cause to interact in the policy formation and execution process, creating room to discuss pluralist politics in North Korea. Kim Jong Ils focus on political survival and emergency management over ideology as a guiding force makes todays North Korean government more rational than in the past but it does not suggest that ideology is irrelevant. Bureaucratic winners and losers are defined on an issue basis. In short, institutional politics in conjunction with Kim Jong Ils critical role help explain political outcomes.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Charles W. Royster; David Sobek; Wonik Kim; William A. Clark; Mark Gasiorowski

School:Louisiana State University in Shreveport

School Location:USA - Louisiana

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:political science


Date of Publication:04/24/2009

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