North Korea: The Politics of Unconventional Wisdom

North Korea: The Politics of Unconventional Wisdom

North Korea: The Politics of Unconventional Wisdom

North Korea: The Politics of Unconventional Wisdom

Synopsis

Despite isolation, an impoverished economy, mass starvation, and the challenge of leadership succession, North Korea's socialist state continues to survive. Han Park explores the reasons for this resilience.

Excerpt

Many kinds of polities and states have experimented with many different types of governments over the course of human history. Of those that may be classified as undemocratic, some have been more authoritarian, and others have been more closed, contained, rigid, and ideological. Yet no system has crystallized all the above characteristics into its polity more completely than the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea). Since the inception of the current regime, especially after the Korean War (1950– 1953), North Korea has developed a breed of socialism vastly deviant from Marxism-Leninism or, for that matter, almost any other system known in political history. Scholars and observers of North Korea have found striking similarities between today's North Korea and what was depicted in George Orwell's famous novel 1984. Written in 1949, the novel described what human society would be like in the year 1984 and predicted rule by a tyrannical government that employed surveillance, purges, brainwashing, and personality cults in order to perpetuate control. However, a growing number of people who are knowledgeable about North Korea acknowledge that the country is not entirely misguided. North Korea and its sympathizers assert that the system is relatively devoid of the kinds of social ills typically found in developing capitalist societies; namely, income inequality, moral decay, environmental deterioration, and overreliance on external resources. Political activists and radical students in South Korea, as well as some circles of overseas Koreans, profess their belief that North Korea is largely nationalistic, welfare-oriented, and sincere about national reunification.

Leaving moral judgment aside, one is struck by the resilience of the system and the remarkable stability of state power. How many socialist . . .

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