North Korea in Transition

By Chong-Sik Lee; Se-Hee Yoo | Go to book overview

Introduction

"Is North Korea changing?" was the question we addressed at the fourth conference on North Korea jointly sponsored by the Korean Association for Communist Studies and the Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California at Berkeley. We were aware of the truism that no state, no person, can remain still or unchanged, but the question was particularly poignant in the context of the summer of 1989, when the conference was held. The Communist or the socialist camp has been undergoing convulsive changes since the mid-1970s, when China began to change its course. The ascendance of Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union in 1985 accelerated the pace, and perestroika and glasnost have become household words around the world. Yet there were few signs of change in North Korea, and the closed nature of North Korea in the tradition of the Choson dynasty ( 932-1910) made it difficult to know whether the events around the world were making any impact in North Korea.

The papers presented here are the revised version of some of those read at the conference. The authors were gracious enough to update their papers in an environment when momentous changes were taking place everywhere at a breathtaking speed. We ask for the readers' indulgence if some of the most recent events were not adequately covered. We shall attempt to bridge the gap in this introduction from the vantage point of January 1991.

What was said at the conference on the internal situation in North Korea remains true even today. North Korean leaders are deeply committed to legitimization and institutionalization of the "dynastic succession" (in the words of B. C. Koh), and they have intensified the process of ideological indoctrination and mass mobilization. All participants agreed that the imposition of tighter control on information from overseas and the emphases on ideological rearmament were necessary to preserve the political system in North Korea. North Korean leaders find the cost of "socialist economic

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