North Korea in Transition

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

2. North Korea and the Non-Communist World: The Quest for National Identity

SAMUEL S. KIM

Whether we like it or not, in this nuclear-ecological age we have all become passengers on one fragile planetary lifeboat. There is no ecological sanctuary nor escape from common security. The destinies of all humans are now inextricably interwoven, yet most people still remain national and territorial prisoners to an "us/them" dualism. This psycho-cultural dichotomy, in a multitude of absolutist forms and disguises, has become one of the most dominant and persistent modes of human identification in the postwar era. Human security is now a common global challenge, as it depends not only on what "we" do but increasingly on what "they" do. Yet many state actors still seek security in an exclusionary manner that seems to guarantee only insecurity.

The study of North Korean foreign policy is generally better known for descriptive richness than for conceptual innovation or explanatory power. There is a need for more conceptually ambitious and theoretically imaginative approaches that would invigorate and cross-fertilize the field of North Korean foreign policy with advances made in comparative foreign policy, international relations, and other related disciplines. In short, there is a strong case for an analytical framework that would relate disparate variables into a more coherent picture of the forces driving the external behavior of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

The concept of "national identity" is suggested as a promising but as yet untried way of explaining the behavior of state actors, especially divided polity, in coping with a rapidly changing world.1 This approach proceeds from the

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1
This section of the paper draws upon a more detailed elaboration of the concept of national identity and its analytical utility in the study of comparative foreign policy in general and Chinese foreign relations in particular in Lowell Dittmer and Samuel S. Kim, In Search of a Theory of a National Identity, in Lowell Dittmer and Samuel S. Kim, eds., China's Quest for National Identity (forthcoming).

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