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Feb. 20, 2024

Why North Korea Survives

By Sheena Chestnut Greitens

Here’s how the Kim regime has proven so resilient.

North Korea’s recent jettisoning of reunification with South Korea as a national goal has raised much speculation about Pyongyang’s goals and strategy. Relatively overlooked in recent debates over whether the Kim regime might be preparing for war with South Korea—more than it is usually, anyway—is the simple but surprising fact of North Korea’s continued survival. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is among a handful of regimes that survived not only the collapse of communism in the 1990s but successive waves of democratization since.

The keys to North Korea’s survival are multifold, as the Kim family cannot continue to rule unless it succeeds in managing multiple threats to regime survival simultaneously. And understanding how North Korea has survived as long as it has should help to shape the policy of the United States and its allies. Here are some of the techniques that have been particularly prominent (and, from the perspective of survival, effective) in the first decade of Kim Jong Un’s rule.

Background image from Persuasion article (https://www.persuasion.community/p/a0ef3d8d-1bd2-438d-87fe-72653b385ad6 by KIM Won Jin/AFP)

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