Title page for ETD etd-04142009-234949

Type of Document Dissertation
Author McEachern, Patrick
Author's Email Address pmceac1@lsu.edu, ptmceachern@yahoo.com
URN etd-04142009-234949
Title Inside the Red Box: North Korea's Post-totalitarian Politics
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Political Science
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Mark Gasiorowski Committee Chair
David Sobek Committee Member
William A. Clark Committee Member
Wonik Kim Committee Member
Charles W. Royster Dean's Representative
  • DPRK
  • Asia
  • Regime Types
  • Non-democracies
Date of Defense 2009-03-31
Availability unrestricted
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 Kimís rein from his fatherís. While Kim Il Sungís rule can be described as totalitarian, Kim Jong Il governs through a more decentralized post-totalitarian, institutionally plural state.

Kim Jong Ilís government is highly centralized, but it is less centralized than his fatherís. North Korean politics comprises the interaction of the military, party, and cabinet with ďoversightĒ 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 policiesí 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 Ilís focus on political survival and emergency management over ideology as a guiding force makes todayís 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 Ė in conjunction with Kim Jong Ilís critical role Ė help explain political outcomes.

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