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The Improbability of Popular Rebellion in Kim Jong-un’s North Korea and Policy Alternatives for the USA

Francis Grice

Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs, 2017, vol. 4, issue 3, 263-293

Abstract: The Trump administration has declared its determination to resolve the problems posed by North Korea, but a full-scale military intervention would impart a terrible human cost and could ignite a global war. One alternative that might meet the objectives of the USA would be the collapse of the North Korea regime through a domestic uprising. Claims that the regime is teetering on the brink of self-implosion have been made for decades; yet, there has been no popular rebellion to date and this article argues that the prospect of one occurring in the foreseeable future remains remote. Numerous factors exist in North Korea that ought, according to conventional theories of rebellion, to push the population to rebel, including public grievances, opportunities for private gain and regime vulnerability. These drivers are suppressed by the Kim Jong-un regime, however, through the use of isolation, propaganda, deterrence and prevention, which combine to make rebellion extremely improbable. Despite a major military invasion being impractical and the likelihood of a domestic uprising occurring being markedly low, a number of policy alternatives do exist for the Trump administration. Nevertheless, there are no easy answers with North Korea and each course of action possesses significant drawbacks and limitations.

Keywords: Donald Trump; Kim Jong-un; North Korea; pacification; popular rebellion; propaganda (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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DOI: 10.1177/2347797017732227

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