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Defining the Nature and Future of the Party–Military Relations in North Korea

Jongseok Woo

Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs, 2018, vol. 5, issue 3, 227-244

Abstract: Abstract Since Kim Jong-il officially launched his Songun politics in 1998, conflicting assessments have generated two competing arguments regarding the political role of the Korean People’s Army (KPA). The military garrison state argument suggests that Songun politics brought about the decline of the party and political ascendance of the military, while the party’s army model argues that the KPA is still the party’s army and under the party’s firm control. This article suggests that the debate mischaracterizes the KPA’s political place in North Korea and that the military has not been a politically influential organ from the state-building to the current Kim Jong-un era. This article identifies two distinct patterns of military control mechanisms—namely partisan (1960s–1990s) and personalistic (1998–2008)—and argues that the different control methods have little to do with the KPA’s political strength or weakness. Rather, they merely reflect the dictator’s ruling method of choice for regime survival. The analysis illustrates that the current Kim Jong-un regime is more stable than many outside observers may estimate, and a military coup is highly unlikely in the near future.

Keywords: North Korea; Songun politics; coup d’état; party–military relations; Kim Jong-il (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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DOI: 10.1177/2347797018798262

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