Past Events

The Asan Institute for Policy Studies hosted the 1st Asan North Korea Conference “The Viability of the North Korean Regime” on September 8 (Thurs)-9 (Fri), 2011.
Speakers’ Main Points
1.        Ronald WINTROBE, University of Western Ontario
The North Korean regime stays in power through repression. But like any dictatorship, it cannot function on the basis of political repression alone. The Korean Workers Party has fostered loyalty through a complex classification system. A regime like this is stable; it maximizes power, through Communist-style institutions which monopolize political power and incentivize the population to be loyal to it.
2.        Aidan FOSTER-CARTER, Leeds University, UK
In its early years the DPRK delivered strong economic growth, out-performing the ROK. Today South Korea is so far ahead on all fronts that Korea is “one country, two planets”. North Korea’s tragic trajectory of economic downturn is examined through several perverse incentives that contributed to North Korea’s militarism, royal economy, cult costs, Potemkinism and whims, to name a few.
3.        OH Kongdan, Institute for Defense Analyses
Looking at North Korea as if it were a cult provides a useful way of understanding its citizens—a bottom-up analysis. Looking at it as a totalitarian state provides a convenient way to understand its governance—a top-down analysis. In whichever light one views North Korea, it is clear that the country has a limited future unless it abandons its current structure and current leadership.
4.        Evgeny MOROZOV, Stanford University
Based on the assumption that the North Korean regime allows Internet and mobile communications in the next few years, how much control would they exercise and what are the trade-offs? If the North Korean regime chooses to allow the Internet and mobile communications to spread more widely in a strategic approach and are ready to take risks to invest money into monitoring technology, they may be able to pull it off without necessarily suffering great political costs.
5.        Andrei Lankov, Kookmin University
The North Korean regime is facing a peculiar and unique situation where regime survival is contingent on a strict information blockade. Unfortunately, this is the very area where the North Korean government has failed. The unprecedented growth of the IT technology and gradual relaxation of internal controls create a situation which might and indeed must be exploited by those people who want to bring change to North Korea.
6.        HAN Byungjin, Keimyung University
North Korea’s military-first party line is a device to assure elites of their future status and to solve commitment issues, thus contributing to short-term regime durability. However, given the fragility of the state, a small yet critical change in or out of North Korea will lead to an abrupt breakdown of the regime, rather than a soft-landing.
7.        GO Myong-Hyun, The Asan Institute for Policy Studies
The North Korean regime’s ultimate goal for anti-market policies is to increase public reliance on the Public Distribution System (PDS). However, the regime’s probable course of action in solving food shortage is neither replacing the PDS with market economy nor investing in the PDS, but to exclude a growing share of the population from official distribution channels. This suggests a perverse and paradoxical future for North Korea, in which the regime is likely to remain viable against the backdrop of permanent humanitarian crisis.
8.        LIM Soo-ho, Samsung Economic Research Institute
It is clear that the market system has replaced the Public Distribution System (PDS) in North Korea and is passed the stage of control by the economic necessity of the people and the political control of the authority. Rather, its fate is more in the hands of the North Korean bureaucratic system where the North Korean market system will not only encompass the economic but the political sector as well.
9.        HWANG Sung-jin, Korea Information Society Development Institute
A regime change in North Korea due to technological development and dissemination, as witnessed in Jasmine Revolution, is nearly impossible. This is due to North Korea’s current informative and communicational impediment and closed off regime. For North Korea’s regime to change, effort must be made towards a long-term plan of providing information by various methods.
10.    JO Dong-ho, Ewha Womans University
The North Korean economy in general is growing but polarization between different classes and regions has become much more apparent due to its economic dual structure—a divide between the market sector and the official sector. This has led to existing contrasts in assessment on the North Korean economy.
11.    LIU Ming, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences
The phasing out of Kim Jong-il’s rule, i.e., personality cult, during the next three to four years will be a dangerous period. In particular, the added elements of regime survival through hard-line and active approaches, the new configuration of power of the KWP, and the weakened National Defense Commission increase the probability of a power struggle among the Elite. Future leader Kim Jong-un will have to be very cautious of his power and avoid risking any big policy change during this transition.
12.    Nicholas EBERSTADT, American Enterprise Institute
The year 2012, the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Song’s birth, was supposed to be, in DPRK mythology, the year North Korea was to become a strong and prosperous country. That plan looks to be somewhat off-track. Pyongyang’s commitment to unconditional totalitarian control over its subjects has been steady and enduring, but its trajectory of economic performance has been anything but that. The key to understanding the epic failure of DPRK economic development—and economic costs of social control under a totalitarian dictatorship—over the past generations lies in the North Korean government policy and practice.
13.    HAN Jung, Freelance Writer
The current economic situation in North Korea where the livelihood of North Koreans depends on the individual’s ability without the country’s assurance of institutional strategy can be depicted as “measures to save the people’s livelihood” or “the state of economic warfare of the people”. The very worldly and universal form of these measures is a type of business transaction, allowing for the growth and spread of information and communication technologies—such flows will be difficult to stop.