Repression in North Korea: Understanding the Culture of Non-Resistance
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ABSTRACT: Despite seemingly ripe conditions for social change in North Korea, namely due to rising discontent, alienation, and economic independence among average citizens, the ruling regime’s stability has remained remarkably unchallenged. Explanations pointing out ‘coercion and indoctrination’ only go so far to account for this paradox. This study thereby delves deeper into sentiments of discontent among average citizens living under this system of repression utilizing theoretical disciplines found in conflict studies. With a careful eye for methodological complexities, this study draws from interview testimony of North Korean defectors, along with data from secondary sources, to identify elements of the North Korean cultural reality that theoretically suppresses impulses for defiant action. In particular, through a critical discursive approach, evidence shows that government repression through restriction of political freedoms and harsh punishments have become to an extent condoned or normalized. Furthermore, evidence also finds an elevated importance of the traditional societal structure of social hierarchy that further plays a role in preserving the status quo.