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North Korea and the Geopolitics of Development

From the publisher’s website:

Kevin Gray and Jong-Woon Lee focus on three geopolitical ‘moments’ that have been crucial to the shaping of the North Korean system: colonialism, the Cold War, and the rise of China, to demonstrate how broader processes of geopolitical contestation have fundamentally shaped the emergence and subsequent development of the North Korean political economy. They argue that placing the nexus between geopolitics and development at the centre of the analysis helps explain the country’s rapid catch-up industrialisation, its subsequent secular decline followed by collapse in the 1990s, and why the reform process has been markedly more conservative compared to other state socialist societies. As such, they draw attention to the specificities of North Korea’s experience of late development, but also place it in a broader comparative context by understanding the country not solely through the analytical lens of state socialism but also as an instance of post-colonial national development.

  • Provides a broad historical overview of the development of the North Korean political economy
  • Draws on a wide range of sources, including North Korean materials and interviews with North Korean defectors
  • Emphasises North Korea’s developmental history from within the context of postcolonial national development

About the authors

Kevin Gray is a Professor in International Relations at the School of Global Studies, University of Sussex.

Jong-Woon Lee is Associate Professor and Director of Peace Education Center at Hanshin University, South Korea.


Introduction: The Development-Geopolitics Nexus in North Korea
1. State Building and Late Development in North Korea
2. Post-War Reconstruction and Catch-Up Industrialisation
3. Geopolitical Contestation and the Challenge to North Korean Development
4. Economic Decline and the Crisis of the 1990s
5. Marketisation and the Transformation of the North Korean State
6. North Korean Economic Reform in the Shadow of China
7. Dependency in Chinese-North Korean Relations?
8. International Sanctions and North Korean Development

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