North Korea: Bold or Bellicose
In its most recent round of rhetoric, North Korea has gone on the offensive again after U - North Korea: Bold or Bellicose introduction. N. sanctions were levied against the rouge nation for conducting its third nuclear test in February 2013 and launching of a three-stage rocket in December 2012. In recent days North Korea has moved a missile to a key east coast facility, purported to be a missile with “considerable” range by the South Korean Defense Chief (Choe 2013). For long-time watchers of the situation on the Korean Peninsula there is nothing in these actions that is substantially new compared with past rhetoric.
What is different is the man at the helm, Kim Jong-Un, the 30-year-old grandson of the country’s founder and Great Leader, Kim Il-Song. Therefore, what North Korea watchers and policy makers have to decide now is, “Is this just more of the same? ” or “Is there a serious new threat being posed by North Korea and its new leadership? ” From a sociological perspective North Korea has always posed many obstacles to understanding by western analysts. The North Korea government is essentially a “cult of personality” built around its leadership.
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In sociological terms a “cult of personality” is defined as “when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized and heroic public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise” (Princeton University). This definition accurately describes North Korea’s leadership, government, and society at large. Sociologist Max Weber’s analysis on the subject of leadership would define North Korea as falling under what he termed “charismatic authority.
” This “charismatic authority” originated from North Korea’s founding leader, Kim Il-Song (Burghart 2010) and has been carried on in spirit by his son, Kim Jong-Il and more recently by his grandson, Kim Jong-Un. North Korea’s basic strategy when dealing with the West or its southern neighbor is to utilize “a cooperative policy when it perceives that its national security is improving, and to engage in brinkmanship when it perceives that its security is threatened” (Kim & Choy 2011). This course of action seems a constant in North Korea’s strategy with respect to foreign policy.
With regard to North Korean society, there is a virtual treasure-trove of sociological concepts which are open for discussion. Being a closed society with little or no contact with the outside world, a typical north Korean knows not except that which they are spoon fed by the government. Even if North Koreans were to have outside access, the cult of personality and the indoctrination that each and every North Korean is exposed to from birth is so strong as to be a near brain-washing causing all to believe in the regime without exception.
This is an example of the extreme of the concept of social control. Every aspect of a North Korean’s daily life and socialization is controlled strictly by the state. Social conformity is demanded and deviation is not allowed (Lankov et al 2012). Deviance, as a sociological concept, is strictly forbidden in North Korea. Any deviation from the norm of North Korean ideology results in severe consequences up to and including torture and execution. Every North Korean, without exception, must belong to one, and only one, of five organizations.
These are the Korean Workers Party, the Trade Union, the Farmers Union, the Women’s Union, and the Youth Union. This social stratification is total, unbending, and effects each North Korean for his/her entire lifetime (Ibid). The last social concept that applies to North Korea at a societal level is the concept of groupthink. Groupthink, as defined by Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, is “a pattern of thought characterized by self-deception, forced manufacture of consent, and conformity to group values and ethics” (Merriam-Webster, 2013).
As explained above, North Korea fits all of these categories; self-deception, as a society, for believing whatever the government tells them, forced manufacture of consent where government control of society is absolute, and lastly, conformity to group values and ethics as indicated by the ideology of self-reliance or Juche. In summation, North Korea seems to be both bold and bellicose at the same time.
Bold in the sense that they ardently cling to an ideology that the rest of the Socialist world has long since abandoned and bellicose in that the state run agencies of North Korea could not exist without someone to potentially make war against. The major questions for sociologists with regard to North Korean society then are, in these days of ever advancing technology, how long will the North Korean regime be able to maintain absolute control all information that common North Koreans have access to and how long can they continue to control the hearts and minds of their general populace and society?
References Burghart, S. (2010). “Charismatic leadership, succession, and legitimacy: Political pragmatism in North Korea and China? Proceedings from The 20th ASEN Conference “Nation and Charisma. ” London School of Economics and Political Science, UK. 13-15 April 2010. Choe, S. H. (2013). North Korea Moves Missile to Coast, but Little Threat is seen. New York Times. 4 April 2013. Retrieved from http://www. nytimes. com/2013/04/05/world/asia/north-korean-missile-moved-to-coast. html? _r=0 Groupthink (n. d. ) In Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary online. Retrieved from http://www. merriam-webster.
com/dictionary/groupthink Kim, D. , & Choy, Y. (2011). Risk-Taking or Risk-Aversive: Understanding North Korea’s Foreign Policy of Brinkmanship. Korea Observer, 42(3), 461-489. Retrieved from http://search. proquest. com/docview/912203702? accountid=8289 Lankov, A. , In-ok, K. , & Choong-Bin, C. (2012). The Organizational Life: Daily Surveillance and Daily Resistance in North Korea. Journal of East Asian Studies, 12(2), 193-214. Princeton University. (n. d. ) Cult of Personality. Retrieved from http://www. princeton. edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Cult_of_personality. html