Hard, soft, smart? North Korea and power: it’s all relative

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North Korea is notable for its isolation, yet the Korean Central News Agency’s daily editions are filled with articles outlining international admiration for Pyongyang and its leader. Is Pyongyang actively promoting soft power as an integral part of not only its survival, but its development strategy? While scholarship on North Korea tends to focus on Pyongyang’s “high profile” relations with China or Russia (Shambaugh 2003, McCormack 2004, Wu 2005) or with nations seeking to cooperate on weapons of mass destruction (Henriksen 2001), little attention has been paid to how the DPRK engages in seemingly peaceful ways with the world. This article examines the notion of hard, soft, smart and other power declensions, and applies a soft-power framework to investigate DPRK rhetoric and the development of partnerships with both states and non-state actors. It suggests that the DPRK has long pursued a strategy of diplomatic diversification, which includes a more sophisticated understanding of power than previously considered in the literature.
Original languageEnglish
Article number7
Pages (from-to)131-152
Number of pages22
JournalAsian International Studies Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017

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