Neither This Nor That: Understanding North Korea via Role Theory

Research output: Chapter in Book/Published conference outputChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter presents the DPRK within a set of dichotomous identities that highlights an ambivalent, alternative and essentially awkward power position within the international system. It rests on Sociological and Social Psychology assumptions surrounding Role Theory and looks at the DPRK’s own representation as a (1) victim/champion of world politics, (2) struggling/leading economic force, and (3) independent/interdependent power in a global context. It concludes that the DPRK is unlikely to move to a small state status as this would mean relinquishing its nuclear weapons, yet those very weapons are equally unlikely to be accepted by the international community as a sign that the DPRK is a great power. This leaves the Korean peninsula in a relatively stable period of awkwardness, and the DPRK as an awkward middle power.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAwkward Powers: Escaping Traditional Great and Middle Power Theory
EditorsGabriele Abbondanza, Thomas Stow Wilkins
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9789811603709
ISBN (Print)9789811603693
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

NameGlobal Political Transitions
ISSN (Print)2522-8730
ISSN (Electronic)2522-8749


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