Sheila Miyoshi Jager: Domestic Politics, Pyongyang-Style

Roundup: Historians' Take
tags: NYT, North Korea, Oberlin College, Kim Jong-un, Sheila Miyoshi Jager

Sheila Miyoshi Jager, an associate professor of East Asian studies at Oberlin College, is the author of the forthcoming book “Brothers at War: The Unending Conflict in Korea.”

ON Monday, North Korea declared that it had nullified the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War, a new level of bellicosity that raised, at least on paper, the potential for the resumption of armed conflict on the peninsula.

The fiery rhetoric seemed to foreign observers a desperate attempt to force the United States and South Korea to restart stalled talks on denuclearization, in the hope of extracting aid and concessions. But recent history suggests that it was motivated less by international politics than by domestic concerns: North Korea’s new hereditary leader, Kim Jong-un, may have been stoking fears of a foreign threat primarily to dampen political unrest at home.

The belligerent talk, and the nuclear test North Korea conducted last month, its third, are part of a pattern that began in the 1990s when the North Korean economy collapsed following the end of the cold war.

Faced with chronic famine and international isolation, North Koreans have become acutely worried about their increasing dependence on China....

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