The past decade has witnessed the rupture of the traditional North Korean social compact, embodying its governing norms, thereby necessitating a reinterpretation of the ideological doctrine of juche, or self-reliance, to legitimate reforms and justifies the departure from the country's socialist tradition. This had taken the form of an intensification of the “military-first” campaign, elevating the military above the proletariat in the North Korean political pantheon. As the military waxes while the commitment to socialism wanes, North Korea appears to be evolving toward some kind of unique post-communist totalitarian state—not the sort of classically fascist regime that its propaganda excoriates, but rather a strange revival of dynastic feudalism in the form of a non-socialist, patrimonial state, but with a more efficient state apparatus than for example Iraq under Saddam Hussein. The central issue is whether the regime can manage this internal change while confronting economic stress, the implicit legitimization challenge posed by prosperous, democratic South Korea, and diplomatic tensions emanating from its nuclear weapons programs. This paper presents evidence derived from formal statistical models of the determinants of regime stability and the likelihood of regime transformation in North Korea under alternative scenarios.
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