North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

ICG Study on NK Under UN Sanctions

The International Crisis Group has published a study as an Update Briefing under the title North Korea Under Tightening Sanctions.  The study suggests that the recent UN sanctions, currency redenomination and the unfolding succession campaign have created cleavages among North Korean elites. From the report’s overview:

Outwardly, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea) appears stable. However, the country has been shaken by constricting international sanctions, extremely poor policy choices, and several internal challenges that have the potential to trigger instability. International sanctions have reduced foreign exchange earnings, while humanitarian assistance, which feeds millions of North Koreans, has declined due to political factors and donor fatigue. In addition to sanctions, Pyongyang has been dealing with the internal pressures of a disastrous currency reform as well as a chronic and deteriorating food security problem. The aggregate pressure is already taking a toll on North Korea’s human security and could have a number of unanticipated consequences for regional and international security.

Some analysts and policymakers believe international sanctions have pressured North Korea to seek a face-saving return to the Six-Party Talks and better inter-Korean ties. Although Pyongyang’s opaque policymaking process makes it nearly impossible to understand regime motivations, the pressures of cascading and overlapping “mini crises” are unmistakable just as the country has had to face difficult succession issues. However, the DPRK has demonstrated an extraordinary ability to survive under pressure. Any of the current challenges – as singular problems – should be manageable. The state security apparatus and the barriers to collective action make a “revolution from below” virtually impossible. But despite the loyalty of elites in the party and the military, a sudden split in the leadership, although unlikely, is not out of the question. Signs of any fissures would not be observable from the outside until a power struggle, a coup d’état, collapse or similar crisis was already unfolding.

Yonhap has a story about the report’s release.  You can read the report’s overview/executive summary here.  You can also download a PDF copy of the full report here.

An affiliate of 38 North