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Socialist Fraternalism or Socialist Realism?: State Survival Versus Ideological Goals as Motivating Factors Behind North Korean Diplomacy Toward Other Socialist States

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>30/09/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>North Korean Review
Issue number2
Number of pages20
Pages (from-to)56-75
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Even when dealing with fellow socialist powers, North Korean diplomacy has never fit neatly into typical socialist bloc categories. The ideological and material underpinnings of this have taken on a complex and distinctly North Korean character. This study offers a theoretical deconstruction of the intersecting structural and normative influences on North Korean diplomacy in developing a typology of "socialist realism," situated within a realist-constructivist International Relations (IR) theory framework.

This study relies on primary source material from various diplomatic archives, alongside theoretical works from leading North Korean figures and press coverage from within the DPRK. It does so to both contextualize the subject within the wider historical, ideological, and theoretical context and to draw upon an oft-neglected North Korean perspective in analyzing influences on North Korean diplomacy across various levels.

North Korean diplomacy towards socialist states is found to be more adaptive than might be expected, shaped not by one definitive influence but instead positioned at the confluence of distinctive ideological goals and more conventional realist objectives of state survival.
The realist-constructivist framework explored within this paper serves as both a defining constraint on North Korean foreign policy and a conceptual tool for scholars analyzing North Korean diplomacy in both a historical and contemporary context, offering a broad utility to scholars and students alike across fields of history, International Relations, and political science.

This paper offers an original interpretation of influences on North Korean diplomacy by developing a new realist-constructivist perspective rooted in theoretical, historical, and ideological analysis. It is positioned at the intersection between history and IR theory whilst critically interpreting North Korean ideological, media, and institutional sources alike in seeking to understand the broad cultural and structural influences on North Korean diplomacy in greater depth.

Bibliographic note

Jude Rowley is a graduate student at Lancaster University. His work centres around the intersection between history and international relations but covers broad chronological and geographical themes. He works with a particular focus on identifying the influence of historical interpretation on shaping approaches to foreign policy and diplomacy. His research is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (Grant Number ES/P000665/1)