This paper fuses theoretical models of climate vulnerability and adaptive capacity to critically examine the “muddle through” thesis of regime stability in North Korea, put forward by Marcus Noland, in the context of global climate change. Literature on regime stability in North Korea has reached a consensus Kim Jong-il’s regime will maintain power by “muddling through,” making ad hoc adjustments as localised problems arise. Climate change is a new variable effecting regime perpetuation that has not been discussed in the academic literature. Climate hazards are likely to disrupt the North’s agricultural sector and the country’s food security, leading to erosion of the state’s institutions. In the medium term, predicted climate change impacts on North Korea include decreasing crop yield from the agricultural sector, changing precipitation cycles, and increasing incidence of extreme weather events. North Korea has limited capacity to absorb and adapt to climate hazards. The state is already weakened from ten years of famine and economic isolation, and is inhibited by a rigid totalitarian political system, and crumbling infrastructure. Over time, increasing food shortage may lead to greater reliance on external aid, increased corruption, internal displacement of people, refugee exodus into China, rejection of official ideology, erosion of coercive institutions and even withdrawal of elite support for the regime.
|Keywords:||North Korea, Regime Stability, Climate Vulnerability, Adaptive Capacity|
PhD Candidate, School of Political & International Studies, Flinders University, Adelaide, SA, Australia
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