Many scholars dismiss Kim Jong-Il's regime as a "one-man dictatorship," calling him the "last totalitarian leader," but McEachern identifies three major institutions that help maintain regime continuity: the cabinet, the military, and the party. These groups hold different institutional policy platforms and debate high-level policy options both before and after Kim and his senior leadership make their final call.
This method of rule may challenge expectations, but North Korea does not follow a classically totalitarian, personalistic, or corporatist model. Rather than being monolithic, McEachern argues, the regime, emerging from the crises of the 1990s, rules differently today than it did under Kim's father, Kim Il Sung. The son is less powerful and pits institutions against one another in a strategy of divide and rule. His leadership is fundamentally different: it is "post-totalitarian." Authority may be centralized, but power remains diffuse. McEachern maps this process in great detail, supplying vital perspective on North Korea's reactive policy choices, which continue to bewilder the West.
About the Author
Table of ContentsList of Figures and Tables
2. Post-totalitarian Institutionalism
3. Historical Context
4. North Korea's Political Institutions
5. Institutional Jostling for Agenda Control, 1998–2001
6. Segmenting Policy and Issue Linkages, 2001–2006
7. Policy Reversals, 2006–2008
What People are Saying About This
Inside the Red Box is a nuanced and meticulous study of the inner workings of North Korea's policy apparatus. It is a very useful addition to the literature, saying more about what happens inside the black box (or red box) beyond standard accounts and the personality cult of the Kim family.