Symbolic Practices of Legitimation: Exploring Domestic Motives of North Korea’s Space Programme

Olbrich, P. & Shim, D., Jan-2019, In : International Relations of the Asia-Pacific. 19, 1, p. 33-61 29 p.

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Despite international sanctions and a strained economy, North Korea continues to spend scarce resources on a costly space programme. Hitherto, research has usually explained this continuity in terms of international security and/or international reputation. Accordingly, Pyongyang uses its space-related efforts as a pretext to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles and to enhance its international reputation. This article argues that these explanations do not suffice, and thus adds domestic motives for consideration. By engaging recent North Korea studies, which emphasise the importance of performance and symbol for the politics of the Kim regime, this article explores recurring actions and routinised behaviour by the leadership as symbolic practices that reinforce domestic legitimacy. The goal is to provide a conceptual avenue through which to better understand North Korean affairs. Taking into account domestic factors also has, as will be shown, practical policy implications for those negotiating with the regime over its space programme.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-61
Number of pages29
JournalInternational Relations of the Asia-Pacific
Issue number1
Early online date13-Mar-2017
Publication statusPublished - Jan-2019



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