UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

North Korea in the socialist world : integration and divergence, 1945-1970. The crossroads of politics and economics Agov, Avram Asenov


This thesis investigates the background behind the resilience of North Korean system, one which has endured numerous shocks and upheavals in its history. The era from 1945 to 1970 was decisive in the formation of North Korea’s domestic system; it also provides sufficient perspective to examine the major trends in the evolution of North Korea’s political and economic structure. The thesis analyzes DPRK history from the perspective of the regime’s internal and external integration into the socialist system, as well as efforts to diverge from that system. The dynamics of integration and divergence relate to the commonalities and distinctiveness of North Korea’s political and economic structure compared to other socialist countries, mainly the Soviet Union and China. This thesis studies the formation and evolution of North Korea’s political economy and defines its uniqueness within the socialist system. Socialist aid and trade are one focus of the study. We analyze four realms of relationships – ideology, politics, economy, and security. The northern regime’s ideological positioning was closely linked to North Korea’s nationalist course and to the regime’s divergence from the socialist system; economic considerations and security imperatives, by contrast, tended to push the regime toward the socialist world. The thesis defines North Korea’s place in the socialist world from the view point of the interaction between politics and economics. It argues that despite North Korea’s ideological and political divergences from the socialist system based on the Chuch’e (self-reliance) paradigm, the regime remained more integrated economically than is usually perceived. This factor is one of the main reasons for the DPRK’s ability to withstand the blow of the Soviet collapse, for it retained considerable economic ties to China. During the 1945-1970 era, North Korea occasionally deviated from one or another of its two major allies, but it never distanced itself from both the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China simultaneously. The DPRK also tried to compensate reductions in its interactions with one major ally or camp, including the Eastern bloc, by nurturing more active relations with capitalist states. This trend represents an important consistency in North Korea’s history.

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