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“North Korea’s Rational Threat-Making: Using Propaganda to Understand North Korean Threat Perception” by Lauren Sukin
March 3, 2021 @ 9:00 am – 10:00 am JST
Author: Lauren Sukin (Stanford)
Abstract: This article analyzes the content of North Korean propaganda between 1996 and 2018 in order to identify the conditions under which North Korea makes threats against its adversaries. This analysis shows that North Korea systematically issues threats to its adversaries when it faces concrete challenges to its physical security or to the legitimacy of its sovereignty. This contradicts the view that North Korea’s regular program of threats represents erratic ‘cheap talk.’ Furthermore, I demonstrate that North Korean rhetoric matters not only for providing insight into the inner workings of the North Korean regime, but also because it has two types of consequences. First, North Korean threats are correlated with subsequent provocative actions. Second, utilizing an original survey experiment, I show that South Koreans’ policy preferences are responsive to the content of propaganda from North Korea. This indicates that North Korea’s threats can have tangible policy consequences even absent accompanying provocative actions.