BYU Asian Studies Journal


Drew Horne


BYU Asian Studies, North Korea, economics, nuclear


The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), or North Korea, has proven to be a stumping issue for policymaker and academic alike. Dubbed “The Impossible State” by Victor Cha (2012) and the quintessential “Hard Target” by Haggard and Noland (2017), North Korea’s unique mix of autarkic authoritarianism, stubbornly resilient socialist system, and burgeoning nuclear capability, all situated in perhaps the most geopolitically fraught region in the modern world, has led journalists, academics, policymakers, and even thrill-seekers (think Dennis Rodman) to try to understand this enigmatic, what Lankov (2013) calls, “political fossil.” Within the myriad issues presented by North Korea, two questions of equal policy and theoretical importance emerge: 1) how to manage the nuclear weapons of the world’s most recent nuclear breakout state, and 2) whether economic statecraft, contemporarily defined as both economic sanctions and economic inducements (Haggard and Noland 2017) can be effective tools in that process.