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North Korea: Witness to Transformation

Korea Peninsula Security Report: External Instability Begets Internal Stability

by | June 28th, 2012 | 06:07 am

Bahng Tae-Seop and his colleagues at SERI have put out their latest quarterly security report.  Based on the views of 50 “experts”  (I’m one of them so they can’t be too expert!) from South Korea, the US, China, Japan, and Russia, the survey generates evaluations of both current and prospective security developments on the peninsula in a variety of dimensions. They have been conducting this exercise since 2005. Their composite summary index of current conditions is shown above.

As Steph Haggard observed in an earlier post, the index of prospective conditions appears to be myopic, strongly reflecting recent trends, and indeed, the current values of the two indices are almost exactly equal at 42 (on a scale of 100). Nevertheless, the results for the latest quarter are intriguing. There has been a deterioration in the experts’ assessment of conditions on the peninsula, but this drop is driven entirely by a deterioration of North Korea’s external relations, particularly with China. The North Korea-China relations index hit an alltime low of 36, well below its normal 50-60 range.  Relations with South Korea also hit an alltime low, falling to 15.

But while external relations were declining, assessments of internal stability improved off the low levels seen during the first quarter in the wake of Kim Jong-il’s death, rising from 38 to 54. The SERI analysts go so far as to argue that Kim Jong-un has successfully used a strategy of external provocations to solidify his internal control.