February 21, 2024

When North Korea may collapse

Pyongyang's belated economic reforms make 'middle-run' scenarios more likely

When it comes to predicting North Korea’s future, a recurring theme is their impending collapse. The collapsist school of scholars, who have repeatedly predicted North Korea’s disintegration since the 1990s, were brought into being by the collapse of the Soviet Union – obviously, no one was talking about such things before 1989-90. The composition of this school has changed over time, but at any given period there are people to be found expressing such views.

Thus far such predictions have proven false: North Korea has survived against the odds, with little change in its ideology or political structure. Non-collapsist analysts might have admitted that in the long run North Korea's collapse is a likely outcome, but emphasized that this “long run” might be very long indeed.