February 24, 2024

Why North Korea is best described a “guerrilla state”

The treatment of Otto Warmbier brings to mind the brutality of the DPRK's past

One of the most pressing questions within the field of North Korean studies is how to best interpret the North Korean regime. Some scholars see the country as Stalinist with some minor indigenous add-ons or as a radical nationalist state that is eerily similar to Imperial Japan. Others interpret the DPRK as a neo-Confucian state that is more like Choson Korea than Stalinist Russia.

But one theory that is remarkably relevant for understanding recent North Korean behavior, this week in particular, is the notion that the DPRK is a “guerrilla state.”