December 03, 2021

Illusion of independence: North Korea’s “civil organizations” and NGOs

Non-state-led collective action is an anathema to the country's politics - but progress is happening

Civil society can be difficult to define – some view it as the space outside of the state and business interests, while others define it as voluntary activity towards a certain cause.

No matter the definition, North Korea is not exactly a bastion of civil society. The regime’s strict control on the population is well documented. While there is emerging evidence of growing non-legal activity, most notably private trade in markets, the DPRK continues to lack an organized civil society that is visible to the outside world.