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Introduction: The Development–Geopolitics Nexus in North Korea

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 September 2021

Kevin Gray
Affiliation:
University of Sussex
Jong-Woon Lee
Affiliation:
Hanshin University, South Korea
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Summary

This introduction sets forth the puzzle of North Korean development trajectory, namely its initial successes, its collapse in the 1990s, and its subsequent recovery since then. It engages with existing theories of development and with the critique of methodological nationalism in the field of Development Studies and International Political Economy. It argues that liberal economic and dependency theory fail to account for the specificity of the country’s experience, or indeed projects of national development in general. We put forward an alternative framework of the ‘development-geopolitics nexus’ through a reinterpretation of the global history of national development, examining three geopolitical moments that have shaped that history, namely colonialism, the Cold War, and the rise of China. The discussion of the legacies of colonialism sheds light on the emergence of developmental nationalisms in the (post)colonial world and how the material legacies of colonialism aided or hindered post-colonial development; the analysis of the Cold War sheds light on how the US and the USSR sought to facilitate late development within their respective spheres of influence; the analysis of the rise of China examines the extent to which China’s influence can be said to reflect a process of neo-colonialism or win-win mutual benefit.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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