Sources: Kyung-Ae Park’s "Non-Traditional Security Issues in North Korea"

September 26, 2013 7:00 AM

Kyung-ae Park at the University of British Columbia has pulled together an excellent team of scholars to look at North Korea through the Non-Traditional Security (NTS) lens. We remain ambivalent about the non-traditional security agenda of the so-called Copenhagen school of international relations; J.J. Suh’s introduction and Brendan Howe’s conclusion go over the terrain. It seemed like a way to take advantage of the ubiquitous "security" drumbeat while not actually adding much value. What is gained by calling food insecurity a “non-traditional security (NTS) issue”? We were perfectly capable of talking about the problem prior to the emergence of the Copenhagen school.

On the other hand, the realist canon ignores the fundamental point that security and insecurity are ultimately experienced at the individual level. Our security strategies—broadly conceived—need to take these effects into account. Moreover, insecurities related to military conflict may not be the most pressing sources of household anxieties. Efforts such as the Commission on Human Security chaired by Sadako Ogata and Amartya Sen have also pointed out the wider agenda; to re-conceptualize development itself in terms of basic freedoms and reducing the myriad sources of insecurity.

The advantage of Park's collection, though, is that you don’t need to buy into the NTS/human security trope to reap the book’s benefits. Indeed, the book is a good introduction to a number of economic and social issues and could provide a useful text for a North Korea course.

The Table of Contents is appended below; the titles are generally descriptive and most seek to provide general overviews. A few of the economic highlights:

  • No one does DPRK energy like Hayes and von Hippel from Nautilus; their piece can be read as a microcosm of the challenges facing the whole system while providing the most succinct summary of the energy sector we have seen. In addition to walking through the economics of the issue—best summarized as the virtual collapse of the energy sector—they also take up the thorny issues of how energy will play into a resolution of the nuclear issue. They believe that we will ultimately have to make some gesture on the LWR issue and to our surprise even advocated a second look at the KEDO/Kumho project. We disagree, but this is a terrific piece.
  • Randy Ireson and Mark Manyin do similar justice to the food issue, Ireson focused on the domestic political economy, Manyin on aid and trade. Ireson’s contribution is particularly interesting for his recitation of a number of small technical adjustments that could dramatically increase overall productivity, such as planting soil-enhancing legumes, distributing small pumps to augment upland irrigation, and reducing post-harvest losses.
  • Manyin does an exercise similar to ours by looking at the pricing of food and fuel exports to the DPRK; he compares unit prices of China’s trade with the DPRK and the rest of the world. He finds somewhat greater evidence of Chinese subsidies—for example, for food after 2009. But the message is largely the same: food, fuel and fertilizer look like they are priced pretty much as exports to other countries are priced.
  • Dave Kang provides a rightly skeptical overview of the illicit trade issues, arguing that they have been systematically hyped.

We don’t mean to slight our friends: Kyung-ae Park reviews gender issues; Shin-hwa Lee looks at the refugee issues; Scott Snyder at the challenges facing NGOs. Tsuneo Akaha examines the complex of issues through the lens of the new doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect (RtP). Akaha shows the profound limits of what the outside world can do. Both the narrow legal definition of the terms on which the doctrine of RtP can be invoked--basically crimes against humanity--and the even narrower political limits on collective action, are daunting. Akaha suggests indirectly how virtually all parts of the human security agenda that Park and her colleagues take up can only be pursued at this point largely through stealth.


Kyung-ae Park, ed. Non-Traditional Security Issues in North Korea 

Part I: Issues of Non-Traditional Security in North Korea

Chapter 1 - Rethinking National and Human Security in North Korea via Non-Traditional Security Issues

Jae-Jung Suh

Chapter 2 – North Korea’s Energy Security: Challenges and Assistance Approaches

David von Hippel and Peter Hayes

Chapter 3 – Gender Security in North Korea

Kyung-Ae Park

Chapter 4 – Securitizing Transnational Organized Crime and North Korea’s Non-Traditional Security

David C. Kang

Chapter 5 – Building Food Security in North Korea

W. Randall Ireson

Chapter 6 – The External Dimension of North Korea’s Food Security: Securing Outside Sources of Food, Fertilizer, and Fuel

Mark E. Manyin

Part II: Global Cooperation for Promoting North Korea’s Non-Traditional Security

Chapter 7 – The Responsibility to Protect and Its Limits in North Korea

Tsuneo Akaha

Chapter 8 – International Legal Perspectives on North Korea Refugee Issues

Shin-wha Lee

Chapter 9 – The Role of Nongovernmental Organizations in Protecting Pyongyang’s Non-Traditional Security

Scott Snyder

Chapter 10 – Toward the Enhancement of Non-Traditional Security in North Korea

Brendan Howe

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