This study investigates the impact of economic statecraft on the North Korean Government. As a totalitarian regime, which is characterized by a controlled mass media, the North Korean Government tries to contain potential problems caused by sanctions by using three types of political rhetoric: appeasement, backlash, and surveillance. Using timeseries data from 1949 to 2010 derived from a content analysis of the New Year’s Day addresses by Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong Un, the empirical results suggests that the North Korean Government does alter its rhetorical strategies in response to external economic sanctions. Negative sanctions cause the regime to use appeasement strategies (or calls for reforms and internal changes). It tends to use backlash rhetoric (or blaming the sanctioning powers) in response to, interestingly, positive sanctions. Surveillance rhetoric, or the call for internal vigilance against enemies, on the other hand, does not have any statistical connection with sanctions, rather driven by other factors, such as the Korean War, external instability, and so on.

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