Please find my new blog post for the Fletcher Security Review below.
North Korea has little in the way of traditional domestic or international economic activity. Since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, North Korea has lost its major sponsors and trading partners. Inside North Korea, the state cracks down on private economic activity while the state managed economic system is decaying. During the 1990s, conditions in North Korea were so dire that millions died in a famine while in South Korea, Koreans continued to prosper. However, despite these circumstances, the North Korean regime has continued to function and to spend millions on luxury items, like a new ski resort, private island retreats and elaborate palaces for the ruling elite. North Korea has also continued to pursue its nuclear and ballistic missile programs despite economic troubles and sanctions. This monograph helps explain these contradictions by showing how the North Korean regime has turned to full-scale criminality to evade sanctions and provide much-needed funds. Unlike other states that allow criminality, either through corruption or other means, the North Korean state has taken an active part in all stages of drug production, counterfeiting, smuggling, etc. Paul Kan, Bruce Bechtol, and Robert Collins do an excellent job of systematically exposing North Korea’s illicit activities and explaining their importance.
“Money and war” serves as the theme for the coming issue of Fletcher Security Review, and organized crime plays a significant role in contributing to instability as well as financing war and conflict. When combating the efforts of transnational criminal organizations, law enforcement techniques are appropriate, but criminal states protected by sovereignty makes such efforts much more difficult. Examining the lessons learned from the most established and prolific case studies are important as weak and failing states become more engaged in criminal activities. “Criminal Sovereignty,” represents worthy review of this literature and serves as an important foundation for interested parties, especially with another Kim family member leading the North Korean state who has shown no desire to alter this current modus operandi.