By examining how North Korea, Inc. — the web of state trading companies affiliated to the Korean Workers’ Party, the Korean People’s Army, and the Cabinet — operates, this report highlights a new framework for gauging regime stability in North Korea.

Assessing regime stability in North Korea continues to be a major challenge for analysts. By examining how North Korea, Inc. — the web of state trading companies affiliated to the Korean Workers’ Party, the Korean People’s Army, and the Cabinet — operates, we can develop a new framework for gauging regime stability. As interviews with defectors who previously worked in these state trading companies indicate, the regime is able to derive funds from North Korea, Inc. to maintain the loyalty of the North Korean elites and to provide a mechanism through which different branches of the North Korean state can generate funds for operating budgets. During periods when North Korea's international isolation deepens as a result of its brinkmanship activities, North Korea, Inc. constitutes an effective coping mechanism for the Kim Jong Il regime.

Related Publications

China Trade War: Risks and Strategies

China Trade War: Risks and Strategies

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

By: USIP Staff

The chances that trade talks scheduled to resume with China next month will result in any broad agreement with the U.S. are slim to none, said two members of a bipartisan congressional panel focused on U.S.-China relations. “It’s important that we keep talking,” said Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA), the co-chair of the House of Representatives U.S.-China Working Group. “That’s a positive, but I haven’t seen anything that has changed to ensure that something would be different” when U.S. and Chinese trade officials are scheduled to sit down again in early October.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment; Global Policy

Despite Beijing’s Threats, Hong Kong Protesters Remain Unbowed

Despite Beijing’s Threats, Hong Kong Protesters Remain Unbowed

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

By: Patricia M. Kim; Paul Lee; Jacob Stokes; Rachel Vandenbrink

Hong Kong saw another massive rally on Sunday, with an estimated 1.7 million pro-democracy protesters taking to the streets. So far, China’s response to the protests, which started in June over a proposed bill that would have allowed extradition to mainland China, has largely consisted of a disinformation campaign and support for the Hong Kong police, which have engaged in violent beatings, extensive use of tear gas, and firing of rubber bullets to clamp down on the protesters. USIP experts discuss how the situation has evolved, the potential of Beijing conducting a violent crackdown, what the international community’s response would be, and what the U.S. can do.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance

Hong Kong’s Turn to Violence Divides the Movement

Hong Kong’s Turn to Violence Divides the Movement

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

By: Jacob Stokes; Jennifer Staats ; Rachel Vandenbrink

The weeks of peaceful protests by millions of Hong Kong residents opposed to the erosion of their civil liberties turned violent Monday. After days of aggressive police crackdowns that injured protesters and drew criticism from international human rights groups, hundreds of protesters bashed through doors into the city’s legislature yesterday. USIP specialists discuss the escalation of the conflict between residents and the city’s authorities—and the implications for one of the territory’s largest protest movements since Britain handed it over to Chinese control two decades ago.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance; Nonviolent Action

View All Publications