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A cultural neuroscience perspective on North Korean strategic culture: Implications for tailored deterrence

  • John M. Friend (a1)
Abstract

Given the complexity of the current nuclear age and the absence of work on deterrence under true multipolarity, interdisciplinary models can provide new perspectives on tailored deterrence. Drawing from recent findings in the life sciences, this article offers a cultural neuroscience approach to deterrence decision-making, with special attention given to the ways in which culture interacts with cognition and the security environment to shape behavioral outcomes during conflict. Since North Korea remains largely a “black box” in international relations, a cultural neuroscience perspective can provide valuable insight into the effects of cultural conditioning on perception and cognition within the context of nuclear deterrence on the Korean Peninsula. Through an analysis of the bureaucratic and military structures, leadership characteristics, and institutional landscapes shaping North Korean strategic culture, this article examines the influences of historical memory and cultural values, such as collectivism, honor, and face-saving, on political decision-making in Pyongyang.

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Corresponding author
Correspondence: John M. Friend, Shidler College of Business, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, 2404 Maile Way, Honolulu, HI 96822. Email: jfriend@hawaii.edu
References
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169“Kim Jong Un’s 2016 New Year Address,” Korean Central News Agency, January 2, 2016, http://www.rodong.rep.kp/en/index.php?strPageID=SF01_02_01&newsID=2016-01-02-0002.
170“Kim Jong Un’s 2016 New Year Address.”
171“Kim Jong Un Makes Congratulatory Speech at 4th National Conference of War Veterans,” Korean Central News Agency, July 26, 2015, https://www.ncnk.org/.
172“Kim Jong Un Makes Congratulatory Speech at 4th National Conference of War Veterans.”
173 Thompson, W. and Nalty, B. C., Within Limits: The U.S. Air Force and the Korean War (Washington, DC: Air Force Historical Studies Office, 1996), http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a440095.pdf, accessed July 23, 2018.
174 Fifield, A., “Why does North Korea hate the United States? Let’s go back to the Korean War,” Washington Post, May 17, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/05/17/why-does-north-korea-hate-the-united-states-lets-go-back-to-the-korean-war/?utm_term=.e950adf42486, accessed July 23, 2018.
175 Choe, S.-H., “South Korea voices support for U.S. antimissile system,” New York Times, June 26, 2017,https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/26/world/asia/south-korea-thaad-missile-defense.html, accessed July 23, 2018.
176Cited in, Choi, C., “‘Everyday politics’ in North Korea,” Journal of Asian Studies , 2013, 72(3): 655673, at p. 669.
177“Kim Il-sung’s New Year’s Address,” Rodong Sinmun, January 1, 1994.
178“DPRK Foreign Ministry Statement,” Korean Central News Agency, January 13, 2009.
179Park, 2000/2001, p. 507.
180“Kim Jong Un’s 2016 New Year Address.”
181Park, 2000/2001, p. 507.
182Son, p. 199.
183“Kim Jong Un’s 2016 New Year Address.”
184Choi, p. 656.
185Choi, p. 667.
186See also, Armstrong, C., “The cultural cold war in Korea, 1945–1950,” Journal of Asian Studies , 2003, 62(1): 7199.
187 Hwang, J., “Face-saving, reference point, and North Korea’s strategic assessments,” Korean Journal of International Relations , 2009, 49(6): 5575.
188 Braun, R. and Genkin, M., “Cultural resonance and the diffusion of suicide bombings: The role of collectivism,” Journal of Conflict Resolution , 2014, 58(7): 12581284.
189 Lee, T., Gelfand, M., and Shteynberg, G., “Culture and the contagion of conflict,” in Culture and Group Processes, Yuki, M. and Brewer, M., eds. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), pp. 241260.
190 Tajfel, H. and Turner, J., “An integrative theory of intergroup conflict,” in The Social Psychology of Intergroup Relations, Austin, W. G. and Worchel, S., eds. (Monterey, CA: Brooks-Cole, 1979), pp. 3347.
191 Jost, J. T. and Amodio, D. M., “Political ideology as motivated social cognition: Behavioral and neuroscientific evidence,” Motivation and Emotion , 2012, 36(1): 5565.
192 Hamby, S. and Grych, J., “The complex dynamic of victimization: Understanding differential vulnerability without blaming the victim,” in The Wiley Handbook on the Psychology of Violence, Cuevas, C. A. and Rennison, C. M., eds. (Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2016), pp. 6685.
193 Blagojevic, B., “Causes of ethnic conflict: A Conceptual framework,” Journal of Global Change & Governance , 2010, 3(1): 125.
194 Luterbacher, U., Emotions, Decision-Making, Conflict and Cooperation (Bingley: Emerald Group, 2017).
195Park, 2014, p. 6.
196 Chung, Y. C., “The Suryong system as the institution of collectivist development,” Journal of Korean Studies , 2007, 12(1): 4373, at pp. 51, 61.
197Chung, p. 61.
198“Ten Great Principles of the Establishment of the Unitary Ideology System,” http://www.internationallawbureau.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Ten-Great-Principles-of-the-Establishment-of-the-Unitary-ideology.pdf, accessed July 23, 2018.
199“Ten Great Principles.”
200“Ten Great Principles.”
201Park, 2014, p. 6.
202Park, 2014, p. 7.
203 Dasgupta, N., Banaji, M. R., and Abelson, R. P., “Group entitativity and group perception: Associations between physical features and psychological judgement,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 1999, 77(5): 9911003, at p. 1001.
204Chung, p. 65.
205Quoted in, Jeon, M., “The Kim Jong-il Regime’s ‘military-first politics’: Structure and strategy of discourse,” Review of Korean Studies , 2009, 12(4): 181204.
206Park, 2000/2001, p. 511.
207 Park, S.-Y., “North Korea’s military policy under the Kim Jong-un Regime,” Journal of Asian Public Policy , 2016, 9(1): 5774, at p. 63.
208See also Park, 2000/2001.
209Park, 2016, p. 63.
210Sagan.
211Son, p. 201.
212Quoted in Son, p. 203.
213A similar argument can be found in Sankaran Krishna’s analysis of the symbolism of nuclear weapons in Indian society. See, Krishna, S., “The social life of the bomb: India and the ontology of an ‘overpopulated’ society,” in South Asian Cultures of the Bomb: Atomic Publics and the State in India and Pakistan, Abraham, I., ed. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009), pp. 6888.
214 Kim, D. Y., “North Korea’s dual policy of nuclear and economic development and military changes,” Review of North Korean Studies , 2015, 18(2): 77120 [in Korean].
215Park, 2016, p. 66.
216 Grant, D. P., “North Korea will not stop its weapons development,” The Diplomat, July 8, 2017, http://thediplomat.com/2017/07/north-korea-will-not-stop-its-weapons-development/, accessed July 23, 2018.
217Son.
218 Camerer, C., Loewenstein, G., and Prelec, D., “Neuroeconomics: How neuroscience can inform economics,” Journal of Economic Literature , 2005, 43: 964.
219Hymans. See also, Stein, J. G., “Threat perception in international relations,” in The Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology, 2nd ed. Huddy, L., Sears, D. O., and Levy, J. S., eds. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 364394.
220 Lebow, R. N., Why Nations Fight: Past and Future Motives to War (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010).
221 Löwenheim, O. and Heimann, G., “Revenge in international politics,” Security Studies , 2008, 4: 685724.
222 Mercer, J., “Emotional beliefs,” International Organizations , 2010, 64(1): 131.
223 Van Evera, S., “Hypotheses on nationalism and war,” International Security , 1994, 18(4): 539; S. Van Evera, “Primed for peace: Europe after the Cold War,” International Security, 1990/1991, 15(3): 7–57.
224Lantis, p. 470.
225 Lewis, J., “Let’s face it: North Korean nuclear weapons can hit the U.S.,” New York Times, August 3, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/03/opinion/north-korea-nukes.html, accessed July 23, 2018.
226 Wolf, M., “After North Korea ICBM test, US Navy tests new missile defense radar,”Navy Times, August 4, 2017, http://www.navytimes.com/news/2017/08/04/after-north-korea-icbm-test-us-navy-tests-new-missile-defense-radar/, accessed July 23, 2018.
227 Morgan, P., “North Korea and nuclear weapons: Nonproliferation or deterrence? or both?,” in North Korea and Nuclear Weapons: Entering the New Era of Deterrence, Kim, S. C. and Cohen, M. D., eds. (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2017), pp. 1529.
228See J. Rogin, “If China won’t get tough on North Korea, Trump should get tough on China,” Washington Post, August 9, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/josh-rogin/wp/2017/08/09/trump-must-get-tougher-with-china-on-north-korea/?utm_term=.c404e914d89f, accessed July 23, 2018.
229 Perlez, J. and Baker, P., “Trump eyes China sanctions while seeking its help on North Korea, New York Times, August 12, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/12/world/asia/trump-china-north-korea.html, accessed July 23, 2018.
230Suh, p. 11.
231Suh, p. 11. See also H.-K. Han, Wounded Nationalism: The Minsaengdan Incident and Kim Il Sung in Eastern Manchuria. Ph.D. dissertation. (Seattle: University of Washington, 1999).
232 Ming, L., “Changes and continuities in Pyongyang’s China policy,” in North Korea in Transition: Politics, Economy, and Society, Park, K.-A. and Snyder, S., eds. (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2013), p. 290.
233Lankov, p. xiv.
234 Gordon, M. R. and Schmitt, E., “Even the most precise strike on North Korea could prompt retaliation,” New York Times, August 10, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/10/world/asia/north-korea-military-options-trump.html, accessed July 23, 2018.
235 Friedman, U., “North Korea: The military options,” The Atlantic, May 17, 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/05/war-north-korea-options/524049/, accessed July 23, 2018.
236 Metz, S., “Strategic asymmetry,” Military Review , 2001, 81(4): 2331.
237 Bennett, B. W., Twomey, C. P., and Treverton, G. F., What Are Asymmetric Strategies? (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 1999).
238This is already being done on a smaller scale by human rights groups such as Flash Drives for Freedom. See A. Greenberg, “Donate your old USB drives to fight North Korean brainwashing,” Wired, February 9, 2016,https://www.wired.com/2016/02/donate-your-old-usb-drives-to-fight-north-korean-brainwashing/, accessed July 23, 2018.
239See also, Boynton, R. S., “North Korea’s digital underground,” The Atlantic , 2011, 307(3): 5461.
240According to Bennett and Lind, the collapse of North Korea could trigger a catastrophic humanitarian crisis and create nuclear insecurity on the Korean Peninsula. See, Bennett, B. W. and Lind, J., “The collapse of North Korea: Military missions and requirements,” International Security , 2011, 36(2): 84119.
241“Ten Great Principles.”
242“Ten Great Principles.”
243Chung, p. 64.
244 Lee, W. Y. and Seo, J., “‘Cultural pollution’ from the South?,” in North Korea in Transition: Politics, Economy, and Society, Park, K.-A. and Snyder, S., eds. (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2013), pp. 196207.
245 Nye, J. and Kim, Y., “Soft power and the Korean wave,” in The Korean Wave: Korean Media Go Global, Kim, Youna, ed. (New York: Routledge, 2013), pp. 3142.
246 Min-Sik, Y., “S. Korean culture seeping into N. Korea,” Korea Herald, December 29, 2016, http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20161229000745, accessed July 23, 2018.
247Son, p. 208.
248Lee and Seo.
249 Babson, B., “Future strategies for economic engagement with North Korea,” in North Korea in Transition: Politics, Economy, and Society, Park, K.-A. and Snyder, S., eds. (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2013), p. 166.
250 Lankov, A., “Low-profile capitalism: The emergence of the new merchant/entrepreneurial class in post-famine North Korea,” in North Korea in Transition: Politics, Economy, and Society, Park, K.-A. and Snyder, S., eds. (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2013), p. 189.
251Son.
252Posen, p. 204.
253 Waltz, K., Man, the State, and War: A Theoretical Analysis, rev. ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001).
254 Kroenig, M., “The history of proliferation optimism: Does it have a future?,” Journal of Strategic Studies , 2015, 38(1–2): 98125.
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Politics and the Life Sciences
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