In Kim Jong-un’s Strategy for Survival, David W. Shin contends that Kim Jong-un's consolidation of power at home and the leveraging of Beijing, Moscow, Seoul, and Washington, and others abroad show that he is not a madman and, like the two earlier Kims, has consistently been underestimated. Shin presents an alternative framework for Kim Jong-un’s behavior through his analysis of Kim's background and his development as the successor to his father, Kim Jong-il; the evolution of the totalitarian system Kim inherited from his grandfather, Kim Il-sung; and the security environment after Kim Jong-il’s death in 2011. This book is recommended for scholars and students of political science, Asian studies, international relations, and history.
David W. Shin is associate professor and deputy department chair in the Regional Security Issues Department at the National Intelligence University.
1 Madness, Brinkmanship, and Madman Theory
2 The Ambitious Third Son as Natural Heir to His Grandfather
3 North Korea’s Totalitarianism: Balancing Terror with Co-option
4 Kim Jong-Un’s Understanding of the Security Environment in 2012
5 New Byungjin Line and Kim Jong-Un’s Successful Nuclear ICBM Gambit
6 August 2015 Landmine Incident: Limited War of Legitimacy
7 Nuclear Crisis in 2017 with a “Madman” and Perfecting Kim’s Nuclear ICBMs
8 Kim Jong-un’s Charm Offensive and Diplomatic Stalemate with the U.S.
In Kim Jong-un’s Strategy for Survival, David Shin offers a compelling account of why the challenge of nuclear-armed North Korea is not going away. Shin chronicles how the three Kims crafted a very Korean-style totalitarianism, engineered the first-ever communist dynastic succession, and built a nuclear arsenal. This is a must-read for understanding why North Korea continues to exist at all in the twenty-first century despite the repression, poverty, and isolation, a sharp contrast to the global and prosperous South Korea.
As Dr. Shin’s work shows, Kim Jong Un is a ruthless, driven and calculating leader that we should neither fear, nor underestimate—not a bloodthirsty madman, nor an irrational amateur. In his latest book, Dr. Shin synthesizes key insights from the work of other top Korea experts with a broad base of theory and North Korean official statements. The result is a cogent analysis founded on four case studies. This book is recommended reading for anyone who seeks to understand North Korea’s current decision-making.
I am delighted to recommend Dr. Shin’s Kim Jong-un’s Strategy for Survival. This will be a most useful book both for people conversant in North Korean politics and for those with little to basic knowledge about the country and its leadership. Dr. Shin adeptly links North Korea’s military and security events and issues to domestic political considerations, leadership dynamics, and sociocultural considerations. What is more, Dr. Shin has an accessible writing style and knowledge base, making this a most worthy book for course adoption.
We will not successfully negotiate with Kim Jong-un to give up his nuclear capability unless we comprehensively analyze Kim’s survival strategy and what makes him tick. This book enables us to ‘get to know’ Kim—his insecurities, his objectives, his rationality, and perhaps even his limitations. Though Kim started inexperienced and immature, the author shows he is now firmly established as the credible successor to his father and grandfather. Undermining the assumption that Kim might be outplayed and outsmarted in the ‘game’ for denuclearization is Shin's critical takeaway for international relations scholars and policy analysts.
Dr. Shin takes to task the journalists, pundits, and government officials who explain away North Korea's dramatic policy shifts, weapons developments, and ’provocations’ as being the result of highly unpredictable, possibly irrational, leadership in Pyongyang. He demonstrates how such misconceptions have resulted in intelligence and policy failures, removing Kim Jong-un from generally accepted international norms and values, and places him firmly in the context of his family's and North Korea's history.