© SOFIA 2019

North Korea in Context:

Autocracy, Geography and Social Change

with Alex Dukalskis

Our Week 2 event was a presentation by Alex Dukalskis, lecturer of politics and international relations in University College Dublin and prominent researcher into authoritarian states, on the current situation in North Korea. Having visited North Korea on numerous occasions, he was able to share observations about the government and the lives of its inhabitants, as well as provide photos he took of some of the rarely seen people and places of this autocratic nation. 

He highlighted the power of government in controlling its citizens, and in particular touched on its wide surveillance capacity and the large network of labour camps which house 150,000-200,000 ‘counter-revolutionaries’. One of the main points made by Alex was that North Korea’s international relations have a considerable impact on its domestic affairs; China (its only treaty ally) is its main trade partner; its economy suffered due to the collapse of communist states across the world; and its antagonistic relationship with South Korea and the US is portrayed in domestic propaganda and ideology which are spread through schools, art, and the workplace.

The final part of his presentation focused on social change, which is being brought about by the free market, something that is gradually entering North Korean society. The market has brought greater information about the outside world, less dependency on the state and increased the amount of women in the workforce. The Q&A session centred mainly on the future of North Korea, its government, and the improvement of its citizens’ lives, about which he was generally positive.