North Korea in the Heart of East Asian Tensions

Autumn 2021

Application period: August 23 – September 14 2021

Level: Master’s level

Language: English

Amount of credits: 5 cr

Time: October 25 – December 17 2021

Organizer: University of Jyväskylä/ Finnish University Network for Asian Studies

Instructor:  Pekka Korhonen, Professor of World Politics

Goals: To understand the nature and methods of a particular international confrontation in East Asia, to learn to navigate in information fields imbued with war propaganda, and to acquire the necessary theoretical concepts with which to continue sensibly following the East Asian drama via the mass media and academic studies during the following years.

Contents: The importance of East Asia in the world system has been growing continuously for decades – as everyone has certainly heard. An element of this importance is the military aspect and the possibilities for a major war breaking out in the region. Small and poor North Korea is in the heart of these tensions, both in its own right as a sovereign and in many ways a surprisingly skillful actor, but also as a cover under which other important regional powers, namely the United States, China, South Korea, Russia and Japan play their own political and military games. The course makes an interpretation on what kind of state North Korea is, in light of its surprising staying power over several decades in spite of domestic economic mismanagement and international hostility. Part of the answer is surveillance and repression, but North Korea also has a viable legitimacy structure based on a home-made religion, and its leadership skillfully employs modern media and music in building up a religiously imbued strong nationalistic spirit. Combined with rapid advances in missile and nuclear technology, the North Korean system of organizing its state structure has turned it into a ”small great power”, able to stand against and threaten the Unites States, which is militarily, technologically, economically, politically etc. etc. tens of times bigger and stronger. Partly the explanation for the situation lies also outside of North Korea, in the gradual relative weakening of the United States, the equally gradual relative strengthening of China, and the way lesser powers like Japan, Russia and South Korea play their own games in the unsettled political playing field. The theoretical interpretative tools of the course are taken partly from cultural legitimacy theories and partly from very ugly realist theories, as the subject matter of the course is raw military and political competition.

Taken as: Lecture diary

Application process:

Students who hold a valid study right at University Network’s member university can take this course for free. This includes both degree students and exchange students.

Other students can apply to the course as external self-paying students of the University of Turku.

This course has a maximum intake of 40 students. Students are selected in the order of application. The places are divided evenly between the member universities of the Network.

Go to application instructions by clicking here.

Once your application has been processed, you will receive a  message about the decision. This will come a few weeks after the application period has ended. If you are accepted to the course, you will receive a welcoming email on the first day of the course, and gain access to the course site in the Moodle. The welcome email comes to the address you have given in the application form. It may go to the spam or offers-folder of your email (at least gmail tends to do it), so check those folders too.

Photo: Micha Brändli on Unsplash