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North Korea's Emerging Nuclear State Identity: Discursive Construction and Performative Enactment



Eric J. Ballbach – 2016

The main goal of this paper is to broaden our perception of North Korea s nuclear weapons program beyond military, economic, and political-diplomatic aspects and to propose a view of the program as a dynamic identity project of and for the North Korean state. Drawing on a poststructuralist approach that theorizes the state as performatively constituted and foreign policy as a political performance central to the production of identity, this paper analyzes North Korea s evolving nuclear state identity on two levels. Firstly, it scrutinizes the discursive construction of this particular identity trait, identifying both the process of exploration as well as the central contextual characteristics of this particular identity trait. Building on these deliberations, the study, secondly, analyzes the performative enactment of this identity construction by scrutinizing some of those iterated foreign policy performances that bring the constructed nuclear state identity into being. As its central argument, the paper holds that to P yongyang, the nuclear weapons program has significance well beyond its military, economic, and political-diplomatic aspects; it has become the most crucial identity project of the North Korean state in the post-Cold War era, ultimately resulting in the emergence of an authoritative nuclear state identity that is still in the process of being explored. This view opens a new perspective on the ongoing nuclear conflict with the international community as a vital performative space in which the DPRK stages its identity politics and continuously explores its identity as a nuclear weapons state.

North Korea's Emerging Nuclear State Identity: Discursive Construction and Performative Enactment
The Korean Association of International Studies
North Korea, nuclear state identity, foreign policy, performativity, poststructuralism
Erschienen in
The Korean Journal of International Studies 14-3 (December 2016), 390-414