North Korea’s Engagement in International Institutions: The Case of the ASEAN Regional Forum
Eric J. Ballbach – 2017
Despite a successive increase in the DPRK’s engagement with international organizations and institutions since the 1970s, research on North Korean foreign policy largely ignores the role of multilateralism in the DPRK’s overall foreign policy conception and thus lacks a sufficient understanding of the country’s engagement with the international community through international organizations and institutions. This is all the more surprising given that encouraging the engagement of North Korea into stable structures of cooperation is considered to be among the most pressing tasks in contemporary Northeast Asia. Such an engagement, however, presupposes an understanding of the motives and strategies that lead to North Korean engagement in or disengagement from regional and international organizations and institutions. This paper aims to fill this void in the international literature by scrutinizing an especially significant case of the DPRK’s institutionalized engagement with a particular institution: the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). Embedded in a broader overview of North Korea’s participation with international and regional organizations and institutions at large, this study analyzes the history, structure and organization of the DPRK’s engagement with the ARF, aiming to distill the motives, strategies, and patterns of interaction with this significant institution. It reveals that (1) North Korea’s decision to join the ARF was mainly due to the organization’s loose decision-making procedures, (2) North Korea finds the ARF useful as it provides the country with a venue to interact with other states and (3) North Korea, as a theater state, uses the ARF as a stage on which national role conceptions can be articulated and dramatized.
Dr. Eric J. Ballbach is Post-doctoral Research Fellow and a lecturer at the Institute of Korean Studies, Freie Universität Berlin, where he is also Director of the Research Unit II: North Korea and International Security. He currently serves as Visiting Fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik) in Berlin. Dr. Ballbach received his Ph.D. from the Political Science Department of the University of Trier. His research focuses on North and South Korean foreign and security policies, multilateralism in East Asia, identity politics on the Korean peninsula, and critical theories of International Relations. He can be reached at: email@example.com and Eric.Ballbach@swp-berlin.org.