Historical Social Research

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Hannes B. Mosler & Bong-Ki Lee: The Elephant in the Room: Problems and Potentials of the Workers’ Party of Korea in a Korean Unification Scenario. [Abstract]

This paper investigates how North Koreans today, after having lived under the rule of a particular one-party system, evaluate the role, performance, and potential of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) regarding future unification scenarios. This was done by analyzing survey data of North Korean migrants (N = 356) residing in South Korea, who serve as the best possible proxy for the North Korean populace. The survey comprises questions on the respondents’ general assessment of and trust in the party as well as their opinions on the role and development of the party when they were still in North Korea and now; it also includes questions about possible modes of reform for the party in the case of unification. Normatively speaking, for peaceful reunification it would be desirable for the fate of the WPK to be left to the people and free democratic elections, like in Germany; however, the particular trajectories of Korean contemporary history, including the Korean War (1950–1953), loom over such a worthwhile procedure. This is also reflected in the results that show negative appraisal of and low trust in the party, and high favor for its forced dissolution, thus providing important insights into the state of mind of North Koreans, and an important stimulus for thinking about possible ways to prepare a smooth transition into a post-division era.

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