How failed is the DPRK?

James Pearson written an excellent article in The Diplomat on the DPRK’s position in the Failed State Index (FSI):

In recent years, North Korea has collected an impressive array of very unflattering superlatives. Whether it be the most “failed”, “corrupt” or “undemocratic” state in the world, it manages to frequently top (or bottom) such rankings and indexes.

It’s a pattern that emerges frequently, and often places North Korea just a few places below Somalia which, in the case of last year’s Failed States Index (FSI) seemed to confusingly suggest that the two states were almost as “failed” as each other. (A strange comparison to make when the absolute power Pyongyang manages to project across North Korea is the total antithesis of the complete anarchy that exists in Mogadishu).

The FSI uses 12 political, social and economic “indicators” to reach its conclusions. Politically, North Korea achieves an impressive 9.9/10 for “de-legitimization of the state” thanks to its “resistance of ruling elites to transparency, accountability and political representation.” Somalia is again a close second, which gains a rival 9.8/10 in the same group, presumably because it isn’t even clear who, or indeed where, the so-called “ruling elites” of Somalia actually are.

It’s therefore puzzling that we award the two states the same title. Somalia is widely recognized to have collapsed, yet while we’ve been talking about a North Korean collapse for over a decade, the regime has remained stable and resilient in the face of famine and economic decline.

Rearranging the FSI in descending order according to social indicators produces dramatically different results. By reorganizing the list by “human flight” (the term used to describe, among other things, the “growth of exile communities”), North Korea drops more than 90 places, landing only two places ahead of South Korea. It should go without saying why “human flight” is a fundamentally flawed method of measuring to what degree North Korea has “failed.”

Indeed, how the FSI managed to obtain any clear and reliable information from North Korea is a mystery. In the weeks following the death of Kim Jong-il and the succession of Kim Jong-un, analysts were quick to draw enormous conclusions derived largely from the memoirs of Kim Jong-il’s former sushi chef, Kenji Fujimoto – a surreal twist in an already bizarre tale.

Read the full article here:
How Failed is North Korea?
The Diplomat
James Pearson
2012-1-31

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