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© 2019 Jeffrey Robertson

North Korea and diplomatic socialisation

Friday, February 19, 2016

Diplomatic socialisation involves the integration of community members through the building of shared cultural, attitudinal, and behavioural norms to create an 'international society'. Members can relate to states, but also NGOs, inter-governmental organizations (IGOs), multi-national corporations (MNCs) and even globally relevant individuals. Diplomatic socialisation also operates at a micro-level. Individual diplomats within the diplomatic corps in a capital city become socialised into the norms of diplomatic society, as highlighted by Paul Sharp and Geoffrey Wiseman in their text The Diplomatic Corps as an Institution of International Society. But the concept of diplomatic socialisation runs counter to current efforts to address the North Korean nuclear issue - including the most recent effort to challenge its membership in the United Nations

The challenge is that diplomatic socialisation has had few long-term or even medium-term successes with North Korea. North Korea has energetically sought to avoid overt socialisation. Even at the height of the Sunshine Policy, North Korea proved incredibly skilful in avoiding socialisation at all levels. The growth of diplomatic corps in Pyongyang in the early stages of the Sunshine Policy did nothing to change the level of interaction. The diplomatic corps remain centralised, restricted in movement, and tightly constrained in their action. North Korean diplomats abroad similarly remained careful not to overtly engage, and played only minor roles in interaction with other members of the diplomatic corps, and indeed, often did so in ways that challenged rather than supported norms of diplomatic society.

Proponents of diplomatic socialisation in the context of North Korea today face a major challenge. Justifying interaction in the hopes of socialisation is an uphill battle. While there are solid theoretical foundations, there is little evidence to support interacting with North Korea. It always seems easier to sanction, isolate and alienate members who dont adhere to social norms. But is it the best way?


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