One of the most prevalent results of the Democratic Republic of North Korea’s (DPRK) isolationism over the past six decades has been its extensive
engagement in illicit trade. By means of nuclear weapons development (Chestnut, 2007), currency fraud and counterfeiting, narcotics distribution (Nanto, 2008), and of course, high-profile international cyber-crime, the ruling elites have relied on illicit incomes or what we coin “Dark-Money”, to maintain political power, state institutions, and its nuclear draw-card in multilateral dialogue. Powerful narratives of otherization on both sides has caused polarization, fostered animosities, Cold War brinkmanship, and retarded efforts to create peaceful dialogues. Mutatis mutandis, scholars and diplomats have found it difficult to develop means to treat the endemic issues of DPRK state involvement in Dark-Money (Soreide & Rose-Ackerman, 2018).
Changing international political sentiments have offered new opportunities for peace and prosperity, but prospects of integration and political innovation remain elusive. This is particularly apparent while the DPRK remains dependent on Dark-Money for sustainment of the military-industrial complex and elite political power. Extant research has examined the DPRK’s black-market trade (Pearson, 2018; Lankov & Seok-hyang, 2008), but few have examined methods to understand state integration and control in Dark-Money acquisition.
Our paper begins with an overview on the methodologies of state-level Dark-Money development. By doing so it peers into the illicit enterprises of DPRK elites to understand the inter-dependencies they have with regional peace and prosperity. Second, we present a methodological analysis of how Dark-Money is legitimized for profit accumulation by elites, including the key actors in any emerging political orientation towards possible peace. Using our newly developed Juxtaposition Assessment Matrix (JAM), we then review recent data sets to develop a critical assessment of the structural embeddedness of Dark-Money generation, and of the lynch-pin relationships it has with prospects of peace.
The conclusion presents our findings of how the reliance on Dark-Money has created a self-perpetuating cycle of needs that services a robust antithesis to future stability on the peninsula. As such analysis has not before been introduced into academic discussions, we hope to contribute new dimensions for establishing a sustainable peace.