How to Treat Your Sworn Enemy: North Korea's Securitisation of the United States

  • Benedikt Christoph Staar (Author)


Despite the growing literature on the securitisation of North Korea, securitisation in the authoritarian state has been understudied thus far. Through analysing North Korean primary sources, this article presents the complexity of North Korean securitisation by examining how the United States is securitised in the North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun and by North Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, looking at data from between 2017 and 2020. By expanding a framework that is centred in the illocutionary logic of securitising speech acts and by incorporating socio-political authority into its analysis, this article shows that securitisation in North Korea goes beyond the sole purpose of leader-legitimation. Instead, North Korea strategically (de)securitises by having certain governmental speakers utilise only specific strands of securitisation in such a way that potential contradictory changes in securitisation content do not substantially harm the credibility of the North Korean leadership. As a result, if there is a political, economic or other gain to be had, the North Korean government can change its depiction of the US with a negligible legitimacy loss and can comparatively easily resecuritise the US again when external conditions change.


Securitisation, resecuritisation, non-democratic securitisation, North Korea, North Korean media, autocratic legitimacy