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North Korea and the Geopolitics of Development, Kevin Gray and Jong-Woon Lee

Reviewed by Axel Patrick Catellier

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More than two years after the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, North Korea's self-imposed isolation measures remain in place, denying the international community even the modicum of knowledge it previously had of the country's economic and humanitarian situation. At the same time, the geopolitical environment outside North Korea's borders continues to increase in complexity as U.S.-China competition accelerates and South Korea embraces a greater role in international affairs. Kevin Gray and Jong-Woon Lee's book North Korea and the Geopolitics of Development is therefore well situated for the current state of affairs, and it is a welcome and insightful examination of how three geopolitical “moments” shaped the development of North Korea's political economy.

North Korea and the Geopolitics of Development posits that North Korea's geopolitical environment provides a more holistic explanation for its unique development and catch-up industrialization as opposed to a more traditional focus on the decisions and preferences of the Kim family regime. Gray and Lee analyze three geopolitical moments: colonialism and the rise of developmental nationalisms, the structure of Cold War competition, and shifts accompanying the rise of China. Each section is based on robust research, particularly from underutilized Korean-lan

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