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The Whisper in the Ear: Re-defector Press Conference as Information Management Tool
Published March 12, 2015
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Although coercion is a key element in the governing strategy of the North Korean party-state, the authorities in Pyongyang do not hold political power at the barrel of a gun alone. Control and manipulation of information are equally important tools. This paper uses the case of “re-defector” press conferences convened in Pyongyang between 2011 and 2013 to illustrate how the party-state employs an active information management strategy to buttress its rule. Building upon the contemporary “politics of authoritarianism” literature and the concept of governmentality, this paper utilizes Thomas Callaghy’s “domain consensus” as a framework to codify the reciprocal communicative process by which the party-state interacts with the citizenry. The domain consensus framework subdivides authoritarian control into a trifurcated framework of ideal types: coercive, utilitarian, and normative. This working paper focuses on the third of these – the normative. As such, this paper explores the information management strategy used to promote a consensus on expectations of life inside and outside North Korea. Using brand new structured interview findings, this paper also provides a bottomup perspective that shows how the information propagated by the government of Kim Jong-un is manipulated, rejected, or reproduced by ordinary people.

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