Political Attitudes under Repression: Evidence from North Korean Refugees
Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland
East-West Center Working Papers, Politics, Governance, and Security Series, No. 21
Honolulu: East-West Center
What do citizens of highly repressive regimes think about their governments? How do they respond to high levels of repression? This paper addresses these questions by examining the political attitudes of North Korean refugees. Unsurprisingly the evaluations of regime performance are negative, and there is some evidence that they are becoming more so, even among the core political class and government or party workers. While the sample marginally overrepresents groups with the most negative evaluation of the regime, multivariate analysis is used to generate projections of the views of the wider population; this exercise indicates that that the null hypothesis that the refugees accurately represent the views of the resident population cannot be rejected at the 95 percent level. However the survey also shows that the barriers to effective communication and collective action remain high; repression works to deter political activity. Partly due to economic exigency, partly due to repression, private defiance of the government takes the form of "everyday forms of resistance," such as listening to foreign media and engaging in market activities. Although not overtly political, these actions have long-term political consequences.