On the question of effectiveness of sanctions against DPRK

On the question of effectiveness of sanctions against DPRK

Korgun I.A.,

Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia, irinakorgun@yandex.ru

elibrary_id: 498173 | ORCID: 0000-0002-1496-4375 | RESEARCHER_ID: N-5433-2015

Toloraya G.D.,

Doctor of Economics, Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia, toloraya@nkibrics.ru

elibrary_id: 732345 | ORCID: 0000-0002-3685-2120 | RESEARCHER_ID: K-2733-2017

DOI: 10.17976/jpps/2022.03.07

For citation:

Korgun I.A., Toloraya G.D. On the question of effectiveness of sanctions against DPRK. – Polis. Political Studies. 2022. No. 3. P. 80-95. (In Russ.). https://doi.org/10.17976/jpps/2022.03.07


This paper aims to contribute to the discussion on the effectiveness of sanctions as a foreign policy tool by analysing the impact of UN sanctions on DPRK’s economy. The problem lies at the center of attention from the international community as more countries become subject to a growing variety and scope of restrictions imposed by the US. The US establishment views such restrictions as a key element in achieving its foreign policy goals. But more importantly, sanctions are increasingly being used for purposes of economic competition. The case of North Korea allows the authors to identify some major trends in the way sanctions are applied and to suggest the trajectory of their development for at least the mid-term period. International sanctions against North Korea were passed at the UN in December 2017. Measures proposed by the US and its allies targeted 90% of DPRK’s exports and a considerable part of imports aiming to undermine the regime’s ability to finance itself. But contrary to expectations, there was little progress in the situation and diplomatic attempts did not allow to coerce the North into any considerable concessions in terms of policy changes. The analysis of the economic consequences of sanctions, done in this research, shows that Pyongyang is driven towards illegal activity, its tactics become more sophisticated and the types of operations it undertakes is diversifying rapidly. The findings demonstrate that on multiple occasions, sanctions contradict the initial goals set by the December 2017 UN package. But the current trends in the use of sanctions suggest that they will remain one of the most widely used tools in the Western foreign policy in the near future. The spheres of sanctions’ application will likely expand and become more complex, will involve a wider array of private sector actors. DPRK case study shows the shapes of things to come. 

DPRK, sanctions, effectiveness of sanctions, North Korean economy, Security Council, UN.


Early, B.K. (2015). Busted sanctions: explaining why economic sanctions fail. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Frank, R. (2006). The political economy of sanctions against North Korea. Asian Perspective, 30(3), 5-36.

Goodkind, D., & West, L. (2001). The North Korean famine and its demographic impact. Population and Development Review, 27(2), 219-238.

Harrell, P., & Zarate, J. (2018). How to successfully sanction North Korea: a long-term strategy for Washington and its allies. Foreign Affairs. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/north-korea/2018-01-30/how-successfully-sanction-north-korea

Hufbauer, G.C., & Jung, E. (2020). What’s new in economic sanctions? European Economic Review, 130, 103572. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.euroecorev.2020.103572

Hufbauer, G.C., Schott J.J., Elliott K.A., & Oegg B. (2009). Economic sanctions reconsidered. Vol. 3rd. Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Jervis, R. (1992). Political implications of loss aversion. Political Psychology, 13, 187-204. https://doi.org/10.2307/3791678

Kahneman, D., Knetsch, J.L., & Thaler, R.H. (1991). Anomalies: the endowment effect, loss aversion, and status quo bias. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 5(1), 193-206. https://doi.org/10.1257/jep.5.1.193

Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (1979). Prospect theory: an analysis of decision under risk. Econometrica, 47(2), 263-291, https://doi.org/10.2307/1914185

Kang, C.D. (2003). Getting Asia wrong. International Security, 27(4), 57-58.

Kim, I., & Lee, J. (2019). Sanctions for nuclear inhibition: Comparing sanctions conditions between Iran and North Korea. Asian Perspective, 43(1), 95-122.

Koen V., & Beom J. (2020). The last transition economy? OECD Economics Department Working Papers, 1607. Paris: OECD Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1787/82dee315-en

Levkowitz, A. (2007). Why do we not understand the DPRK? North Korean Review, 3(2), 94-100.

Miller, N.L. (2014). The secret success of nonproliferation sanctions. International Organizations, 68(4), 913-944.

Morgan, P. (2003). Deterrence and rationality. In Deterrence Now (Cambridge Studies in International Relations) (pp. 42-79). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511491573.003

Solingen, E. (2007). Nuclear logics: contrasting paths in East Asia and the Middle East. Princeton, NJ; Woodstock, Oxfordshire: Princeton University Press.

Solingen, E. (2012). Sanctions, statecraft, and nuclear proliferation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Solingen, E. (2019). Sanctions, sequences, and statecraft: insights from behavioral economics. In A.I. Harrington, J.W. Knopf (Ed.), Behavioral Economics and Nuclear Weapons (pp. 115-134). Studies in Security and International Affairs. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.

Wood, R.M. (2008). A hand upon the throat of the nation: economic sanctions and state repression, 1976-2001. International Studies Quarterly, 52(3), 489-513. https://academic.oup.com/isq/article-ab­stract/52/3/489/1871290?redirectedFrom=fulltex


Bulychev, G.B., & Korgun, I.A. (2019). Sanctions and their implications for North Korea’s trade and economy. Far Eastern Studies, 5, 64-75. https://doi.org/10.31857/S013128120007505-6

Dyachkov I.V. (2018). UN sanctions against the DPRK: an assessment of efficiency. Vestnik Tambovskogo universiteta. Seriya: Gumanitarnye nauki – Tambov University Review. Series: Humanities, 23(177), 176.

Ilijin, A.V., & Kurnykin, O.Yu. (2014). North Korean crisis through the lens of the UN Security council resolutions. Comparative Politics. No. 1. http://lawinfo.ru/catalog/6653/7136/1/7769

Toloraya, G.D., Korgun, I.A., & Gorbacheva, V.O. (2020). Sanktsii v otnoshenii KNDR: analiz pos­ledstviĭ i uroki [Sanctions against DPRK: consequences and lessons]. Moscow: Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences. (In Russ.) https://inecon.org/docs/2020/files/Toloraya_paper_2020.pdf

Zakharova, L.V. (2019). The influence of UN Security Council sanctions on the North Korean Economy. International Organisations Research Journal, 14(2), 223-244. https://doi.org/10.17323/1996-7845-2019-02-09

Zhebin, A.Z. (Ed.). (2017). Korea facing new challenges. Moscow: Institute of Far Eastern Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences. 

Content No. 3, 2022

See also:

Toloraya G.D., Torkunov A.V.,
Nuclear and Missile Threat on the Korean Peninsula: Origins and Response Measures. – Polis. Political Studies. 2016. No4

Timofeev I.N.,
The U.S. Sanctions Against Iran: Experience and Eventual Implications. – Polis. Political Studies. 2018. No4

Timofeev I.N.,
“Sanctions for Sanctions Violation”: U.S. Department of Treasury Enforcement Actions against Financial Sector. – Polis. Political Studies. 2020. No6

Arapova E.Ya., Kudinov A.S.,
International sanctions legislation in the U.S., EU and UK: a comparative study. – Polis. Political Studies. 2022. No6

Timofeev I.N.,
Policy of sanctions in a changing world: theoretical reflection. – Polis. Political Studies. 2023. No2



   2024      2023      2022      2021   
   2020      2019      2018      2017      2016   
   2015      2014      2013      2012      2011   
   2010      2009      2008      2007      2006   
   2005      2004      2003      2002      2001   
   2000      1999      1998      1997      1996   
   1995      1994      1993      1992      1991