Dissertation

The Process of Democratic Breakdown:

Controlling Information While Evading Term Limits

Politicians often erode democratic institutions to consolidate their personal power through acts like term limit evasions. Violations of fundamental constitutional arrangements, so-called "bright line" institutions, are often expected to result in anti-government opposition. Then how do leaders evading term limits extend the term and keep their office? I argue that political leaders strategically prevent protests after the initiation of term limit evasions by limiting the free flow of information that is imperative for potential dissidents to collectively mobilize against a leader. Using difference-in-differences with matching for Time-Series Cross-Sectional data, I show that term limit evasions are followed by a marked decrease in a country's freedom of expression and it is more salient in autocracies than in democracies. In addition, using Venezuela as an example, I provide micro-evidence of information control by investigating how topics of opposition media change after term-limit evasion. Automated text analysis shows that a leader evading term limits not only censors threatening political information but also induces the media to offer distracting and apolitical information.

Paper

Subnational Elections and Media Freedom in Autocracies:
Diffusion of Local Reputation and Regime Survival

What is the effect of local elections on autocratic regime survival? We argue that the benefit of local elections for regime survival is conditional on a lack of media freedom: As the level of media freedom increases, the positive influence of holding local elections on regime survival decreases. This is because local elections provide local politicians with opportunities to build a good reputation, and when good reputations formed at the local level spread across the country via relatively free media, citizens can coordinate around an alternative leader with good reputation, thereby threatening regime stability. Using the case of Mexican democratization and the quantitative analysis of TSCS data, we find empirical support for our theory.

Paper

Depicting Women in North Korean Propaganda

How does a way of depicting women in authoritarian propaganda change over time? Does authoritarian propaganda reflect changes in women's representation in politics? I address these questions in the context of North Korea where all media are perfectly controlled by the regime. Since Kim Jong-Un took office, a few female politicians were appointed to important positions. Among them is Kim Yo-Jong, a sister of Kim Jong-Un, who became a de facto leader of the department that oversaw all propaganda. To examine how propaganda about women changes over time, I leverage North Korean state media reports for 1998-2019 with a Temporal Word Embeddings with a Compass (TWEC), which is a cutting-edge word embedding method that accounts for temporal changes of words. Results show that since Kim Jong-Un became a de facto leader, the state media have increased emphasis on traditional women’s roles, such as mother and wife, while reducing the emphasis on active roles in socialism, such as revolutionary and hero. Moreover, a female politician taking charge of propaganda does not make any difference.