In the end, the whole contraption is really only functioning because non-totalitarian neighbors prefer it not to collapse. The Republic of Korea purports to be the legitimate government of all of Korea, so if a North Korean makes it to the South, they can defect and become citizens. But China doesn’t want to be flooded with refugees from the DPRK and doesn’t want the DPRK to collapse, so they won’t allow the ROK to accept defectors at Chinese consulates. Meanwhile, it’s not clear that South Koreans would genuinely want China to change its mind about this, since reunification would in practice be a gigantic logistical and economic disaster for the ROK. So for now the North survives, and outside actors hope it will become a bit less paranoid and more reformy. This is obviously cold comfort to the DPRK’s victims, but it’s genuinely very different from the stable Eastasia/Eurasia/Oceania troika of 1984.