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North Korea: Witness to Transformation

In this blog, we report on developments in and around North Korea, including the broader security setting and political, economic, and social change in the country.

Recent Posts

The Satellite Launch

by | February 8th, 2016 | 09:43 am

International responses to North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests have taken on a highly ritualized quality that we have tracked before: test, outrage, condemnation, test again, escalation, de-escalation and return to an ever-changing new normal. This commentary touches briefly on three issues: the relationship of the satellite test to the missile and nuclear programs; the […]

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Chinese Response to the 4th Nuclear Test: the Virtual Public Square

by | February 5th, 2016 | 07:00 am

We are always interested in approaches to North Korea that involve new data and analysis, and former Washington Post reporter and Asia hand Keith Richburg has done that at the Nikkei Asian Review. With assistance from Ryanne Hsu, a graduate student at the University of Hong Kong, Richburg scraped Weibo for chatter on North Korea […]

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Orascom sanctions bombshells

by | February 3rd, 2016 | 02:45 pm

One of the drearier aspects of working on North Korea is that the lack of hard data means that observers are free to spin out unfalsifiable speculation. It is not without reason that someone once likened writing about North Korea to writing fiction. So it is always a pleasant relief to encounter someone who is […]

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The British Role in the Founding of the AIIB

by and Jason Kuo | February 3rd, 2016 | 07:00 am

On January 16, 2016, China launched the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) at a lavish ceremony in Beijing. From the very beginning, prospects of securing appropriation to join the Bank in the US were slim. The Obama administration challenged the wisdom of the AIIB saying it duplicated the existing international financial institutions and was vulnerable […]

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The Sinuiju Zone and the Tin Ear Problem

by | February 2nd, 2016 | 07:00 am

North Korea has rolled out a new investment promotion effort for the Sinuiju International Economic Zone. With an estimated 20,000 or more North Koreans already working in Chinese sister city Dandong and attempts at formal integration foundering, the relevant economic question is “so what?” Can the effort to attract foreign direct investment through opening new […]

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Sanctions update

by | February 1st, 2016 | 06:40 am

Last week I identified the organized export of labor as a possible new target of sanctions. Legislation that unanimously passed the Senate Foreign Relations committee would appear to establish the legal basis for sanctioning this activity. This practice, which earns the Pyongyang regime probably hundreds of millions of dollars in hard currency annually, is highly […]

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All-Party UK Parliamentary Group on North Korea — North Korea Conference 2016

by | January 30th, 2016 | 07:00 am

We have noticed the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea has become more active; recently they held a meeting on sanctions and on February 22 they are holding a discussion on a topic that is near to our hearts: violence against women, including as connected to trafficking and the refugee question. The deadline to express […]

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Hockey Engagement in North Korea

by | January 29th, 2016 | 07:00 am

For his next foray into North Korea sports engagement, Michael Spavor (below), a Canadian who was behind planning Dennis Rodman’ trips (numbers 2-4), is organizing a hockey tournament in Pyongyang from March 7-11 with the stated goal of building stronger Canada-DPRK relations. The event has purportedly received some interest from former NHL players, who are […]

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South Korea As Number 1?

by | January 28th, 2016 | 07:00 am

Bloomberg Business recently caused a bit of a stir when it released its “2016 Innovation Index” which ranked South Korea number one, with an aggregate score of 91.3, well ahead of Germany (85.3), Sweden (85.2), Japan (85.0), and Switzerland (84.7). The United States placed eighth (82.6). North Korea was nowhere to be found. The index […]

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Extending Sanctions

by | January 27th, 2016 | 05:33 am

In the wake of North Korea’s fourth nuclear test, debate has resumed in the UN, the US, and elsewhere about how to exercise leverage over the country’s evolving nuclear and missile programs. Given the low level of trade between North Korea and the rest of the world, attention has focused on secondary sanctions: imposing restrictions […]

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