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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

Kim Jong-un Shifts Course in Surprise Announcement!

by | April 1st, 2015 | 09:53 am

SEOUL, April 1 — In an unexpected turn of events, Kim Jong-un, the First Secretary of the Korean Workers’ Party, announced at an Enlarged Meeting of the Politburo that Pyongyang would embark on a major policy shift, seeking to engage with the international community in good faith. “For too long, the people of North Korea […]

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Pilger and Campbell on Cooling China-DPRK Relations

by | April 1st, 2015 | 07:00 am

This blog always appreciates new research on the DPRK, and Michael Pilger and Caitlain Campbell have obliged with a short, punchy report  on China-DPRK diplomacy for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. Using Director of National Intelligence Open Source data from 2009 through 2014, the report tracks all reported bilateral diplomatic exchanges between the two countries, breaking […]

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China’s AIIB: Seoul: “yes,” Pyongyang: “no way”

by | March 31st, 2015 | 05:16 am

South Korea is joining the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. According to a South Korean government spokesperson, Seoul will complete negotiations with other AIIB members over the bank establishment accord by June, which will then be submitted to the national assembly for ratification in the second half of the year. Subject to approval from AIIB’s other […]

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Detainees: Kim Guk-gi and Choe Chun-gil

by | March 30th, 2015 | 06:16 am

Detentions of foreigners play multiple roles in North Korea’s political system, not only addressing real threats but reminding the public of the anti-system dangers that lurk. Korean speakers are clearly more dangerous than the cast of other not-so-innocents abroad that run afoul of North Korean law (see below for a running tally) and they generally […]

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Action Items for North Korea Freedom Week 2015

by | March 28th, 2015 | 07:00 am

From the North Korea Freedom Coalition (NKFC): March 24, 2015 Dear Friends: The 12th Annual North Korea Freedom Week April 26-May 2nd 2015 is just around the corner – below please find an update on the confirmed public events so far for this week to promote the freedom, human rights, and dignity of the North […]

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Why Unification is Not a Selfish Wish

by | March 27th, 2015 | 07:12 am

The Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs sponsors an annual international affairs essay competition for high school and college students. This year the contest attracted 173 entries from 38 countries. Winners receive Amazon gift certificates and a copy of Ethics & International Affairs: A Reader. This year the question to be addressed was “What […]

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STTB: Tales of Labor, Depression, and the University of Maryland Terrapins Schooling President Obama

by | March 26th, 2015 | 05:27 am

Let’s start with something serious before wandering off into the usual North Korean weirdness. It drives me nuts when people talk abstractly about “Chinese style reform” or even “agricultural reform” as though some vague aspiration will translate into results on the ground. So it’s nice when someone bothers to look under the hood. IFES recently […]

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My (Foreign) Country Home

by | March 25th, 2015 | 06:54 am

Back when I taught international trade, land was treated as an internationally fixed factor, while capital and labor could cross borders. That’s still a reasonable assumption (excepting eastern Ukrainian farmland, that is) but there has been a trend in recent years of foreign entities purchasing or leasing large tracts of agricultural land in foreign countries […]

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Christopher Hill’s Outpost: Things Fall Apart (Part II)

by | March 24th, 2015 | 07:00 am

Yesterday, I reviewed the sections of Christopher Hill’s memoir, Outpost: Life on the Frontlines of American Diplomacy, dealing with the negotiation of the September 2005 Joint Statement and the Banco Delta Asia problem. The resolution of BDA set the stage for two operational agreements: the Initial Actions for Implementation of the Joint Statement of February […]

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Christopher Hill’s Outpost : The BDA Problem (Part I)

by | March 23rd, 2015 | 07:00 am

Christopher Hill’s lively memoir, Outpost: Life on the Frontlines of American Diplomacy, is a good read. Like all memoirs, it necessarily shows its protagonist in the best light. But it is nonetheless honest—and caustic—about the challenges that come with diplomacy, including sheer tedium. Hill also shows that those challenges stem not only from our adversaries […]

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