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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

NK Witness Summer Vacation

by | August 25th, 2014 | 03:49 pm

This week, NK Witness will be taking a short Summer break. We will return with more news and analysis on Tuesday, September 2nd.

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The past is never dead. It’s not even past. In Northeast Asia, too.

by | August 22nd, 2014 | 06:58 am

In the early 1990s, when I was teaching international trade at Johns Hopkins University, students used to approach me wanting to write research papers on US-Japan trade relations, a hot topic of the day. I recommended two books: Reconcilable Differences? and War Without Mercy. The students had no trouble understanding why their professor would recommend […]

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Controlling the Border

by | August 21st, 2014 | 07:00 am

Recently, we ran a post on ongoing efforts to control cell phone communication along the border. The measures include jamming of signals, fixed and mobile radio wave detectors and—somewhat contradictorily—the distribution of more cellphones to security forces in the region. (An Open Radio for North Korea story on the first six months of the Kim […]

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Diplomatic Update: Trustpolitik, ASEAN Diplomacy and the Six Party Talks

by | August 20th, 2014 | 07:00 am

While I was traveling in Northeast China last week, there were a few diplomatic developments that warrant brief comment, starting with President Park’s bid to re-open a channel to the North and the outcome of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) meetings in Burma. In addition, “strategic patience” has been taking a beating both in hearings […]

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STTB: Mailing it in from the Beach Edition

by | August 19th, 2014 | 06:00 am

Jim Hage is an accomplished runner, a nice guy, and a complete obsessive. He’s been running every day for more than 30 years and has covered more than 100,000(!) miles during this streak. I learned how to say “wind chill” in French from an anecdote about arriving late one night in Montreal in the dead […]

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North Korean Refugees in China: Sometimes it’s Better to be Lucky than Good

by | August 15th, 2014 | 06:16 pm

In the last few weeks a spate of stories have emerged involving North Korean refugees in China and the people who may (or may not) be assisting them. Sorting out truth from fiction, systematic policy from ad hoc decisions by local officials, and signaling from fundamental policy shifts is no easy thing. Time to triangulate. […]

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STTB: This Week in Tourism and Fake Propaganda

by | August 15th, 2014 | 07:35 am

If you haven’t already seen it, “Enter Pyongyang” – a slick time-lapse video made in collaboration with Koryo Tours that shoots you through the North Korean capital – has made a big splash in news outlets and social media; at the time of this writing it has received 2.6 million views. In terms of technical […]

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The (non-) Embargo

by and Kevin Stahler | August 14th, 2014 | 07:06 am

Has a Chinese oil embargo delivered a devastating blow to the North Korean economy? Probably not. There has been some hubbub over China’s alleged de-facto oil embargo to North Korea; according to the Global Post, Chinese trade data has shown no crude exports to North Korea in the first six months of this year. China has […]

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Stephan Haggard on “Korean Kontext”

by | August 13th, 2014 | 07:40 am

Stephan Haggard was recently featured on an episode of KEI’s Korean Kontext, a podcast series that focuses on experts, artists and opinion makers that shape the U.S.-Korea policy world. The interview discusses possible reform paths for North Korea, including both domestic reforms of the agricultural and state-owned enterprise sector and the current push to induce […]

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Nae-Young Lee on Political Polarization in Korea

by | August 12th, 2014 | 06:58 am

This week, I attended a conference in Taiwan organized by Yun-han Chu (National Taiwan University) and Larry Diamond (Stanford) on the important question of polarization in Asian democracies. Nae-Young Lee (Korea University) gave an interesting paper on Korea, comparing levels of party and voter polarization over time, and we summarize some of the findings here. […]

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