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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 Passport Index

by | May 23rd, 2015 | 01:31 pm

Social scientists like data, sometimes to their detriment. Thanks to my daughter Kit, I was alerted to the Passport Index, an interactive tool that ranks the passports of the world based on a simple metric: the number of countries that the passport holder can visit without a visa (either altogether or because they can be […]

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From the Twisted Mind of Nicholas Eberstadt

by | May 22nd, 2015 | 06:00 am

Nick Eberstadt is one of the few people in this business who annoys more people than I do. I thought of Nick when Steph Haggard passed along a UPI piece by Elizabeth Shinn titled “Kim Jong Un’s economic plan targets foreign investment.” Coming the same week that the North Koreans abruptly disinvited UN Secretary General […]

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The Defector

by | May 21st, 2015 | 07:00 am

In the “better late than never” category, I finally had the chance to see Canadian film-maker Ann Shin’s The Defector, a well-made documentary on the smuggling networks that get North Koreans refugees out of China to Thailand. Opening in 2012 and playing a number of film festivals, it continues to make the rounds–I saw it […]

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Not Satire: Lobster Farming in North Korea

by | May 20th, 2015 | 07:00 am

My colleague Marc Noland launched a “KCNA certifiable” designation that caught some flak. But it made me realize that we had not done a Not Satire post in a while. Thanks to an NKNews story (CNN picked it up too), we have an item that not only fits the bill but reveals something more serious […]

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Felix Abt’s “A Capitalist in North Korea: My Seven Years in the Hermit Kingdom”

by | May 19th, 2015 | 07:03 am

There is a terrific picture in Felix Abt’s memoir of him with about two dozen of his employees, mostly women, at a company picnic. Abt’s bet is that these are the faces of the new North Korea. Let’s hope so. As with the growing number of books written by those with extensive time on the […]

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Jieun Baek on Information Strategies for North Korea

by | May 18th, 2015 | 07:00 am

This blog has long supported information strategies vis-à-vis North Korea (and other closed regimes for that matter). Just as it is important to get people in and out of these countries, so it is important to get information in and out as well. In a new paper for the Belfer Center at Harvard (“Hack and […]

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Conference on International Sanctions Featuring Marcus Noland

by | May 16th, 2015 | 07:00 am

From April 30 – May 1, The New School’s Center for Public Scholarship hosted a conference on international sanctions and divestment featuring Marcus Noland as a discussant. Video links to the entire conference can be found here, and Marcus’s presentation on sanctions in North Korea starts around 23:05 in the video below. The panel also […]

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Bela Lugosi is dead. But we’re not sure about Kim Kyong-hui and Hyon Yong-chol.

by | May 15th, 2015 | 06:09 am

Twenty years ago in Seoul an official related to me that Kim Jong-il had the world’s second largest collection of pornography. I repressed my instinct to ask who was number one. He also explained that Kim had heart disease, emphysema, diabetes, syphilis, AIDS, pretty much everything but beriberi and rickets. A few years later, Kim […]

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Australians on North Korea: China-DPRK, Refugees and a Fellowship Opportunity

by | May 14th, 2015 | 07:00 am

Corrected May 14: an earlier version of this post gave the impression that the Australian government was unwilling to issue visas to North Koreans. This is not the case; such restrictions only apply to senior regime figures or those who contribute to the North’s missile or nuclear programs. North Korean students are allowed to study at […]

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Slave to the Blog: Russian Parades, Missile Launches and Purges Edition

by | May 13th, 2015 | 07:00 am

Countries like to own their victories, and the US is no exception. But it doesn’t take revisionist history to acknowledge that the Soviet Union was pivotal to the defeat of Nazi Germany. We can quibble about how the job got done: the competence and ruthlessness of Zhukov’s management of the Eastern Front—extending to his own […]

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