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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 Importance of Retained Earnings

by | September 17th, 2014 | 07:03 am

The Chosun Ilbo recently ran a piece titled “Economic Freedom Improves in N. Korea” describing the rise of market based activities. It gave the example of an entrepreneur who managed to scrape together $30,000 from family and friends and launched a textile factory in Chongjin. According to the article, the unnamed businessman forks over 30 […]

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Next Stages on the Commission of Inquiry: the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly

by | September 15th, 2014 | 11:46 pm

We have been in a holding pattern with respect to next steps on the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) findings; our posts on the CoI are collated below. The relevant parties deemed it a non-starter to try to push the issue through the UN Security Council, given the difficulty of securing support for non-consensus resolutions and […]

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Slave to the Blog: IT Update Edition

by | September 15th, 2014 | 07:00 am

We are increasingly convinced that future direction of North Korea—even in the short-run—will hinge on the information wars: the ongoing efforts by both North Koreans and outsiders to communicate and the equally intensive efforts on the part of the government to control such communication. It is hard for a regime of this sort to persist […]

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North Korean Adventures in the Horn of Africa

by | September 12th, 2014 | 07:00 am

Two Dutch researchers, Joost Oliemans and Stijn Mitzer, recently wrote a highly informative piece, “North Korea and Ethiopia, Brothers in Arms,” on North Korea’s military cooperation with that African country. Yet the story is even more convoluted than described in their piece, the upshot being that US government has at times turned a blind eye […]

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Expert Panel on Food Aid to North Korea

by | September 11th, 2014 | 06:49 am

Yesterday, The Guardian’s North Korea Network ran an article bringing together five expert opinions on how the outside world should approach food aid policies towards the DPRK. In addition to our own Marcus Noland, contributors include: Jang Jin-sung, North Korean defector and founder of New Focus International; Roberta Cohen, non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings […]

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The Mu Du Bong

by | September 10th, 2014 | 07:00 am

Back in July, we posted on a nice piece of investigative journalism by Claudia Rosett at Forbes on the Mu Du Bong. Using technology like Vessel Finder, Rosett was able to track the vessel—at least when its Automatic Identification System (AIS) was switched on—and found that its itinerary looked a lot like the Chong Chang […]

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Foreign Policy Wars II: Barry Posen’s Restraint in Asia

by | September 9th, 2014 | 07:00 am

Yesterday we outlined the basic arguments in Barry Posen’s Restraint: A New Foundation for U.S. Grand Strategy. Today, we outline how the argument would travel to Asia. Posen acknowledges that a rising China poses risks against which the US has to hedge. But he starts by underlining that China does not pose the same kind of […]

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Foreign Policy Wars: Barry Posen’s Restraint

by | September 8th, 2014 | 07:00 am

Barry Posen of MIT has written a lucid and highly readable defense of a more minimalist grand strategy for the United States, pithily titled Restraint: A New Foundation for U.S. Grand Strategy. Restraint argues for a conservative foreign policy in the Burkean sense; he repeatedly urges that we be more cautious and—as the title suggests—restrained. […]

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STTB: It’s All About the Benjamins

by | September 5th, 2014 | 06:04 am

We are living in a material world. –Madonna Follow the money. –Deep Throat Around the time that Jang Sung-taek was arrested and executed, rumors began circulating that one (or two) of his deputies were on the lam in China carrying critical bank account information (or in more fanciful renditions, nuclear codes). I have no idea […]

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Sources: The International Crisis Group on the ROK Intelligence Community

by | September 4th, 2014 | 07:00 am

The International Crisis Group’s Dan Pinkston has done another excellent report for the group that focuses on an understudied issue: the South Korean intelligence community. The report, entitled Risk of Intelligence Pathologies in South Korea, addresses the usual risks of intelligence failure and argues for the acquisition of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets to […]

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