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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

# 1, With a Bullet!

by | July 7th, 2015 | 06:38 am

Last week the Korea Institute for National Unification reported that North Korea had publicly executed at least 1,382 individuals between 2000 and 2014, or more than 90 per year over that time period.  According to Amnesty International, China leads the world in state-sponsored murders by a large margin, killing more than 1,000 of its citizens in […]

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Investing in North Korea: The Queensway Group

by and Marcus Noland | July 6th, 2015 | 06:34 am

Last week, behind its paywall, the Financial Times ran a story reported by Tom Burgis that speaks to who is investing in North Korea and how. Much of the article is taken up with the usual, uninformative boilerplate–isolated regime, Kim family, atrocities—but it proves an interesting piece of investigative journalism in the end. It leads […]

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Speaking Fees Galore!

by | July 2nd, 2015 | 07:01 am

Since the revelation that the Clintons have hauled in $25 million in speaking fees since the start of 2014, the question is being raised everywhere. Frankly, Marc Noland and I are trying to figure out how to cash in on our modest North Korea franchise; we don’t get many takers. But a few other stories […]

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The Bantustan Model

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

Last month the Korea Development Institute released in English a paper, “Path to Inter-Korean Economic Integration: Gradual Merger Within Temporary Separation,” by the former head of its North Korea unit, and the now retired Dean of the KDI School for Public Policy and Management, Chun Hongtack. (The paper originally appeared in Korean in 2013.) A […]

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Summer Reading: Dimitrov et. al. on Authoritarian Persistence

by | June 30th, 2015 | 07:00 am

In anticipation of a retreat in Berlin on authoritarian persistence, I finally got around to Martin Dimitrov’s interesting collection for Cambridge (2013) Why Communism Did Not Collapse: Understanding Authoritarian Regime Resilience in Asia and Europe. (Google books, including table of contents, here). The main axis of comparison centers on the Soviet Union and its Eastern […]

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Summer Reading: Sandra Fahy, Marching Through Suffering

by | June 29th, 2015 | 07:00 am

Sandra Fahy’s Marching Through Suffering: Loss and Survival in North Korea is now out from Columbia University Press. In our work on the famine and refugees, Marc Noland and I documented psychological distress that resembled post-traumatic stress disorder. But our econometric—and ultimately clinical–way of approaching the issue is much less true to the emotional facts […]

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Rodman Redux

by | June 26th, 2015 | 07:00 am

I always felt that Dennis Rodman got a bad rap for his admittedly bungling foray into North Korean waters. Part of my annoyance was cultural. It was somehow high-minded for the New York Philharmonic to raise millions to fete the Pyongyang elite (admittedly broadcast nationally) and Lorin Maazel to utter banalities about cultural exchange. But […]

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The UN Field Office in Seoul

by | June 25th, 2015 | 07:00 am

Earlier this week, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein opened a new UN Field Office in Seoul to work on human rights issues in North Korea. The office will be staffed by Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights personnel as well as Korean nationals. The opening of the office […]

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International Crisis Group: North Korea After the Six Party Talks

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

On a quick trip to Washington to participate in a day-long seminar organized by State, I had a chance to touch base with Dan Pinkston of the International Crisis Group. If you are looking for a succinct—but very downbeat—assessment of the state of play on the peninsula, Dan has produced it here; without naming names […]

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Not Satire: North Korea Solves MERS (and SARS and Ebola)…and the US Supplement Industry Does Too!

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

We always hesitate a bit when putting up a Not Satire post. The purpose is not simply to mock North Korea; we write them when the absurdity is revealing (our Not Satire posts can be found here, most recently on lobster farming). But in this case, the press coverage of North Korean claims for a […]

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