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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

Summer Reading: Dimitrov et. al. on Authoritarian Persistence

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

I have been catching up with my reading and in the better-late-than-never category, 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 […]

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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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Drought Update

by | June 22nd, 2015 | 06:03 am

I did two posts last week on the plausibility of North Korea’s dubious proclamation of a “100 year drought” claim. But whatever the motivations, it has continued to capture attention and I provide an additional update here. Randy Ireson has a nice summary at 38th North; my only quibble is that peak rainfall is in […]

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Ministry of Unification: “Important Events 2009-Present”

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

While doing some fact-checking for a monograph Marc Noland and I are writing on the sad history of trying to engage North Korea, I had reason to check the MOU website and was reminded of a useful source for analysts, scholars and students: the MOU’s incredibly granular Important Events 2009-Present (the page will launch where […]

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Shoot to Kill on the China-DPRK Border?

by | June 19th, 2015 | 07:00 am

Things are getting tougher along the DPRK-China border. It is not simply the result of North Korean policy, although that has gotten worse as well; we now have yet yet another round of reports of inspection teams being dispatched to the border. Rather policy is shifting in China as well and in potentially disastrous ways […]

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Is North Korea in a pre-famine state? Part 2

by | June 18th, 2015 | 05:03 am

As an economist, I would expect the developments discussed yesterday, if significant, to manifest themselves in prices. But when one looks at rice prices, either in US dollar or North Korean won terms, they appear relatively stable, at least through last month. Admittedly, there could be distributional effects at play so that the price of a […]

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