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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

Three Stories of Smuggling

by | July 28th, 2015 | 06:10 am

When in Hawaii I read the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. My friends say it’s hopelessly passé but I can pick it up in the morning on the way back from the gym or a run. (Yeah, I even read it on paper. Totally old school. Or just old.) So imagine my complete astonishment when I opened it […]

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North Korean Growth in 2014: Once More with Feeling!

by | July 27th, 2015 | 06:15 am

Once again the Bank of Korea has released its 2014 GDP estimate for North Korea and once again I feel compelled to provide commentary. This release, after all, is one of the few times that one can sound like an economist while commenting on North Korea. But sounding like an economist is not the same […]

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US Taekwondo Athletes Plan DMZ Crossing

by and Kent Boydston | July 24th, 2015 | 07:00 am

Michael Bassett tipped us to the fact that Korean-American Taekwondo Grandmaster Jung Woo-jin is organizing an exchange trip to the DPRK with his North Korean counterparts. Jung has quietly sponsored North Korean Taekwondo demo teams in the United States before and according to his website, has been involved in North-South Taekwondo exchanges since 1991. There […]

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North Korean Coal Exports to China: Resurrected

by | July 23rd, 2015 | 06:59 am

Last year Kevin Stahler wrote a blog post arguing that North Korean anthracite coal exports were in decline, victim of Chinese policies to reduce coal imports, both for environmental reasons and as a way to protect domestic coal producers. (Coal is one of those industries that appears to be successful universally in securing protection.) Then, […]

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Slave to the Blog: Ivory Tower and Pundits Edition

by | July 22nd, 2015 | 07:00 am

With predictable regularity, scholars of international relations bemoan the irrelevance of their profession to the policy world. In the most recent incarnation of this useful navel-gazing, Michael Desch (University of Notre Dame) has sparked some interesting reactions at Perspectives on Politics from the likes of Ido Oren, Laura Sjoberg, Helen Lousie Turton, Eric Voeten and […]

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South Korean Aid to the North II: An Accounting 1991-2015

by , Jaesung Ryu, and Kent Boydston | July 21st, 2015 | 07:00 am

In a previous post, we reviewed data provided through the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund on public aid to the North. We highlighted the political differences between administrations and the fact that the Park administration marks only a marginal departure from the Lee Myung Bak administration in overall approach. The one exception was the willingness to stare […]

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South Korean Aid to the North I: An Accounting 1991-2015

by , Jaesung Ryu, and Kent Boydston | July 20th, 2015 | 07:00 am

In the course of doing some work for a book on sanctions and engagement with Korea, Jaesung Ryu helped us update the long history of the South’s aid to the North. We have the benefit of the fact that almost all of the public financing passes through the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund (IKCF), which is managed […]

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Party like a donju

by | July 17th, 2015 | 06:59 am

A few years ago I coined the terms “marketization from the bottom up,” and “grassroots marketization.” Maybe not the greatest phraseology, but I was on to something. Now, the rest of the world is catching up. Every time I open up the newspaper, I see the word “donju.” A prospectus for a conference held at […]

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UNESCO Sites and Japan-ROK Public Opinion Update

by and Kent Boydston | July 16th, 2015 | 07:00 am

Over the last week, we have been treated to another installation of the Korea-Japan history wars. Sadly, Japan once again managed to shoot itself in the foot on the issue. Seeking to register a number of Meiji-era factories as UNESCO World Heritage sites, Japan proposed–and Korea rightly accepted–wording that acknowledged that the factories had later […]

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Orascom: further (mis-)adventures in North Korean telecommunications

by | July 15th, 2015 | 06:57 am

One of the more intriguing developments in North Korea has been the growth of cellular telephone services for the masses (or at least non-apparatchiks) provided by Koryolink, a joint venture between the government’s Korea Posts and Telecommunications Company and Egypt’s Orascom Telecom. The increasing availability of cell phones is interesting for what it might or […]

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