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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

Moranbong Rocks “Without a Break” (단숨에)…to Satellite Launch

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

An unfortunate theme of several recent posts (for example on the 70th KWP anniversary speech) is what political scientists call “authoritarian resilience”: the fact that dictatorships can survive not only through repression but by courting particular constituencies and even mass publics. Martin Dimitrov’s Why Communism Did Not Collapse draws a number of interesting parallels between […]

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Kim Young Sam, 1927-2015

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

Kim Young Sam had a long political career that included unexpectedly bold resistance to the Park and Chun regimes, particularly in the wake of the YH Incident in 1979 when he was forced out of the Yushin National Assembly. He tacked to the right following the election of 1987, in which he and Kim Dae […]

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The UN Vote on the Human Rights Situation in North Korea

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

A year ago this week, the Commission of Inquiry process reached its denouement with the passage of an historic UN resolution on North Koran human rights. Beating back a Cuban alternative, the resolution effectively accepted the findings of the Commission of Inquiry report and referred it to the UN Security Council. The report—and thus the […]

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North-South Relations: China Anxiety

by and Kent Boydston | November 20th, 2015 | 07:00 am

Every now and then, strategic arguments emerge in South Korea to the effect that North Korea is getting so integrated with China that prying it loose might prove an impossible task. In a report (in Korean) released last week, former Ministry of Unification (MoU) minister Lee Jong-suk argued that Sino-DPRK economic relations have moved to […]

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The Presidential Committee for Unification Preparation

by | November 19th, 2015 | 06:27 am

This past week I had the opportunity to participate in the first international public symposium of the Presidential Committee for Unification Preparation. Established in July 2014, the PCUP is part of what appears to be a genuinely held policy goal of President Park Geun-hye to hasten Korean unification. The PCUP has three main tasks: to […]

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Chinafile: Presidential Candidates on China

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

At this point in the campaign cycle, no one is expecting detailed policy positions from the candidates on Asia. The fat briefing books on regional policy emerge in the general campaign and ultimately in planning for the transition as advisors and then serious policy teams are put together. But we certainly have seen a fair […]

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Japan and Korea: The Courts and Wartime Compensation

by | November 17th, 2015 | 07:00 am

The bilateral summit between Park and Abe was dominated by the comfort women issue. A major question that is likely to arise as the negotiations between the two governments go forward is compensation for the victims. To date, Japan has managed to avoid the issue by reference to the Claims Agreement signed in conjunction with […]

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The Demonstrations in Seoul: The Labor Backstory

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

The massive demonstrations in Seoul reflect a coalition of political forces. Among those hitting the streets were those agitated by the textbook controversy and South Korea’s aggressive policy of signing free trade agreements (FTA’s), including President Park’s stated intention to join the TPP and an agreement with China that has increased farmers’ anxiety. But there […]

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North Korea Art: Complexity within Simplicity

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

We occasionally like to highlight various forms of North Korean art and want to direct those in the New York City area to an upcoming public lecture at the Korean Culture Service NY by BG Muhn on some of his research.

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Purges Redux?

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

No sooner had I reviewed Ken Gause’s excellent House of Cards on the North Korean leadership then the newswires were abuzz with rumors of fresh purges in North Korea. The Wall Street Journal headline was the breathiest, with a subtitle that “Senior official appears to miss key gathering, sparking speculation over his fate and regime […]

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