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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

Slave to the Blog: Human Rights Edition

by | October 20th, 2014 | 01:50 am

Last week, we published the full text of a letter from Ambassador Ja Song Nam, the North Korean Permanent Representative to the United Nations, to his fellow ambassadors. This letter reflects evidence of a subtle shift in North Korean policy on human rights issues. On the one hand, the regime continues to assert that “human […]

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More on Missiles: The Domestic Dimension

by | October 17th, 2014 | 10:00 am

Last week, we ran an analysis of North Korea’s missile program with Dan Pinkston and Clint Work. A core finding was that the pattern of testing is not as closely linked to either overt conflict with the US—which peaked in March and April 2013 — nor to events such as the Park-Xi summit as is […]

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Dilemmas of Trustpolitik

by and Jaesung Ryu | October 16th, 2014 | 06:46 am

Now that The Incheon Visit has come and gone, the politics of the upcoming North-South talks and what will be on offer will be front-and-center. We argued that the North has brought—and will bring—surprisingly little; simply holding talks will be framed as a concession worthy of some reciprocity. What is the thinking in the South? […]

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Iron Cyber Dome?

by | October 15th, 2014 | 06:21 am

An earlier post discussed the possibility of South Korea purchasing Israeli “Iron Dome” anti-missile technology (check out the cool video); now according to an essay by Michael Raska at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Singapore, Israel is applying Iron Dome lessons to cyber defense. South Korea is reportedly still toying with the […]

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We’ll Always Have Kaesong

by | October 14th, 2014 | 06:49 am

North Korea unilaterally suspended activities at the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) from April 8 to September 16, 2013. One year after resumption of activities at the KIC, production has returned to pre-suspension levels, though not without collateral damage: the South Korean small- and medium-sized firms who invest there experienced financial damages from cancellation of contracts […]

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Human Rights Racket Alive and Kicking

by | October 10th, 2014 | 04:48 pm

One of the nice things about running this blog is that people send you things. One of the more interesting things I have received recently is a letter which appears to be from Ambassador Ja Song Nam, the North Korean Permanent Representative to the United Nations, to his fellow ambassadors from other member states. It […]

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The Incheon Visit

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

The weekend visit to the closing ceremony of the Incheon games by a North Korean delegation headed by Hwang Pyong So, Choe Ryong Hae, and Kim Yang Gon has raised hopes for an improvement in North-South relations. The trip yielded agreement to hold a further round of “high-level” talks in late October or early November, […]

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North Korea admits to prison camps—or does it?

by | October 8th, 2014 | 03:36 pm

Today I received at least eight news stories, all with variants on the headline “North Korea admits to Labor ‘Gulags’” referring to a statement yesterday by North Korean foreign minister Choe Myong-nam that “both in law and in practice, we do have reform through labor detention camps – no, detention centers – where people are […]

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Man Bites Dog: North Korea Exports Rice to China

by | October 8th, 2014 | 06:14 am

In recent weeks, North Korea watchers have been entertained by breathless headlines such as “N.Korean textile exports to China surge in 2014,” “Massive Increase in North Korea’s Coal Imports from China,” and my favorite, “North Korea exporting 35 percent more food to China.” I don’t doubt that the reports accurately reflect recent Chinese customs data; […]

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Interpreting North Korea’s Missile Tests: When is a Missile Just a Missile?

by and Daniel Pinkston, Kevin Stahler, Clint Work | October 7th, 2014 | 07:10 am

Every time we turn around, it appears that the North Koreans are conducting live-fire artillery exercises, or testing rockets and ballistic missiles. But what is the actual pattern of exercises and tests under Kim Jong Un? Does it exhibit any political logic? Are strategic considerations behind the recent tests? Or is the country testing missiles […]

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