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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

Mike Chinoy on Merrill Newman

by | December 17th, 2014 | 07:00 am

We thought more than enough has been said about the recent detainees and their release; our posts on them are linked below. But Mike Chinoy has written a long piece on Merrill Newman called “The Last P.O.W” (available as a Kindle Single for 99 cents) that adds some interesting detail on his arrest, detention and […]

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Arturo Pierre Martinez

by | December 15th, 2014 | 01:01 pm

You would think that the sheer embarrassment of being detained in North Korea would give pause. But in the case of Arturo Pierre Martinez, you can almost see the light bulb going on: “North Korea: a golden opportunity to hit the 24-hour news cycle!” North Korean authorities—living in their own solipsistic echo chamber—did not think […]

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North Korean Exports of Labor

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

From construction in Qatar to mining in Malaysia where one North Korean worker was killed in an explosion last month, reporting in the Guardian has brought renewed scrutiny to the organized export of North Korean labor. (The paper is emerging as the paradigm of how one can be both “progressive” and critical of North Korean […]

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STTB: Sony’s Hack-Attack Roundup

by | December 12th, 2014 | 07:00 am

It has been a couple weeks since the first details of the devastating cyber attack on Sony Pictures emerged. Of clear relevance to us is the North Korean connection, which quickly became an echo-chambered fact after first breaking on Re/code. There is both motive and forensic evidence to suggest that this is the work of North […]

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What If? The 41st Parallel

by | December 11th, 2014 | 07:00 am

While in Korea last week, I attended a conference at the Museum of Contemporary Korean History reviewing the country’s political and economic development experience. At the conference, Prof. Byung-chul Koh presented an interesting paper reviewing the American military occupation. In it, he alerted me to a fascinating event—or non-event—that might have changed the course of […]

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South Korean Public Attitudes Towards Unification

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

Back in August I did a post summarizing a fascinating survey of a multinational cast of 135 “experts,” I term I use advisedly in this context, conducted by the Ilmin Institute of International Relations on the future North Korea. While views obviously varied, the consensus seemed to be that the life expectancy of the Kim […]

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My Breakfast with Andrei: Lankov on Reform in North Korea

by | December 9th, 2014 | 07:00 am

Andrei Lankov—one of my favorite scholars on North Korea—has written an interesting piece for al Jazeera on reform in North Korea; as is typical, it is already receiving echo chamber treatment (from the WSJ), in this case justifiably. His main point: the reforms that were tried earlier by Kim Jong-un are finally being pursued with […]

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Triangulating the Food Economy

by | December 8th, 2014 | 06:02 am

“Boy, I got vision, and the rest of the world wears bifocals.” –Butch Cassidy to the Sundance Kid Lately there has been more than the usual scratching of heads in regard to the state of the North Korean economy, and unlike some more visionary North Korea watchers, I am definitely wearing bifocals. (Actually progressives, since […]

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Haggard, Eberstadt, and Stangarone on North Korea’s Economic Prospects

by | December 5th, 2014 | 07:00 am

Earlier this week, NK News ran a new installment of its specialist opinion survey series exploring the state of North Korea’s current economy and prospects for growth. The article features our own Steph Haggard, Nicholas Eberstadt from the American Enterprise Institute, and Troy Stangarone from the Korea Economic Institute. While each of the specialists cover a […]

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The Geopolitics of Squid

by | December 4th, 2014 | 05:52 am

A few years ago, I wrote a post based on the paper “Has South Korea’s Engagement Policy Reduced North Korea’s Provocations?,”by Kim Insoo and Lee Minyong that argued to forget diplomacy: Northern Limit Line violations were a function of North Korea’s balance of payments position. Their argument, backed up with statistical analysis, was that when […]

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