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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

The Iran Deal: Official North Korean Reaction

by | July 31st, 2015 | 07:00 am

US Special Envoy for Six-Party Talks Syd Seiler is currently in the region, shuttling once again to Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo to take the pulse of the long-flatlined talks. The message has been clear: that the Iran deal shows a willingness on the part of the US to negotiate with adversaries. In several press briefings, […]

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The Exportation and Exploitation of North Korean Labor

by | July 30th, 2015 | 06:06 am

To earn foreign exchange, North Korea engages in the organized export of labor, reputedly to 40 countries around the world. This phenomenon is of interest for two reasons: the money that the practice raises for the regime and the conditions under which these individuals labor. Controversies over the magnitude of these revenues and the stories […]

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STTB: Railroads, Tax-Free Trade, Bombs, Laibach, and Fox News

by | July 29th, 2015 | 06:35 am

As usual, let’s start serious and then go weird. First up, railroads. As careful readers may recall, Pyongyang sabotaged Seoul’s attempt to join the Organization for Co-operation between Railways (OSJD), which would have facilitated President Park Geun-hye’s Eurasia Initiative, specifically the completion of the Eastern line. One of the nice things about this job is […]

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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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