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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: The Working Man Blues

by | April 20th, 2015 | 06:21 am

A Korean Herald story about the latest failure of talks over the North Korean unilateral increase in wages at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, “Wage talks between 2 Koreas fails again,” inadvertently captures the essence of the problem: Why should two governments be negotiating over the wages paid by private firms to their workers?

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Women’s March for Peace Update

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

In an earlier post, I reported on the Women’s Walk for Peace, involving Gloria Steinem, Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire and a slew of prominent women activists. I argued it could make good political theatre, even if vulnerable to North Korean manipulation and polarization in the South. But CNN was a lot less forgiving than I […]

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Slave to the Blog: Coordination Failures

by | April 16th, 2015 | 06:02 am

Coordination failures are central to the world’s inability to deal with the North Korea problem. When the US, for example, wants to push North Korea to the wall to force it to decide between its nuclear weapons program and integrating into the global community on a more normal and prosperous basis, the country has been […]

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Sports, Legitimacy, and Heated Zeal

by and Kevin Stahler | April 15th, 2015 | 05:26 am

Earlier this month, Steph Haggard wrote a post on sources of legitimacy in authoritarian regimes which drew an acidic response from Rüdiger Frank who grew up in East Germany. One potential source of national pride and regime legitimacy now being emphasized in North Korea is achievement in international sports competitions. Kim Jong-un, in a message […]

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NGOs in Action: Engage Korea

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

This blog has an interest in the variety of ways that NGOs might productively engage North Korea. A relatively new NGO we had missed is pursuing an interesting model. Engage Korea is a student-­driven initiative led by Ye Jin Kang and Stina Jinsun Bae. Kang is a student at Harvard Medical School who did a […]

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Slave to the Blog: Trojan Horse Edition

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

I have been posting on NGOs a fair amount recently because of a broader development: increasing evidence that Pyongyang is seriously concerned about the unification rhetoric emanating from the South. Peaceful coexistence and an effort to dampen the “confrontation of systems” was a strong theme in the New Year’s Speech. We recently witnessed a striking […]

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STTB: The Upside to Iranian Nukes, One Lucky Kid, and the Return of Human Scum

by | April 10th, 2015 | 06:26 am

When writing about North Korea one is tempted to say “no news is good news.” But today I update three stories we’ve been following—and two of them have happy endings! Of sorts. This is North Korea, so let’s not get carried away. So there has been lots of discussion of the Iranian nuclear deal, or […]

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Reunification a Necessary Evil?

by | April 9th, 2015 | 05:21 am

The Asan Institute maintains an active public opinion polling effort, and earlier this year put out a fascinating report on South Korean attitudes toward North Korea and reunification. The messages arising from the poll results are subtle: while overall perceptions of North Korea remain highly negative there is growing interest in reunification. However, interest in […]

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NGOs in Action: The Welthungerhilfe Case

by | April 8th, 2015 | 07:00 am

The expulsion of a single aid worker is hardly a trend, but this case could be worth watching. North Korea has, without explanation, expelled the head of the German NGO Welthungerhilfe. In an earlier post from 2011, we spotlighted the work of the organization and a wrangle it had with the WFP/FAO, but Cankor provides […]

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The Rise of the “Notel”

by and Stephan Haggard | April 7th, 2015 | 07:00 am

Last week a number of outlets picked up a story by James Pearson at Reuters highlighting the proliferation of portable media players, or “notel”, in North Korea. The author cites one estimate that up to half of all urban households possess such devices, which are both smuggled and licitly imported from China. This seems high […]

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