US Korea Institute

Monday February 8th 2016
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Domestic Affairs

From politics to economics, from leadership succession to the introduction of fast food restaurants, there is a lot going on inside North Korea.

Kim Jong Un’s Aunt Edges Further From the Spotlight

Kim Jong Un’s Aunt Edges Further From the Spotlight

Since 2009, North Korea has held a single state funeral each year and named all of its top officials to the event’s organizing committee, allowing outsiders a glimpse at an approximate top-to-bottom ranking of the country’s elite. An individual’s placement on the publicly issued annual roster suggests where that official stands in relation [...]

Keeping Up with the Kim Family Runaways

Keeping Up with the Kim Family Runaways

Ko Yong Suk and her husband Pak Kun, an aunt and uncle of Kim Jong Un, attracted international headlines for filing a slander lawsuit in late November against a trio of North Korean defectors. The South Korean legal action provided a rare glimpse—outside of official North Korean media content—into the family life of the supreme leader, [...]

North Korea’s Exploration for Oil and Gas

North Korea’s Exploration for Oil and Gas

Executive Summary Despite almost 50 years of exploratory surveys, test drillings, foreign investment and assistance and tantalizing potential, North Korea has yet to definitively identify any proven commercially exploitable reserves of crude oil or natural gas. The reasons for this are somewhat complex, but they can be distilled into three [...]

How Bad is North Korea’s Food Situation? Getting a Grip on the Numbers Confusion

How Bad is North Korea’s Food Situation? Getting a Grip on the Numbers Confusion

When analysts attempt to make sense of data on North Korea, confusion is often the order of the day. This year has been no exception. International aid agencies claim that a major drought has fomented a now-dire food shortage in the country, but in truth, the numbers don’t seem to indicate that things are any worse than normal. Agricultural [...]

The Education of Choe Ryong Hae

The Education of Choe Ryong Hae

North Korea’s political culture recently attracted a spate of new international media attention when Choe Ryong Hae, a member of the nation’s core elite, disappeared from public view. For 18 months, Choe had served as a senior Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) Secretary and a member of the WPK Political Bureau’s Presidium (or standing [...]

North Korea’s Special Economic Zones: Plans vs. Progress

North Korea’s Special Economic Zones: Plans vs. Progress

Since Kim Jong Un assumed power, he has prioritized economic development in a way his father never did. Indeed, much of his domestic brand is now linked to economic growth and quality of life issues. He has tinkered with the modus operandi of both farms and state owned enterprises, and set forth a very visible economic experiment: the creation of [...]

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Credit for photo of young North Korean girl: T.M. All rights reserved, used with permission.