US Korea Institute

Thursday September 3rd 2015
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From politics to economics, from leadership succession to the introduction of fast food restaurants, there is a lot going on inside North Korea.

North Korea’s New Propagandist?

North Korea’s New Propagandist?

In late July 2015, the international media briefly shifted its attention to Kim Jong Un’s younger sister, when a defector-run publication Daily NK reported that she now holds “de facto” control of the Workers’ Party of Korea’s (WPK) Propaganda and Agitation Department (officially called the Publicity and Information Department, [...]

North Korea’s July 19 Local Elections Dispel ROK Allegations of Public Unrest

North Korea’s July 19 Local Elections Dispel ROK Allegations of Public Unrest

Summary The West’s take on North Korean elections is familiar: they are neither free nor fair, neither competitive nor democratic. The thinking, which is echoed in Seoul, is that the uncontested up-or-down votes deny participants any right to substantively express their political preferences or hold their representatives, who are preselected [...]

The Rise and Fall of General Hyon Yong Chol

The Rise and Fall of General Hyon Yong Chol

  Kim Jong Un dismissed Hyon Yong Chol as North Korea’s minister of defense around April 30, 2015—this much we know, but little else about his fate is certain. South Korean intelligence reported the following month that the regime executed Hyon, but in truth, it remains unclear today if he is dead or alive. If South Korean [...]

North Korea’s Ponghwa Chemical Factory

North Korea’s Ponghwa Chemical Factory

By Joseph S. Bermudez Jr. and Sun Young Ahn Summary Nearly every modern nation must obtain and refine oil to ensure its economic viability, and North Korea is no exception. However, the country’s lack of significant proven oil reserves has forced it to import all of its crude oil and many of its finished petroleum products, while relying [...]

Worst Drought Ever – A Cautionary Note

Worst Drought Ever – A Cautionary Note

On June 16, KCNA announced that North Korea was experiencing the “worst drought in 100 years,” and the story was quickly picked up by the international news. Abnormal weather in the DPRK is always of concern, given the very fragile nature of the agricultural recovery that has been progressing for the last several years. Farm production in the [...]

Why North Korea’s Supposed Agricultural Reforms May Not Actually Be Working After All

Why North Korea’s Supposed Agricultural Reforms May Not Actually Be Working After All

Outsiders are still struggling to decode what is really happening with the economic reforms that have supposedly been underway in North Korea since 2012. As is often the case with the country, no one knows exactly what is happening. Certain experts, for instance, claim that economic reforms have drastically changed conditions for agriculture in [...]

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