US Korea Institute

Friday August 26th 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.

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 [...]

The 7th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea in 2016: Return to a “New Normal” or Risk a “Take-Off”?

The 7th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea in 2016: Return to a “New Normal” or Risk a “Take-Off”?

On October 30, 2015, North Korean media including the Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) announced that in early May 2016, the 7th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK, or simply the Party) will be convened. For a socialist country, a Party Congress should be a routine event; decades ago it was, more or less, also for North Korea. The [...]

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