US Korea Institute

Tuesday April 25th 2017
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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.

What Satellite Imagery Can Tell Us About North Korea’s Markets

What Satellite Imagery Can Tell Us About North Korea’s Markets

North Korea is a well-known “black hole” with regard to quantitative data. Hard numbers from the country are virtually nonexistent, and statistical information about it is scattered and unreliable at best. Most other countries freely publish at least rudimentary statistics on demographics, health, economics, and other areas, but in the DPRK, [...]

Central Military Commission Signals Growing Strength in Peninsula’s Latest Crisis

Central Military Commission Signals Growing Strength in Peninsula’s Latest Crisis

On August 20 and August 27, Kim Jong Un convened an unprecedented pair of meetings of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) Central Military Commission (CMC), the top body responsible for implementing WPK political directives in North Korea’s military. From 2012 to 2014, the CMC gathered twice a year, about once every six months. The August [...]

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 [...]

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