Family reunions belie future of the Korean peninsula

North and South Korean family hold hands at a bus as they leave after the inter-Korean family reunion meeting at Mount Kumgang resort, North Korea, 25 February 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Andrew Kwon, Lowy Institute for International Policy/Center for Strategic and International Studies

The Republic of Korea (ROK) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) held their first family reunions in three years on 20 February 2014. But the event does not hail the beginning of a grand renewal in relations — the world has been here before and the important underlying factors that have undermined enhanced relations before, as highlighted by the recent exchange of fire along the western maritime border, remain unchanged. Read more…

Jang Song-taek purge further undermines North Korea’s foreign relations

Jang Song-thaek, the second most powerful man in North Korea and uncle of leader Kim Jong-un, stands trial before a special military tribunal in Pyongyang, North Korea, on 12 December 2013.  (Photo: AAP)

Authors: Gi-Wook Shin and David Straub, Stanford University

In eliminating his uncle Jang Song-taek, North Korea’s young leader Kim Jong-un acted like a character out of a Shakespearian drama with Stalinist characteristics. Whether Jang’s show trial and summary execution will help to consolidate or undermine Kim’s power remains to be seen. But the statement on Jang’s indictment confirms — apparently unwittingly — the enormous economic, political, and social problems facing his regime. Read more…

North Korea risky business for Chinese investors

This photo shows a statue of the idealised worker, farmer and intellectual, holding up the hammer, sickle and brush respectively, in front of the Tower of the Juche Idea - a monument in Pyongyang, North Korea (Photo: yeowatzup).

Authors: Yaohui Wang and Justin Hastings, University of Sydney

While North Korea has encouraged increased inward investment since Kim Jong-un came to power in 2011, and China–North Korea economic engagement has expanded, Chinese investors taking the plunge investing in North Korea face challenges at each step of the way.

Recent discussions by one of the authors with Chinese businesspeople making investments in North Korea indicated that the country remains fraught with political risk Read more…

Jang’s purge a sign of bigger economic problems in North Korea

This picture taken by KCNA on 15 April 2013 shows Kim Jong Un (R) with his uncle Jang Song Thaek, now executed.  (Photo: AAP)

Author: Ruediger Frank, University of Vienna

Jang Sung-taek has been purged and executed, in a way that suggests that Kim Jong-un wanted to make a point. This unusual procedure is without a doubt a sign of major problems.

Otherwise, the overambitious uncle would have been removed silently, as has happened so many times before.

Read more…

China–DPRK economic engagement: don’t blame the sunshine

Dancers perform during an 'Arrirang Festival mass games display' in Pyongyang on 26 July 26, 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: James Reilly, University of Sydney

The substantial expansion of China’s trade and investment in North Korea, echoing in some aspects the sunshine policy championed by South Korean presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, is slowly nudging the reclusive state toward a more market-oriented and externally engaged society.

Read more…

North Korea’s surprising status in the international climate change regime

Peasants of the Jangsan Co-op Farm in Ryongchon County, North Phyongan Province, water and fertilize rice-seedling beds properly adjusting their temperature to raise healthy rice seedlings Thursday 4 May, 2006 (Photo: AAP)

Author: Benjamin Habib, La Trobe University

North Korea is a curious case among Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It is not an active member of any specific negotiating bloc and has been a sporadic attendee at UNFCCC Conference of Parties gatherings, where its delegates are generally silent participants. Why then does North Korea engage with the international climate change regime? Read more…

Japan’s Mongolian connection in North Korea

Former Director of Asian Affairs at the North Korean Foreign Ministry Ma Chol Su  meets Japanese lawmaker Antonio Inoki to sign an agreement on the opening of an office to facilitate exchanges between Japan and North Korea through sports in Pyongyang on Nov. 4, 2013 (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Julian Dierkes, UBC and Otgonbaatar Byambaa, Waseda

President Ts Elbegdorj of Mongolia became the first head of state to visit North Korea since Kim Jong-un came to power, even though initial reports suggest that the two leaders did not meet.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has staked a great deal of political capital on his commitment to resolve the issue of the North Korean abductions of Japanese citizens. Read more…

North Korea sanctions punish the whole population

Malnourished children line the floor of a pediatric ward of Rinsan County Hospital in a flood-affected in the North Hwanghae province in North Korea on 5 September 2011. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Emma Campbell, ANU

Herbert Hoover once said of sanctions that ‘they bred “incurable hatreds”’. On a recent trip to the DPRK those hatreds were much in evidence as our interlocutors blamed international sanctions (more commonly ‘US sanctions’) as the root cause of the North’s current woes. Read more…

Focus on North Korean cyber threat ignores South Korea’s threat within

A computer screen shows the official website of South Korean presidential office showing a message, in Seoul, South Korea, 25 June 2013 that it has been temporarily suspended to check its system. The homepage of the South Korean presidential office was apparently hacked by unknown attackers, sources said, noting the website instantly showed messages in red reading, Great leader Kim Jong-un (Photo: AAP).

Author: Soo-Kyung Koo, Washington DC

Since the first large-scale distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack in July 2009, the South Korean government has consistently accused North Korea of responsibility for other nation-wide cyber incidents. Specifically, it blames a hacking and cyber warfare unit established in 2009 under the military-led Reconnaissance General Bureau. Read more…

Why do China and South Korea trade with North Korea?


Authors: Sookyung Koo, Washington DC, and Jihye Lim, George Mason University

South Korea and China have maintained trade with North Korea as a means of enhancing their prosperity and security.

South Korea and China both seem to recognise that sanctions only serve to further isolate the already reclusive North Korea. Read more…

Arguing against a peace treaty on the Korean peninsula

South Korea Koreas Tensions

Author: John Hemmings, LSE

Sixty years after the end of the Korean War, it has become an article of faith among some policy-makers that a peace treaty between the United States and North Korea would help ease tensions on the Peninsula.

Often, reflecting North Korean propaganda statements, they explicitly link US troop withdrawals on the Korean Peninsula to a treaty ending the war. Read more…