How to Write About North Korea

December 6th, 2016

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Many of the news stories about North Korea that make their way into the Western media fall into one of two categories: 1) breaking news about provocations and the nuclear crisis or 2) look at the crazy thing Kim Jong Un did today. As a journalist who covered the DPRK from both Seoul and Pyongyang, Jean Lee is working to get past the caricatures that often make their way into how we see North Koreans. 

 

Jean, who is now a Global Fellow at the Wilson Center, is here in DC for an event she organized about this very topic. The seminar features journalists, novelists and historians who all face unique challenges in gathering information and writing about the DPRK. She agreed to sit down with us while here in town to give us a preview of the roundtable, which will take place on December 7 at the Wilson Center.

 

To hear more from Jean and learn about her work covering North Korea, you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram with the handle @newsjean.

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Tracking Korea’s Transportation System with Kojects

December 2nd, 2016

5188224481_f7df423d64_b.jpgFor many people who visit Korea for the first time, one of the things that stands out the most is the country's clean, reliable, and efficient public transportation. This was the case for Andy Tebay when he moved to Korea from New Zealand. The system inspired him to begin researching and writing about transportation and urban planning in Seoul and around the country.

 

Started as Andy's personal blog, Kojects has since grown into a hub for information for English-speakers to get information about Korea's many transportation options as well as news about new projects and improvements. Along with co-author Nikola Medimorec, Kojects aims to help anyone visiting or living in Korea get where they need to go.

 

Image from Keith Lee's photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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Addressing Inequality and Inefficiency in the Korean Labor Market

November 17th, 2016

South Korea faces rising social inequality, low and stagnating productivity, and unsustainable demographic changes, all of which threaten long-term economic growth prospects as well as social stability. This week's guest is an expert in some of the structural problems that are holding the Korean labor market back and allowing inequality to grow.

Dr. Vladimir Hlasny of Ewha Womans University discusses his new paper on this topic, which was written for KEI as part of our Academic Paper Series. He discusses some of the pitfalls in the way Korean companies look for employees, the problematic ways job-seekers build skills and market themselves, and much more.

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President Donald Trump and His Impact on Korea

November 10th, 2016

Manzullo.jpgMore than 100 million Americans cast their ballots on November 8, and we have a new president-elect. The Trump victory came as a surprise to most, with polls and pundits alike predicting a Clinton sweep. In Seoul and across Asia, people are watching the Trump team closely, looking for signs of what's to come for American foreign policy.

 

In this episode of Korean Kontext, we sit down with KEI President Donald Manzullo. President Manzullo is no stranger to elections, having been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for 20 years. He shares his insights on the election and the sentiments of the American people that drove Trump to victory. And he digs into what this new administration could mean for the US-Korea relationship and American policy toward North Korea.

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[Rebroadcast] Escaping North Korea - Mike Kim

October 28th, 2016

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In this episode, which originally aired in 2011, we hear from author Mike Kim, who speaks with Korean Kontext about his experiences living and working with North Korean refugees on the China-North Korea border. Mike shares with us what prompted him to leave everything behind and move to China, what it was like to work directly with North Korean escapees, and what more must be done to help them.


Since his time in China, Mike has published a book, "Escaping North Korea", which he is currently working on turning into a full-length film.

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A Primer on Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 Crisis

October 21st, 2016

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Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 woes have hit a crescendo in recent weeks, with the company officially halting production and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officially banning the devices from all U.S. flights.
In this week's episode of Korean Kontext, we dig into this issue and its potential long-term impact on both Samsung and the South Korean economy at large. Our guests this week are KEI experts Troy Stangarone and Kyle Ferrier, senior director for congressional affairs and trade and director for academic affairs and research, respectively. They discuss the crisis, Samsung's response, and what it might mean for chaebols going forward.
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A Look into Korean Literature

October 14th, 2016

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This spring, Han Kang became the first Korean author to win the prestigious Man Booker International Prize for her novel, "The Vegetarian." And, for the first time in the prize's history, the award was shared by the novel's translator, Deborah Smith.

While this award has brought attention to Korean literature around the world, Korean authors are still relatively unknown outside of the peninsula. What is behind this phenomenon? What are some of the challenges of translating Korean into other languages? And what can be done to boost the popularity of Korean literature around the world?

To answer these and other interesting questions, we are joined this week by Dr. Susan Hwang, assistant professor of contemporary Korean literature and culture studies at Indiana University.

Image from Sam Bae's photostream on flickr Creative Commons.
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Flooding in North Korea: Humanitarian and Human Rights Concerns

October 7th, 2016

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North Korea recently experienced one of the worst natural disasters in its history, as flood waters swept through towns in the northeast part of the country. Up to 600,000 people could be affected, and aid is sorely needed. But the situation is complicated by the fact that the regime in Pyongyang continues to divert its funds toward its nuclear and weapons programs.

In this episode, Korean Kontext host Jenna Gibson talks with Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, who has been following this issue closely. They discuss the extent of the crisis, the balance between providing humanitarian assistance and taking a tough stance on security concerns, and much more.
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Middlebury Says Annyeonghaseyo to its School of Korean

October 1st, 2016

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Middlebury College, famous for its immersive language programs, added Korean as its 11th language in 2015. Now, after two summers, the School of Korean is helping students from a variety of background improve their Korean abilities.

For this week's episode, Korean Kontext host Jenna Gibson sits down with Dr. Sahie Kang, director of Middlebury's School of Korean. They talk about the school's establishment, the type of students who choose to study Korean, how to increase the popularity of Korean language learning in the United States, and more. 

Image from Jung Yoon's photostream on flickr Creative Commons.
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A Look at the Peninsula from the Next Generation of Korea Scholars

September 23rd, 2016

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With the goal of supporting the next generation of scholars interested in Korea and Northeast Asia, the U.S.-Korea Next Gen Scholars Program brings together young professionals from various backgrounds to work together and shape the future of Korean studies in the United States. The program, sponsored by CSIS Korea Chair and USC Dornsife Korean Studies Institute, chose 10 scholars this year.

In this episode, we are joined by two Next Gen participants - Dr. Sheena Greitens and Dr. Lauren Richardson. Dr. Greitens is an assistant professor at the University of Missouri, and Dr. Richardson is a teaching fellow at the University of Edinburgh. They both join Korean Kontext host Jenna Gibson to discuss some of the pressing issues on the peninsula today -- including North Korea's recent nuclear test -- as well as their thoughts about the future of Korean studies.
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Economic Cooperation Between South Korea, Japan and the United States

September 13th, 2016

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When you hear about trilateral cooperation between the United States, South Korea and Japan in the news, people are usually talking about how these three countries can work together to counter the security threat posed by North Korea. But there is also a lot these three countries are doing to cooperate in the economic realm.

This week's guest is Shihoko Goto, senior Northeast Asia associate at the Woodrow Wilson Center's Asia Program, who spent more than 10 years as a journalist covering economics and Asian markets. She sits down with Korean Kontext host Jenna Gibson to discuss what the three countries have been doing to improve economic relations, and what opportunities they can seize in the future.
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[Rebroadcast] Korea’s English-Language Media: A Discussion with the President of Arirang TV

September 1st, 2016

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In this episode, Korean Kontext speaks with Ms. Jie-ae Sohn, President of Arirang TV & Radio, Korea's first English language international broadcast system. Ms. Sohn worked as the former CNN Bureau Chief for Seoul and Head Correspondent for South Korea. She was also the spokeswoman for the Seoul G-20 Summit in November 2010. During the interview, Ms. Sohn spoke about modern Korean culture, K-culture, the role of women in South Korea, her experiences as a journalist, and more.
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High-Level Defections and the North Korean Regime

August 26th, 2016

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Last week, the news of a high-level defection by a North Korean diplomat stationed in London captivated North Korea watchers. For the next few says, analysts and the media speculated about Thae Yong-Ho, his motivations for defecting and what this news will mean for Pyongyang.

Here to talk about this and other high-profile defections is Keith Luse, executive director of the National Committee on North Korea. Luse discusses what we know and don't know about defections, and why it's so difficult to speculate about North Korea.
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Shamans, Goblins, and Ghosts: A Look at Korean Folk Culture

August 19th, 2016

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Ghosts and goblins are everywhere in Korean folktales, causing havoc for people through their antics. Equally common are the shamans who act as intermediaries, helping offer solutions to life's supernatural problems.

For this week's episode of Korean Kontext, host Jenna Gibson interviewed Dr. Michael Pettid, of the State University of New York at Binghamton, who specializes in pre-modern Korea, particularly the role shamanism and folk culture has played in Korea. They discuss the history and experience of Korean shamans over the centuries, how they fit into folk tales, and what to do when a hobgoblin tries to steal your shoes. 

Photo from Woohae Cho's photostream on flickr Creative Commons.
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Marriage Migrants and Multicultural Families in South Korea

August 11th, 2016

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For many years, South Korea has been a homogeneous country. But with more foreigners coming to live in Korea, that is starting to change. In fact, the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs estimates that the number of multicultural families in Korea could reach nearly 750,000 by 2020. 

This week's guest is Dr. Daisy Kim, who studies these multicultural families, with a particular focus on marriage migrants - women who move to Korea to marry a Korean man. We discuss some of the particular issues these women and their families face, what the Korean government has done to support them, and much more.
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The Battle over THAAD

August 5th, 2016

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In early July, the United States and South Korea announced that they had come to an agreement to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system near the city of Seongju. This announcement sparked a wave of protest both from local groups in South Korea and from countries like North Korea and China.

Our guests this week are KEI experts Troy Stangarone and Mark Tokola. They sit down with Korean Kontext host Jenna Gibson to discuss the THAAD system itself, the decision to deploy it, and the negative responses to that decision. 
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Election 2016: Party Politics and Their Implications for Korea

July 28th, 2016

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With Election 2016 well underway, KEI's very own Phil Eskeland has been closely following how both the Republican and Democratic parties have been talking about foreign policy and Asia. He sits down with Korean Kontext host Jenna Gibson to share his insights from nearly 30 years working in government, including 25 years as a staffer on the Hill.

Phil and Jenna talk about the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, party unity, the two vice presidential picks, and how all this could impact Korea and Asia more broadly.
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Korean Diaspora in Central Asia

July 22nd, 2016

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In the late 1930s, nearly 200,000 ethnic Koreans were forcibly removed from the Soviet Far East, packed into trains and sent to Central Asia. More than 70 years later, their descendants still live in the former Soviet Union, most of them in what is now Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

Victoria Kim grew up in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, knowing that her grandfather was Korean. But it wasn't until much later that she began looking into what that meant - how her grandfather and other Central Asian Koreans arrived in Uzbekistan and made their lives there. This story became a multimedia project called "Lost and Found in Uzbekistan: The Korean Story."

In this week's episode, we talk with Victoria about the experience of Central Asian Koreans in the 1930s until today, how her project delved into these stories, and much more.

To view Victoria's project, please click here.
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South Korea’s Outreach to the Middle East

July 15th, 2016

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From nuclear power in the United Arab Emirates to new free trade agreement negotiations opening with Israel, to South Korean President Park Geun Hye's visit to Iran, 2016 seems to be a year of increased Korean outreach to the Middle East.

Here to talk about this phenomenon and offer some insight into the best ways for Korea to continue reaching out to the Middle East is Dr. Alon Levkowitz. Dr. Levkowitz is a Lecturer  and Coordinator of the Asian Studies Program Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv, Israel. He is an expert in Korea and Northeast Asia's connections with the Middle East. He sits down with Korean Kontext host Jenna Gibson to present the findings of his recent KEI paper, "The Middle East Reopens for Business but with Old and New Hazards for South Korea."
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[Rebroadcast] UK Ambassador to North Korea John Everard

July 7th, 2016

With no shortage of North Korean news in 2016, we look back at one of our interviews with Ambassador John Everard of the UK. He provides an inside perspective of North Korea from his time living in Pyongyang.

From the original broadcast:


In this episode we speak with Ambassador John Everard, who served as Ambassador of Great Britain to North Korea from 2006-2008. Ambassador Everard experienced firsthand life as one of only a handful of foreign diplomats posted in Pyongyang, and draws from his experience to share anecdotes and insights into a way of life and a system of governance that is largely obscured from public view.

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Can Sanctions Force Change in North Korea?

July 1st, 2016

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After North Korea launched its fourth nuclear test in January 2016, an outraged international community once again cracked down, passing tough sanctions both at the UN and domestic levels. While early signs seem to indicate that these sanctions are putting a dent in North Korea's trade with other countries, it remains to be seen whether they will have a real impact on the DPRK's policies.

This week's guest is skeptical about the ability of sanctions to push real change in a targeted country. Dr. Dursun Peksen, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Memphis, has studied sanctions around the world for years, and his new paper for KEI suggests that sanctions against North Korea may be less effective than we hope.
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Korean Aid and Cooperation with the African Development Bank

June 27th, 2016

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In May 2016, Park Geun Hye became the first South Korean president to visit the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia. This trip, which also included stops in Uganda and Kenya, has been hailed as part of a growing Korean interest in Africa, particularly when it comes to development aid.

To discuss this trend is this week's guest, Valerie Dabady Liverani. She has worked at the African Development Bank (AfDB) since 1998, and now serves as the manager of their Resource Mobilization and External Finance Department. 

In this episode, Dabady Liverani talks about Korea's work with the AfDB, some areas where more resources are needed, and possible overlap between Korea's cultural promotion and aid projects.

Photo from Korea.net's photostream on flickr Creative Commons.
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Korea’s Economic Outlook: A View from the OECD

June 16th, 2016

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This week, we have a very special guest who flew in from Paris to talk about Korea's economy. Dr. Randall Jones is head of the Japan/Korea Desk at the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), and has studied the Korean economy extensively for the OECD's new economic survey of Korea.

In this episode, KEI senior director Troy Stangarone spoke with Jones about the report, including Korea's recent economic performance and future outlook. They also discussed some of Jones' recommendations to help Korea increase its growth moving forward.
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Seoul Mate: A Reflection on Five Years in Korea

June 10th, 2016

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As Seoul has grown, it has become more and more international. The city has been making an effort to attract more foreign visitors, whether as tourists, students or workers. This week, we sit down with one of those visitors, who called Seoul home for more than five years.

Ross Tokola first visited Korea in 2009 when his father, KEI Vice President Mark Tokola, was deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul. He returned in 2011 and stayed, working for the Asan Institute for Policy Studies and spending time learning Korean at Sogang University.

In this week's episode, we chat with Ross about his experience living and working in Seoul, how the city has changed since he first moved there, and more.
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Myanmar Between the Two Koreas

June 3rd, 2016

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Over the last 50 years, Myanmar has oscillated between periods of friendship with South Korea and partnership with North Korea. As Myanmar opens to the international community, however, investment and aid from South Korea seem to be cementing its loyalty to Seoul. 

How has Myanmar interacted with the two Koreas in the past, and could they swing back toward Pyongyang in the coming years? In this episode, we talk with Myanmar expert Dr. David Steinberg to flesh out Myanmar's tangled relationship with the two halves of the Korean Peninsula. As a government official, researcher and academic, Dr. Steinberg has decades of experience following Myanmar's many political and economic transitions. This week, he brings that expertise to Korean Kontext.
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Combatting Yellow Dust and Air Pollution

May 29th, 2016

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Anyone who has spent time in Korea knows the term Yellow Dust. Sand from Mongolia sweeps across China, picking up pollutants and carrying them across borders. Every spring, Koreans bring out their facemasks and lament China's lax environmental standards. But according to this week's guest, the "Blame China" narrative is an oversimplification of the problem.

Our guest for this episode is Dr. Matthew Shapiro, associate professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He recently wrote a paper for KEI on Asia's air pollution problem, including how Korean industry investment in China may be partly to blame. 
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Deciphering China’s Security Intentions: A Japanese Perspective

May 20th, 2016

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This week, we delve into how Japan views the security threat from China, and how these perceptions shape Japanese policy. For this, we turn to security expert Dr. Narushige Michishita.

Dr. Michishita is a professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) in Tokyo and is currently a Japan scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC. KEI recently commissioned a paper from him for our Academic Symposium program. The paper looked into how different sectors in Japan view the Chinese security threat, including politicians, the defense ministry, and the media.

In this episode, we discuss his findings and Japan's view toward Chinese security intentions more broadly. We also discuss some of his other research on security and strategy in Northeast Asia.
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Reform or Status Quo? An Analysis of North Korea’s Party Congress

May 10th, 2016

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Last week, North Korea launched its Seventh Worker's Party Congress, a major meeting of regime leaders that has not been convened in 36 years. Although analysts had high expectations for the meeting, there were few major announcements out of Pyongyang. What significance did the meeting have? What changes does it signal for the DPRK in the future?


To answer some of these questions, this week Korean Kontext host Jenna Gibson sits down with Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation. They discuss some of the announcements that Kim Jong Un made at the Congress, some of the expected moves that he chose not to make, and why he may have chosen to wear that infamous striped suit.
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A Russian Perspective on Northeast Asia

May 7th, 2016

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In this episode, we take a step back from the Korean Peninsula and take a look at Northeast Asia from the perspective of one of its neighbors - Russia. In recent years, Russia has been pursuing a "Turn East" policy, hoping to get more involved in China and on both sides of the Korean Peninsula. But so far these attempts have had mixed success.

Our guest this week is Alexander Gabuev, chair of the Russia in the Asia-Pacific Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center. We discuss Russia's view towards China, its Turn to the East policy, and the role that Russia is trying to play in solving the North Korea issue.
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South Korea and Iran’s Partnership Potential

April 29th, 2016

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On May 1, South Korean President Park Geun-hye will travel to Tehran, Iran for a summit meeting with her counterpart, President Hassan Rouhani. This visit will be the first time a South Korean and Iranian president have met for a bilateral summit since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1962.

Our guest this week is Alex Vatanka, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute who specializes in Iranian foreign and domestic policy. We discuss this historic event from the Iranian perspective, including what the meeting could mean for the two countries on both a practical and a symbolic level.

For more information on South Korea's ties with Iran, check out KEI's new blog post on the subject.
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South Korea’s Role in the Chang Mai Initiative and Regional Economic Integration

April 21st, 2016

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In 2010, a group of Asian countries made major strides toward economic integration with the launch of the Chang Mai Initiative Multilateralization. This currency swap arrangement has had a major impact on economic cooperation and stability for the member countries.

This week, guest host Kyle Ferrier, KEI's director of academic affairs and research, sits down with Dr. Kaewkamol (Karen) Pitakdumrongkit. Dr. Pitakdumrongkit, who is an assistant professor at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, examines the initiative from its origins to recent changes, and explores the role South Korea played as a mediator in the creation of this landmark agreement.
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[Rebroadcast] Steven Yeun: The Walking Dead

April 14th, 2016

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With the recent season finale of The Walking Dead and the broadcast of his visit to South Korea with talk show host Conan O'Brien this past weekend, we look back at our interview with Korean-American actor Steven Yeun.

From the original broadcast:

In this episode, Korean Kontext spoke to Korean-American actor Steven Yeun.  Having acted in several high profile TV shows, Yeun's interest in acting originated during his freshman year at Kalamazoo College after watching improv group "Monkapult".  Originally studying Psychology at Kalamazoo, Yeun's parents gave him two years to try acting and it didn't take long for him to win his first roles.  Fast-forward to 2010 and Yeun was cast as Glenn in the hugely popular The Walking Dead, a character that put him on millions of TV screens worldwide.Korean Kontext caught up with Steven over Skype for a chat about his career as a Korean American actor, current role in The Walking Dead, and future career aspirations.  Tune in for a fascinating conversation with Steven Yeun of The Walking Dead.
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A Look at the North Korean Economy with Dr. Stephan Haggard

April 8th, 2016

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This week our guest is noted scholar and North Korea watcher Dr. Stephan Haggard. Dr. Haggard is a Professor of Korea-Pacific Studies and director of the Korea-Pacific Program at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California San Diego. He also co-authors the popular "North Korea: Witness to Transformation" blog at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

As an expert on North Korea and the North Korean economic situation, we were eager to talk with Dr. Haggard about a range of issues, including the rise of the black market economy, the economic effect of new sanctions, and even the possibility that Kim Jong Un will institute a new tax system in the DPRK.

Dr. Haggard was recently here at KEI moderating a panel on this topic with researchers from China, Russia, and the United States. The video of the discussion can be found here.
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Overlap and Divergence in American and European Approaches to the Korean Peninsula

March 30th, 2016

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At KEI, we mainly focus on the relationship between the United States and South Korea, and their approaches toward North Korea. This week, we're taking a different look at the Peninsula - through the European perspective. While the United States and Europe share a lot of common goals and policies toward both sides of the DMZ, there are some distinct differences in the way they approach Korea. And within Europe there are also a range of policies and approaches.

This week, we connect with Dr. John Nilsson-Wright, head of the Asia Program at Chatham House and an official fellow of Darwin College at Cambridge University. We discuss some of the similarities and differences in how our friends across the pond view and interact with North and South Korea.
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Could North Korean nuclear tests trigger an eruption of Mt. Baekdu?

March 17th, 2016

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For understandable reasons, the international community has been focused on North Korea's nuclear program, concerned that Pyongyang could have a weapon capable of such massive destruction. But should they also be concerned about possible side effects from the nuclear tests themselves?
Our guest this week is Dr. Eunseo Choi, an assistant professor at the University of Memphis' Center for Earthquake Research and Information. Dr. Choi was part of a team of scientists who recently published an article about the chance that North Korea's continued nuclear testing could trigger an eruption of Mt. Baekdu, an enormously powerful volcano on the border of the DPRK and China.

Photo from Neil Young's photostream on flickr Creative Commons.
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Follow the Money: The Cat and Mouse Game to Cut off North Korea’s Nuclear Program

March 11th, 2016

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Last week, we looked at the details of the new US and UN sanctions against North Korea, delving into the new measures to get at Pyeongyang's funding. But will they actually work?

To get at this issue, Korean Kontext host Jenna Gibson spoke with Dr. John Park, adjunct lecturer at Harvard and afaculty affiliate with the Project on Managing the Atom at the Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. They discussed North Korea's recent provocations, how the international community has responded, and what North Korea has been doing to get around targeted sanctions.

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New US, UN Sanctions Up Pressure on North Korea

March 4th, 2016

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On February 18, President Barack Obama signed into law a new round of sanctions designed to further squeeze the North Korean regime. On March 3, the United Nations Security Council followed suit, passing what many are calling the toughest sanctions in 20 years.

Experts Bill Newcomb and Daniel Wertz join host Jenna Gibson to go through the details of these new measures. What makes them so tough? Will they compliment each other or will there be points of contention? Will they actually push the DPRK to change? 
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Justice Michael Kirby and the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea

February 25th, 2016

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Human rights in North Korea remains a divisive issue between the international community and North Korea. In 2013, the United Nations Human Rights Council established Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to investigate human rights violations in North Korea.

In this episode, host Jenna Gibson sits down with Justice Michael Kirby, who was appointed to head the Commission of Inquiry and a former Justice of the High Court of Australia. They discuss the Commission of Inquiry and of the current state of human rights in North Korea.

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A Conversation with TV Host and Chef Marja Vongerichten

February 18th, 2016

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When Marja Vongerichten was 19, she met her birth mother for the first time since being adopted at age three. The first thing they bonded over, Marja says, was food. 

In this episode, we sit down with Marja, who is the host of the popular PBS show Kimchi Chronicles and author of a book by the same name. We discuss her background, how her love of food began, how that reconnection with her birth mother inspired her cooking, and much more.

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Korean American Day 2016: Chef Edward Lee

February 12th, 2016

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Born in Brooklyn, Chef Edward Lee always loved cooking. And after graduating from college with an English literature degree, he returned to that love and became an award-winning chef. Not only does he own successful restaurants in Kentucky and Maryland, he has also been on several major TV shows including Iron Chef America, Top Chef and Mind of a Chef.

In this episode, host Jenna Gibson sits down with Chef Lee to discuss his background, his move to the South, and his opinions on the use of the word "fusion."
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North Korea’s Abduction Project

February 6th, 2016

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In the decades following the Korean War, North Korea initiated a top-secret project to kidnap ordinary people from Japan, reeducate them, and turn them into international spies for the regime. In the late 1970s, dozens of Japanese disappeared without a trace from beaches, schools and sidewalks.
In this episode, we feature Robert Boynton, author of the fascinating new book "The Invitation-Only Zone: The True Story of North Korea's Abduction Project." Boynton spent years investigating the abduction project, interviewing the few abductees who were able to return to their homeland, and painting a picture of their lives in the North, where many were held prisoner for decades.
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Korean American Day 2016: Chef Rachel Yang

January 28th, 2016

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Every year on January 13, the Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI) sponsors a luncheon in Washington, DC to mark Korean American Day and recognize the local and national Korean American community. As part of the ceremony, KEI recognizes prominent Korean Americans that have made significant contributions in their field. This year, we recognized leaders in the culinary arts, including today's guest.

Chef Rachel Yang is co-owner of three restaurants in the Seattle area: Joule, Revel and Trove. Born in Seoul, she moved to the United States as a teenager, and tries to marry these two cultures in her cooking. In this episode, we discuss Chef Yang's background, her creative process, and how her husband won her over by making kimchi.

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[Rebroadcast] The Cleanest Race: An Interview with Author B.R. Myers

January 22nd, 2016


With Washington DC stuck in a snowstorm, please enjoy this episode of Korean Kontext originally published in 2012.


brmyers.jpgB.R. Myers is the author of “The Cleanest Race” and regular contributor to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and The Atlantic


From his book “The Cleanest Race”, Myers stands out from the rest for arguing that North Korea's political system is based neither on Communism or Stalinism and that attempts to understand North Korea as aConfucian patriarchy operating within a Cold War framework are misguided.  His views have received mixed opinions from the think-tank orthodoxy.  While some regard his outlook as a fresh approach to the topic, others have rebutted his interpretation of North Korea as a national socialist country and continue to view it through the lens of cold war politics.

Join us for a fascinating interview with Myers about his feelings on the North Korea watcher community’s reception to his work, his feelings of North Korea's current situation and about the future of North-South relations.
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Look Back, Look Forward: Predictions for the Korean Peninsula

January 15th, 2016

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Every January, KEI publishes its predictions for the 10 issues to watch for on the Korean Peninsula in the coming year. Then, in December, we revisit our predictions to see how we did.

In this episode of Korean Kontext, KEI Senior Director Troy Stangarone discusses what we got right in 2015 - and what we completely missed. He also highlights some of the predictions for 2016.

Please view KEI's 2015 review here, and our 2016 predictions here.
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North Korea’s House of Cards: Understanding the Kim Jong Un Regime

January 8th, 2016

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North Korea watchers have been trying for years to understand the inner workings of the reclusive regime. With the country launching its 4th nuclear test this week, recognizing the structure and motivations of the DPRK leadership is more important than ever.

In this episode, which was recorded prior to the nuclear test, host Jenna Gibson sits down with Ken Gause, director of the International Affairs group at CNA and author of the new book "North Korean House of Cards: Leadership Dynamics Under Kim Jong-un." They discuss Ken's research into the regime, his analysis of recent purges including the execution of Jang Song-thaek, and what to watch out for in the coming months as Kim Jong Un continues to consolidate his power.
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Korean American Day 2015: NHL Star Jim Paek

December 28th, 2015

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Every year on January 13, the Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI) sponsors a luncheon in Washington, DC to mark Korean American Day and recognize the local and national Korean American community. In 2015, KEI honored Korean Americans leaders in sports. One of the honorees was Jim Paek, two-time Stanley Cup winner who was the first person of Korean descent to play for the NHL.

In this episode, KEI senior director Troy Stangarone sits down with Jim to talk about getting into hockey as a child, what it was like to play for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and how he has made the move from player to coach.
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Korean American Day 2015: Olympic Skier Toby Dawson

December 17th, 2015

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Every year on January 13, the Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI) sponsors a luncheon in Washington, DC to mark Korean American Day and recognize the local and national Korean American community. In 2015, KEI honored Korean Americans leaders in sports. One of the honorees was Toby Dawson, Olympic bronze medalist and now coach of the South Korean national freestyle ski team. 


In this episode, KEI senior director Troy Stangarone sits down with Toby to talk about how he got his start in skiing, what it was like to compete in the Olympics, how he dealt with the transition from athlete to coach, and much more.


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Examining the Korean Economy

December 11th, 2015

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In this episode of Korean Kontext, guest host Kyle Ferrier, KEI's director of academic affairs and research, sits down with Korea Society President Tom Byrne. Before joining the Korea Society earlier this year, Tom worked for Moody's Investor Services, where he was senior vice president.
Kyle and Tom discuss the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis as well as the 2008 Global Financial Crisis from the Korean economy's perspective. They also talk about sources of risk in the Korean economy today, the potential impact of the Fed raising interest rates, and much more.
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Talk to Us in Korean: The Mavericks of Teaching Korean Online

December 2nd, 2015

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It started in 2009 with a few audio lessons. Within just six years, Talk to Me in Korean has grown into a huge hit, with millions of listeners from all over the world visiting the site to improve their Korean language skills. The organization has now expanded to include video lessons, textbooks, and even a coffee shop.

In this episode of Korean Kontext, host Jenna Gibson connects with TTMIK founder Hyunwoo Sun to discuss how how he got the idea for the site, how they have dealt with its popularity, and his thoughts on teaching Korean culture along with teaching language.

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The Kim Monarchy: Reframing Political Legitimacy in North Korea

November 20th, 2015

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Since the death of Kim Il-sung in 1994 there have been numerous predictions that the collapse of the North Korean political system would be imminent, yet the Kim dynasty continues to rule. In his new paper for KEI, Dr. Wang Son Taek argues that the reason we have been so wrong about North Korea's stability is that we need to treat Kim Jong Un more like a monarch than a charismatic leader.

In this episode, Korean Kontext host Jenna Gibson sits down with Dr. Wang to discuss his theory on the legitimacy structure of North Korea's leadership, and what this paradigm shift could mean for how we deal with the reclusive regime.
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