Divided Families: Soojin Park, Paul Lee, Ambassador Robert King

August 7th, 2020

You’ve probably heard the Korean War referred to as an unfinished conflict - but that’s not just a reference to the frozen war on the Peninsula. The sudden outbreak of war in 1950 and the rapid movement of the battlefront up and down the peninsula left countless people separated from their family members. Children separated from their parents - siblings losing one another in the chaos. 

The scale of this tragedy was so immense that reunions efforts by South Koreans to reunite with relatives within South Korea would be ongoing well into the 1980s. Of course, reuniting family members separated by the demilitarized zone between the Koreas proved more challenging - arguably increasingly so in the past two decades. Will there ever be closure for these last victims of the Korean War?  

Our guests today - Woodrow Wilson Center’s Soojin Park and Paul Lee from the U.S. Institute of Peace are intimately familiar with efforts by both governments and non-governmental organizations to reunite divided families. They are joined by Korea Economic Institute’s non-resident fellow and former special envoy for North Korea human rights issues.

You can find the issues brief on divided families that Paul Lee drafted for the National Committee on North Korea here: 

https://www.ncnk.org/resources/briefing-papers/all-briefing-papers/u.s.-north-korea-divided-families

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The Ethics of Sanctions on North Korea: Hazel Smith

July 31st, 2020

We often talk about whether the sanctions against North Korea are working. And we have spoken occasionally on this very podcast about the ways North Korea also cheats and gets around sanctions. 

 

But less frequently discussed at KEI or elsewhere in policymaking circles is whether it is ethical to impose the sanctions that we have on North Korea currently. 

 

To discuss this issue, we have with us today Dr. Hazel Smith, a professorial research associate in Korean studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies and Professor Emerita of International Security at Cranfield University.

 

KEI Vice President Mark Tokola caught up with her for a discussion on this very important subject. 

 

You can read more on Dr. Hazel Smith's research in an article recently published on the Pacific Forum. Link to the article here: https://pacforum.org/publication/pacnet-24-the-destruction-of-north-korean-agriculture-we-need-to-rethink-un-sanctions

 

Also, Hope to see you on Wednesday, August 5, for a joint webinar event with the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy on how we should think about global value chains in the context of COVID-19 and U.S.-China trade war. It will be an important discussion that charts where international trade might be headed in the coming years. 

 

RSVP here: https://share.hsforms.com/1NSpkIoKAQtyf6qjAi9wzEQ2ztzy 

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How North Korea Responds to a Black Swan Event: Markus Garlauskas

July 24th, 2020

North Korea is putting on a tough face as the world confronts the COVID-19 pandemic. Authorities in Pyongyang continue to reassure the rest of the world that nothing is wrong and that the country remains completely immune from the pandemic. And yet previous international crises - like the global rice panic of 2008 - had an outsized impact on North Korea because the country stands so precariously on the edge of economic collapse. Similarly, the country’s decision to close its borders to both goods and people in response to the pandemic is expected to have severe consequences on the livelihood of many people. 

 

Simultaneously, the country has also been maintaining diplomatic isolation - waving away overtures from South Korea and demolishing the inter-Korean liaison office that had symbolized the great advances made since the summits between Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un in 2018. 

 

But now, Pyongyang faces a tough decision - will it maintain this isolation even as South Korean voters extend overwhelming support to its pro-engagement administration, and as the United States prepares for an election where Donald Trump - the U.S. president who has extended legitimacy to the North Korean leadership - faces a very tough competition?

 

To discuss Pyongyang’s strategic choices at this critical juncture, we have with us today, Markus Garlauskas - a former U.S. National Intelligence Officer for North Korea. KEI Senior Director Troy Stangarone caught up with him for a quick discussion.  

 

Staying on the subject of North Korea, KEI will host Dr. Hazel Smith on July 28, 2020 at 2 p.m. EDT for a discussion on the ethics of international sanctions on North Korea - she asks whether the illegality of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal justifies the current pressures placed on the country by the international community. 

 

You can RSVP for the event here:

https://share.hsforms.com/1T4Y00yBaQkOu6OLU0NNXEA2ztzy 

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The Retreat (And Return?) of the United States: Gordon Flake

July 17th, 2020

Since Donald Trump took over as president in 2017, the United States has been retreating from the world - and from the Indo-Pacific region more specifically. Most notably, the country has backed out from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the nuclear agreement with Iran, and the Paris Climate Agreement. 

How do countries in the Indo-Pacific region see the diminishing role of the United States on the global and regional stage? 

Korea Economic Institute Senior Director Troy Stangarone spoke with Professor Gordon Flake on the views from Australia - one of America’s closest and oldest allies in the Western Pacific. He explains why the Trump administration’s isolation has been particularly concerning to Australia and what roles middle powers like Australia and South Korea have taken up at this time. 

We have an exciting upcoming event at KEI next week - Former National Intelligence Officer for North Korea Markus Garlauskas will join us for a conversation on how COVID-19 has become a factor in North Korea’s engagement with the United States - and what the impending U.S. presidential election means for negotiations going forward. 

You will find the RSVP here: https://share.hsforms.com/1a-RlfE_oQLuohzb5rvfcow2ztzy

 

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When Cold Warriors Sued for Peace: Mark Tokola

July 10th, 2020

Looking back on the Korean War, one might assume that the outbreak of a violent conflict that killed millions of people would preclude the possibility of a peaceful resolution of the division on the peninsula. Surprisingly, however, there was an effort in 1954 - only a year after the armistice that halted military engagements in Korea - to resolve the Korea question through diplomacy. 

It’s not a secret that this conference failed to resolve the issues - but it was nonetheless historic. And while the international environment has changed drastically since, the lessons that the meeting offers to summit goers today is critical.

Our guest today is KEI Vice President Mark Tokola, who has done extensive research into this event using declassified state department documents.

If you are interested in reading up more about this event, you can find Mark Tokola’s full research paper here: http://www.theasanforum.org/9324-2/ 

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Lasting Legacies of An Unfinished War: James Person and William Stueck

July 3rd, 2020

It would not be an exaggeration to claim that the Korean War shaped world history. There had been bloodshed elsewhere that bookmarked the start of the bitter conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union that would rage until 1991 - but it was Korea where the conflict was most pronounced.

But this pivotal event - as we observe it today in retrospect is also often deeply flawed.

We assume that the Korean War left the United States and South Korea closer together - military allies that would go on to fight together in Vietnam and the Middle East. And we assume that North Korea was determined to try their luck at a military invasion of South Korea again. History could not be further from the truth - the early years of the U.S.-Korea alliance were tenuous - one that was not expected to last too long - and the North Korean regime focused on developing its economy to garner legitimacy vis-a-vis their rival state in Seoul. 

Discussing this and more, we have Professors James Person and William Stueck. 

Just as a quick heads up, we have a really exciting event next week with Dr. Gordon Flake on what it means for Australia and South Korea to attend the G7 summit and what roles they might play in the geopolitical tension between China and the United States.

RSVP Here: https://share.hsforms.com/1xwC-DeCIRJ2JlQWXaum_wA2ztzy 

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The Miracle at Hungnam: Ned Forney

June 26th, 2020

The international force that answered the United Nation's call to defend the Republic of Korea between 1950 and 1953 did more than engage in combat with North Korean and Chinese soldiers. In December 1950, American troops at the port city of Hungnam rescued 100,000 Korean refugees - even as they faced enemy fire and a bitter Korean winter. 

One of the officers who were critical to what would be known as the “Hungnam Evacuation” was Colonel Edward Forney. In 2017, Colonel Forney's grandson, Ned Forney, was invited to Washington, DC to take part in a ceremony at the National Marine Corps Museum's new memorial for those who undertook rearguard action to buy time and space for the evacuation. Korean Kontext’s then-host Jenna Gibson had an opportunity to sit down with him for a conversation about Colonel Edward Forney and how South Korea’s current president, Moon Jae-in, is personally tied to this story.

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A Division No One Planned or Wanted: Charles Kraus

June 19th, 2020

June 25, 2020 marks the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War. The conflict on the Korean Peninsula has been going on for so long that we sometimes see it as a natural extension of the Second World War - But we forget that the tragic division was one that no one had planned or wanted.

So how did the Koreas end up becoming two countries if neither the United States or the Soviet Union had wanted this to happen? 

To take us back to those fateful early years of the Cold War, we caught up with historian Charles Kraus. He is the deputy director of the History and Public Policy Programs at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Wilson Center’s digital archives recently curated a series of declassified documents from the Soviet Union that reveal what the country’s chief policymakers, including Stalin, expected on the Korean Peninsula at the end of the Second World War. These documents weave a complex story of missed opportunities and misaligned intentions that ultimately yielded a tragedy. 

Please consider visiting the Wilson Center’s digital archives: https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/

And here are some articles by Charles Krause:

"Failed Diplomacy: Soviet-American Relations and the Division of Korea" (https://www.wilsoncenter.org/blog-post/failed-diplomacy-soviet-american-relations-and-division-korea)

"Preparing for War: Soviet-North Korean Relations, 1947-1950" (https://www.wilsoncenter.org/blog-post/preparing-war-soviet-north-korean-relations-1947-1950)

"China, North Korea, and the Origins of the Korean War" (https://www.wilsoncenter.org/blog-post/china-north-korea-and-origins-korean-war)

And please check out the just-published issue of the Wilson Quarterly, which focuses on the Korean War. You can find a link to the issue, again, in the description of this episode. https://www.wilsonquarterly.com/quarterly/korea-70-years-on/ 

On Wednesday June 24, KEI is hosting Cold War scholars James Person and William Stueck for a historical perspective on how the Korean War shaped the geopolitical tensions in Asia and how they continue to affect the current security environment in the region. Please RSVP here: https://share.hsforms.com/1D6rEUgx6QqOGAMwq5rOMfQ2ztzy

 

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Defending Korea and a Letter to Pvt. Parker: John Stevens

June 12th, 2020

On June 25, 1950, North Korea launched a surprise invasion against South Korea and started a war that has not yet been formally ended. 

It was almost a short war.

The North Korean invasion force consisted of more than a hundred Soviet tanks and an air force – all armaments that had devastated the German army on the eastern front during the Second World War only 5 years previously. By contrast, the South Korean army had no tanks and an air force composed solely of reconnaissance planes.

Predictably, South Korea’s capital Seoul fell in three days. And by August, the North Korean forces had nearly reached the southern port city of Busan – the last pocket of territory held by the Republic of Korea. And had it not been for the intervention of the United Nations forces, South Korea as we know it would not exist.

This episode is a rebroadcast of an interview with Colonel John Stevens, a veteran of the Korean War who fought at the Battle of the Nakdong River to defend that last pocket of South Korean resistance around the port of Busan. He also participated in the amphibious landing at Inchon that turned the tide of the war.

Colonel Stevens is also a veteran of World War 2. You can read more about his incredible military career in this article: https://nedforney.com/index.php/2018/09/28/john-stevens-marine-wwii-korean-war/

Also, stay tuned after the interview for a letter from Ambassador Kathleen Stevens.

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Troubles Apologies in the Time of Pandemic: Alexis Dudden

June 5th, 2020

The pandemic has been going on for so long that international affairs observers nearly forgot that two of America’s closest allies in one of the most consequential regions in the world have been locked in a bitter dispute since 2018. 

South Korea believes that its citizens who were victims of forced labor under Japanese occupation between 1910 and 1945 have the right to pursue legal cases against private companies that exploited their bodies. Japan believes that they do not have such rights. And both countries have been exchanging barbs that did not fully dissipate with the outbreak of COVID-19.   

Indeed, things might actually get worse in the coming months. On June 1, South Korean courts secured legal grounds to liquidate assets of Japanese steelmaker Nippon Steel that are held in South Korea - and use them to compensate forced labor victims. The seized assets are not a lot of money for a conglomerate like Nippon Steel - approximately USD 330,000. But what is on the line is not money, but historical narrative.

Our guest today is University of Connecticut Professor Alexis Dudden who is the author of the fantastic book on this very subject titled “Troubled Apologies Among Japan, Korea, and the United States.” She joins KEI Vice President Mark Tokola for a timely conversation that highlights how these tensions are rising at a particularly bad moment in international relations - and why controversies over history between Korea and Japan are so difficult to address in the context of the respective countries’ domestic politics.

You can find Dr. Dudden's book here: http://cup.columbia.edu/book/troubled-apologies-among-japan-korea-and-the-united-states/9780231141765

And you can sign up for KEI's weekly newsletter here: https://share.hsforms.com/1WiX_to9IRh-DlnV68MV0sg2ztzy 

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Korean Baseball Comes to Bat in America: Mark Lippert, Eric Hacker, Daniel Kim, Dan Kurtz, Esther Lee, Troy Stangarone

May 29th, 2020

While the rest of the world is still struggling to contain the outbreak of COVID-19, South Korea - progressing steadily in its containment of the pandemic - has begun its season of baseball. With the Major League Baseball season postponed in the United States, ESPN has begun airing the Korean Baseball Organization’s games in America. 

It is a seminal moment. Koreans are bringing baseball back to its homeland and showcasing what their league looks like. Potentially a harbinger for greater exchange of players between the two nations. 

In light of this development, we have today a panel of Korean baseball experts, including former player Eric Hacker and agent Esther Lee, to discuss and highlight the 101 of the league and the sport in Korea. Our guest host, former U.S. ambassador to Korea Mark Lippert, moderates this discussion.

You can also find Troy Stangarone’s Diplomat column on the Korean Baseball Organization here: https://thediplomat.com/2019/06/should-amateur-baseball-players-go-pro-in-south-korea-and-japan/

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The Last Transition Economy: Vincent Koen

May 22nd, 2020

Even in some fantastical scenario where Kim Jong-un suddenly decides to give up nuclear weapons and end his regime’s flagrant disregard for human rights, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will still be an impoverished state where less than half the country’s population has access to electricity. 

How will North Korea climb out of this state of destitution? Identifying the challenges that the country faces is a vital first step. And that is precisely what a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development does. This first stand-alone report on North Korea from the OECD takes stock of what is holding back the country today and provides guidelines on what might be needed to turn the country onto a path to prosperity. 

Randall Jones, a Non-Resident Fellow at the Korea Economic Institute, a Visiting Fellow at Columbia University, and formerly the head of the Japan/Korea Desk at the OECD sat down with Vincent Koen, the head of the division of country studies at the OECD to discuss this new report. 

You can read the OECD report here: https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/economics/north-korea-the-last-transition-economy_82dee315-en

Also report on North Korea’s special economic zones that Vincent mentioned in the episode: http://www.keia.org/sites/default/files/publications/kei_aps_clement_190604_final.pdf

And an interview with the author of the report on the special economic zones here: https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-hrrpz-b495f4 

Finally, you can find the RSVP for the May 26 webinar discussion with Dr. Alexis Dudden on what lies ahead for Korea-Japan relations here: https://share.hsforms.com/1je0Ns2CoRG2MJZZLbsm5ug2ztzy

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Diplomacy or Readiness: Terence Roehrig

May 15th, 2020

International observers were shocked when President Trump met with North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un in June 2018. But amid the spectacle of these two leaders putting aside their infamous barbs and insults, there was another shock awaiting the public. President Trump announced that joint military exercises with South Korea would be postponed on account of their costliness and their unnecessarily provocative nature. This had not been consulted with South Korea beforehand. 

That was 2018 when people thought perhaps a peace treaty with North Korea was just around the corner. Two years on, there is no treaty, North Korea has not budged on its nuclear weapons arsenal, and in fact Pyongyang is beginning to act more provocatively. And yet, the old joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States have not resumed.

Would the forces be ready in case there is a conflict? This is the question that our guest, Professor Terence Roehrig seeks to answer today. He is a professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College and recently authored a paper for KEI titled: “ROK-U.S. Exercises and Denuclearizing North Korea: Diplomacy or Readiness?” which you can find here: http://www.keia.org/sites/default/files/publications/kei_aps_2020_roehrig_200422.pdf

The episode today is from a web discussion between Professor Roehrig and KEI’s Director of Academic Affairs Kyle Ferrier.  

 

You can also RSVP for our upcoming discussion with Andray Abrahamian on Tuesday, May 19 on how we might be able to better understand developments in North Korea here: https://share.hsforms.com/1NMB8QG0YSS-TpoEnz6d0FQ2ztzy

And RSVP for the panel discussion on Thursday, May 21 featuring former U.S. ambassador to Seoul Mark Lippert on the implications of ESPN broadcasting Korean baseball in the United States here: https://share.hsforms.com/13tmr1-R2Qtiz3XFvIcm1cg2ztzy

 

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Succession in North Korea: Ken Gause, Chris Steinitz

May 8th, 2020

After weeks of keeping the international community spellbound with his sudden disappearance and rumors of his death, Kim Jong-un has reemerged in public. But this whole event raised a very important question in people’s minds. Who would succeed North Korea’s supreme leader if he were to die? 

It’s clear to even people without medical degrees that Kim Jong-un is not the healthiest bloke on the international stage - a heart attack would not be out of the question. What would happen to North Korea then? Who would command the country’s one-million strong military and nuclear arsenal?

Our guests today, Ken Gause and Chris Steinitz from the Adversary Analytics Program at CNA, outline potential outcomes.

As a quick caveat, the discussion was recorded before news emerged of Kim Jong-un’s public appearance, but the question of what might happen if the North Korean leader were to be suddenly incapacitated is still important to consider now more than ever. 

You can find Ken and Chris' article here: http://blog.keia.org/2020/04/post-kim-jong-un-regime/

Please also consider RSVPing for our event on May 12 with former US Forces Korea Commander Walter Skip Sharp: https://share.hsforms.com/1H3P0Pa_BRpeosIKM_-jSHQ2ztzy

And our event on May 13 with researchers from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on the current state of the North Korean economy: https://share.hsforms.com/1Ypu6JeeoTbui-FSoO26Ahw2ztzy

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Two Disappearances and a Funeral: Mark Tokola

May 1st, 2020

Where in the world is Kim Jong-un? The dictator of North Korea who appears so fond of being filmed and photographed has disappeared from sight - and there are rumors that he is possibly dead. Social media, in particular, has turned the event into a meme, adding cultural references such as Game of Thrones to frame imaginary scenarios on what might follow in the vacuum left by the late supreme leader. 

But for those who have been watching North Korea for a while, this is not a new occurrence. Leaders of this most opaque state have disappeared in the past. Our guest today, KEI Vice President Mark Tokola - a veteran of the US foreign service and former Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. embassy in Seoul - remembers those incidents. And with history as an added guide, he provides a more sober analysis of the ongoing mystery around the whereabouts of Kim Jong-un.

You can find Mark Tokola's article on this topic here: http://blog.keia.org/2020/04/kim-regimes-two-disappearances-funeral/

In addition, please find the RSVP for our discussion with Col. David Maxwell on potential instability in North Korea: https://share.hsforms.com/1sq5iU-1HSBuh9vCm4hpX_A2ztzy

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Winning an Election during a Pandemic: Scott Snyder, Kang Insun, and Song Hochang

April 24th, 2020

On April 7, the American state of Wisconsin held an election to decide who would be the Democratic Party’s nominee for the US presidential election in November 2020. The days leading up to the election were chaotic with the state’s Democratic governor calling for a postponement of the state-wide election out of public health concerns and the state’s Republican-controlled legislature challenging this order. Ultimately, the election went ahead - and health officials note that, to date, at least 19 people infected with COVID-19 in the state of Wisconsin can trace their exposure to the election.  

The following week, on April 15, a very differently-run election took place in South Korea. All 300 seats in South Korea’s unicameral legislature were up for grabs and South Koreans went to the polls in greater numbers than they had since 1992 to elect a new National Assembly. 

Meticulous plans had been made, including measures to ensure that voters would be able to maintain social distancing at polling stations; that voting booths would be regularly wiped down, and that self-quarantined citizens would be able to vote after polling stations were closed to regular voters.   

Perhaps equally impressive was the outcome - a landslide victory for President Moon Jae-in’s Democratic Party - which now controls 180 seats in parliament, a full three-fifth of the chamber.  

In this episode, Former National Assemblyman Song Hochang, Chosun Ilbo Deputy Editor Kang Insun, and Scott Snyder discuss both how South Koreans held the election and what the political impact of the results would be for the incumbent Moon Jae-in administration. 

This episode is an excerpt from a public webinar on April 16. You can watch the full event on KEI's YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/5_8WpGnpnkU 

You can also RSVP to KEI's webinar on April 30 on the impact of COVID-19 in North Korea here: https://share.hsforms.com/5031070/5ea46576-d84a-4e39-8f71-888679fd9c3f

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Going Together to Address a Pandemic: Marc Knapper

April 17th, 2020

Few alliances in the world are as storied and robust as the U.S.-Korea alliance. Building on the security relationship established at the end of the Korean War, the partnership between the two countries have since expanded to trade, science and technology, human rights, and elsewhere.

And in particular, we saw the public health cooperation between the two countries in the joint effort to contain and treat Ebola during the 2014 outbreak in West Africa. 

So what has the partnership looked like between the two countries in the ongoing effort to contain COVID-19?

To discuss this collaboration, our guest today is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Korea and Japan Marc Knapper. A member of the Senior Foreign Service of the U.S. Department of State, his previous postings have included Tokyo, Hanoi, and Baghdad - but most notably for the discussion today, he served as the Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. embassy in Seoul from 2017 to 2018 and Deputy Chief of Mission from 2015 to 2016.

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Public Health is Human Rights, Human Rights is Public Health: Ambassador Robert King and Greg Scarlatoiu

April 10th, 2020

Should the international community suspend advocacy for human rights in favor of cooperation with odious regimes to fight the COVID-19 pandemic?

This appears upon first glance like a trade-off, but Ambassador Robert King and Greg Scarlatoiu make the case that they are not - in fact, robust human rights is fundamental to containing an infectious disease. They focus in particular on North Korea, whose human rights abuses are actually what makes the country more susceptible to COVID-19 than other countries. 

This podcast is an excerpt from a webinar event on human rights in North Korea, which you can find here: https://youtu.be/Tq_5r9a-68I

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The Economic Fallout of a Pandemic: Troy Stangarone and Kyle Ferrier

April 3rd, 2020

We are amidst a pandemic - its victims will not only be the sick but also those who will lose their livelihood as the economy shuts down to contain the further spread of the disease. A body of research, including those published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, notes that after old age and pre-existing health conditions, low socioeconomic status acts as the top variable that could determine your susceptibility to epidemics. In the context of COVID-19, available data suggest that COVID-19 can be about twice as deadly for those in society’s lower rungs.  

At this critical moment, governments around the world are struggling to find ways to ensure both economic security and safety.  

Our guests today, KEI Senior Director Troy Stangarone and Director Kyle Ferrier, are tracking how South Korea is confronting this challenge. For policymakers and leaders of corporations in the United States, Seoul’s economic response - alongside those of European states - are sure to have some relevant policy lessons for their own response.    

You can find Troy and Kyle’s recent articles on South Korea’s response to the economic fallout of the pandemic here: 

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/nation/2020/03/738_286766.html

https://thediplomat.com/2020/03/south-korea-braces-for-global-recession/

https://thediplomat.com/2020/02/coronavirus-now-poised-for-outsized-impact-in-south-korea/

http://blog.keia.org/2020/03/south-korea-covid-19-financial-crisis-part-2-tools-cooperation/

Please also consider watching our recent event video on the state of human rights in North Korea. Ambassador Robert King and Committee for Human Rights in North Korea executive director Greg Scarlatoiu note how human rights violations in the country - like mass detention and information repression - will compromise public health in the face of COVID-19.

You can find the event video here:

https://youtu.be/Tq_5r9a-68I 

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The Rise, Stumble, and Rise of A Conglomerate: Geoffrey Cain

March 27th, 2020

How does a company that began as a vegetable and fish shop grow to become a leading global tech company - what made that astonishing growth possible, and what are some of the unseen costs of that blinding development? Perhaps just as importantly for American audiences, what are the implications of such a company on the society that it inhabits?

 

To discuss this and much more, we are joined by Geoffrey Cain, a longtime journalist whose work has appeared in The Economist, Time and The Wall Street Journal. Geoffrey is also a regular commentator on Bloomberg TV, BBC, CNN, and NPR.

 

His newest book Samsung Rising - published by Currency, an imprint of Random House - tracks the rise of Korea’s leading brand name from the time of Korea’s colonial occupation in the 1930s to its aggressive rise to become the largest smartphone maker in the world.

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How Korea and the World Are (and Are Not) Fighting the Coronavirus: Amb. Kathleen Stephens and Mark Tokola

March 20th, 2020

On January 27, the South Korean government in concert with private biotech companies went into overdrive to produce effective testing kits for the coronavirus. There were at the time 4 cases in the country, but the gravity of the crisis was quickly understood. 7 weeks later, South Korea had tested well over 290,000 people and identified over 8,000 cases. As a result, there has been a reduction in new cases in March. 

 

South Korea’s actions contrast from those of the United States government - only 60,000 tests have been run as of March 18 - there are 330 million people in the country. As a result of these insufficient tests, there is no way of knowing how many cases are in the United States. And an effective containment policy is difficult to craft. One projection estimated that 96 million people in the United States could be infected in the coming months. 

 

Why was there such a huge difference between the governments’ responses in South Korea and the United States? And what can the world do together to address this crisis?

 

KEI President Ambassador Kathleen Stephens and Vice President Mark Tokola highlight that it was not just technical capacity but political leadership and civic engagement that played a huge role in shaping South Korea’s response. 

 

You can also find KEI Senior Director Troy Stangarone’s recent piece in The Diplomat magazine on South Korea’s preparations for the economic challenges that are expected to stem from the global pandemic, here: https://thediplomat.com/2020/03/south-korea-braces-for-global-recession/

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How an Isolated Country Fights a Pandemic: Troy Stangarone

March 13th, 2020

On Friday, March 13, Commander of United States Forces Korea General Robert Abrams noted that North Korea’s armed forces have been in lockdown for about 30 days and only recently have started routine training again. Citing one example, General Abrams highlighted that the North Korean airforce did not fly an airplane for 24 days. He believes this is a sign that the country is trying to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

 

Meanwhile, Kim Jong-un was featured in North Korea’s state media supervising live-fire artillery exercise. The country has also launched short-ranged projectiles. 

 

What is going on? Why would North Korea choose to look more aggressive at a time when it could most benefit from international cooperation? KEI Senior Director and Fellow Troy Stangarone joins us to answer this question.

 

You can find a link to Troy’s article for the Diplomat magazine here: https://thediplomat.com/2020/03/coronavirus-the-economic-costs-for-north-korea/ 

 

Please also listen to our previous episodes on how the Korean Peninsula is addressing the coronavirus outbreak.

 

With KEI Fellow Kyle Ferrier on South Korea's response: http://keia.org/podcast/tackling-coronavirus-not-costless-kyle-ferrier

And with Dr. John Grundy on the preparedness of the North Korean healthcare system: http://keia.org/podcast/can-north-korea-take-coronavrius-not-alone-john-grundy

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Tackling the Coronavirus is Not Costless: Kyle Ferrier

March 6th, 2020

As of March 6, there are over 6,500 reported coronavirus cases in South Korea. 

 

It is currently the country with the second-largest number of coronavirus patients.

 

The large number, however, may be less a reflection of South Korea’s exposure to the disease and more of the country’s proactive effort to screen and test people for the viral infection. The country has tested over 140,000 people - setting up stations throughout the country and employing all public resources, including its universal health care system and the military, to establish the infrastructure needed to treat patients. 

 

The thoroughness of the country’s approach to the coronavirus is evident in its fatality rate standing at 0.57% - this is far lower than the 3.4% figure cited by the World Health Organization and it reflects either South Korea’s ability to detect patients more quickly and more thoroughly or its ability to treat patients more effectively.  

 

Nonetheless, the disease has been a major strain on South Korea socially, economically, and politically. KEI Fellow and Director of Academic Affairs Kyle Ferrier walks us through how the coronavrius is affecting the country.

 

You can find Kyle Ferrier’s recent pieces for the Diplomat Magazine in the following links: 

https://thediplomat.com/2020/02/coronavirus-concerns-intensify-in-south-korea/

https://thediplomat.com/2020/02/coronavirus-now-poised-for-outsized-impact-in-south-korea/

 

If you have not checked out our interview from last week with Dr. John Grundy on how North Korea might be addressing the coronavirus outbreak, we highly recommend you take a listen: http://keia.org/podcast/can-north-korea-take-coronavrius-not-alone-john-grundy

 

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Can North Korea take on the coronavrius? Not alone: John Grundy

February 27th, 2020

The U.S. Center for Disease Control announced this week that Americans should prepare for the coronavirus spreading in the United States. And in other parts of the world, the disease is already spreading quite rapidly.  

 

At this time, many security analysts are waking up to the reality that there are countries less prepared to contain and treat this new infectious disease - these countries may become a weak link in the global chain to stem the spread of the disease and intensify the consequences of a pandemic.  

 

In Northeast Asia, that country is North Korea - for its part Pyongyang is taking this disease seriously. Its response has been stronger than it had been against the 2014 ebola outbreak, the H1N1 outbreak in 2009, and the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003. It has been described by some analysts as “unusually high-profile." 

 

So what might be aiding or detracting North Korea’s capacity to address this major threat? Our guest today, Dr. John Grundy, is a medical professional who has traveled to North Korea over 8 times and has visited remote locations to examine the country’s health systems. He joins us today to provide his take on North Korea’s public health capacity. 

 

You can find Dr. Grundy’s 2015 paper covering the evolution of North Korea’s public healthcare system from the Cold War era to today, here: 

http://keia.org/sites/default/files/publications/koreaseconomy_ch8_history_international_relations.pdf

 

Please also check out a rebroadcast of KEI's 2017 interview with Dr. Grundy on the history of North Korea's healthcare system:

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-nkxr7-d45dff 

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[Rebroadcast] North Korea’s Healthcare System: John Grundy

February 21st, 2020

Even before the coronavirus became the top headline news in the United States, North Korea responded to the outbreak of the infectious disease in China by sealing its borders. North Korea has not yet reported any cases of the coronavirus - but five North Koreans reportedly died on the Sino-North Korean border from symptoms similar to the coronavirus - there are also reports that a North Korean in Pyongyang may have contracted the virus as well.

 

At this moment, how prepared is North Korea’s healthcare system to combat this new infectious disease? We bring you an episode of the Korean Kontext from 2017 where we sat down with Dr. John Grundy who has field experience examining North Korea’s medical facilities - and had written a paper for KEI on the history of the country’s healthcare system. 

 

You can find Dr. Grundy’s 2017 paper for KEI, "History, International Relations, and Public Health: The Case of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, 1953-2015" here: 

http://keia.org/sites/default/files/publications/koreaseconomy_ch8_history_international_relations.pdf

 

Please also find KEI Senior Director Troy Stangarone’s Peninsula Blog article on why the U.S. government should help North Korea combat the coronavirus here: 

http://blog.keia.org/2020/02/united-states-can-help-north-korea-coronavirus/

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10 Issues for the Korean Peninsula in 2020: KEI Staff

February 14th, 2020

2019 was a year of confusion in the United States and the Asia-Pacific.

After the failed Hanoi summit, the world waited for North Korea to come back to the table, which they did not do.

The United States and South Korea agreed to a temporary cost-sharing agreement for U.S. troops stationed in Korea - and Korea watchers waited for a more long-term agreement to be settled before the end of the year. This did not happen.

Meanwhile, people in the United States anxiously waited for Congress to make a decision on whether they would impeach the president or not. 

Then 2020 started with a bang - the United States nearly went to war with Iran; the impeachment trial of President Trump wrapped up rapidly; the Wuhan coronavirus became the top global threat. Amidst all these rapidly-changing developments, what is KEI keeping its eyes on? 

KEI Senior Director Troy Stangarone, Director Kyle Ferrier, and Director Sang Kim are here to tell us about the top issues they are watching in 2020.

Please also find their joint blog piece here: http://blog.keia.org/2020/01/10-issues-watch-korean-peninsula-2020/

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Monetizing The Linchpin: Kyle Ferrier

February 7th, 2020

Do countries need allies? Do alliances necessarily require the member countries to set aside their national interests? These are the questions that the Trump administration has posed with its America-first approach to foreign policy. 

One of the key claims from the president is that countries like South Korea are not paying their fair share of the defense costs in the security alliance. But who has actually done the math on what the South Koreans are contributing to the alliance?

KEI Fellow and Director of Academic Affairs Kyle Ferrier has done the math on the value of the alliance - and he believes that the United States is risking a whole lot more than $5 billion by undermining people’s confidence in the U.S.-ROK security alliance.

You can find his paper "Monetizing the Linchpin" here: 

http://www.keia.org/sites/default/files/publications/kei_monitoring_the_linchpin_191205.pdf

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Building a Better Future with Truth: Min Jin Lee

January 31st, 2020

Why is it important to tell true stories about the past?

It is a question that people are grappling with across the world. In the United States, uncomfortable issues like the legacy of slavery have come to the forefront of public debate. Elsewhere, people are examining the accuracy of traditional narratives around colonialism, war, and the origins of the socio-economic order as we know it. 

It is a difficult exercise for a community, one that might first appear to be opening old wounds rather than healing them. This is especially true at a time when political and economic anxieties - alongside unprecedented changes in technology and human migration - appear to be already unspooling the fabric of society. 

But author Min Jin Lee insists that we must persist in telling true stories about the past because they inform us about who we are and our relationship with one another. They are the very foundations of building a more peaceful and tolerant world. 

Korean Kontext caught up with Min Jin Lee at the 2020 Korean American Day celebration in Washington D.C. where she was recognized alongside fellow author Alexander Chee as this year’s honorees for their contributions to American literature and for elevating the voices of Korean Americans in the United States.

If you have not had the chance to check out our interview with Min Jin Lee’s fellow Korean American Day honoree Alexander Chee, you can find that episode here: 

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-ipg7r-d0e6d1 

Also please check out Min Jin Lee's short story Stonehenge here: 

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/06/10/stonehenge

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Representation and Community: Alexander Chee

January 24th, 2020

What is the value of representation in a society? Why consider a female president? or Asian actors in movies? or spotlight Black community leaders? It’s an important question for the United States, which is contending with structural inequities - racial, sexual, and economic - and for the rest of the world as well. 

Author Alexander Chee has an answer. Diverse voices deserve a place in our society to tell stories only they can tell - and their stories are important to make sense of the world around us that is - not being made more complex - but rather has always been complex. And if you think your local community is simple and homogenous, it is not, it never was. 

This is the first of two podcasts where we catch up with KEI’s Korean American Day honorees. Today, we speak with Alexander Chee. Currently an associate professor in the department of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth University, he is a journalist, essayist - and author of two novels titled Edinburgh and Queen of the Night. His most recent publication is a series of essays called “How to write an autobiography.” He was honored in this year’s Korean American Day for his accomplishments in modern American literature where he placed society’s rules and norms under a literary magnifying glass. 

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Korea and the Persian Gulf: Troy Stangarone

January 17th, 2020

2020 is starting off dramatically with the escalation of tensions in the Middle East - The world held its breath while the United States and Iran exchanged both blows and barbs.

In the weeks that followed, tensions fortunately deescalated. But in the aftermath, the European Union has accused Tehran of reneging elements of the nuclear deal. Although the Trump administration had already abandoned the nuclear deal in May 2018, Tehran’s abrogation could lead to the reimposition of further sanctions. And so, the situation remains deeply volatile. 

So it’s a good time to review what risks South Korea faces if a conflict flairs up in the Middle East. Would Korean troops be deployed to the region? How long could the South Korean economy last without its vital oil supplies? Are there alternative suppliers? And what would this mean for negotiations with North Korea?

KEI Senior Director Troy Stangarone will answer all these questions in this episode.

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Sharing the Burden: Song Min-soon

December 20th, 2019

This week, the United States and South Korea failed to reach an agreement on how to share the cost for U.S. troops deployed on the Korean Peninsula. 

The two countries had failed to come to an agreement last December as well - ultimately settling on a one-year deal in February of this year where South Korea increased its contribution from around $800 million to nearly $1 billion.

In the current round of negotiations, the Trump administration has sought a 400% increase. A payment of $4.7 billion that would cover the entire cost of U.S. troop deployment and more. 

The position of the U.S. government has elicited concerns both in South Korea and the United States. Long-time policy watchers have raised worries that this may weaken the alliance at a vital juncture in U.S. engagements in the region, or push South Korea to take radical steps to better protect itself against the North Korean threat, such as the acquisition of nuclear weapons. 

Our guest today, former ROK Foreign Minister Song Min-soon, is one of the original architects of the burden-sharing agreement between the United States and the Republic of Korea. He is also a long-time policy practitioner who worked on U.S.-Korea relations. He joins us today to provide his view of relations between the two countries.

Here is the link to KEI's event on U.S. approach to defense burden-sharing: https://youtu.be/CH0jHNB5OwQ 

And you can find KEI fellow Kyle Ferrier’s paper on the monetary value of Korea’s contributions to U.S. foreign policy here: http://www.keia.org/sites/default/files/publications/kei_monitoring_the_linchpin_191205.pdf

 

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Impeachment, Part 2: Consequences

December 13th, 2019

This week, Congress introduced 2 articles of impeachment against President Trump. One for abuse of power and one for obstruction of Congress.

The ongoing confrontation between the White House and U.S. Congress will likely engross President Donald Trump’s political attention in the months ahead. Given his central role in executing highly delicate negotiations with North Korea and high-stakes face-off over trade with China, the question on many people’s minds is how the impeachment inquiry may affect the U.S. government’s execution of foreign policy. Our guest today, KEI Senior Director Troy Stangarone, addresses this topic head-on. 

This is part two of the episodes dealing with impeachment - specifically addressing how the impeachment will affect U.S. negotiations with North Korea. 

If you haven’t listened to part 1 on the precedents set by the impeachment inquiries against Presidents Nixon and Clinton, I highly recommend you going back and listening to the episode. You can find it here:

https://www.podbean.com/eu/pb-yymkb-ca17b9

 

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Impeachment, Part 1: Precedent

December 6th, 2019

The ongoing confrontation between the White House and U.S. Congress will likely engross President Donald Trump’s political attention in the months ahead. Given his central role in executing highly delicate negotiations with North Korea and high-stakes face-off over trade with China, the question on many people’s minds is how the impeachment inquiry may affect the U.S. government’s execution of foreign policy. 

Two most recent cases of impeachment proceedings against an incumbent president provide insights into what domestic and international observers could expect going forward. Our interns, Soojin Hwang and Rachel Kirsch review precedents set by Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

This is the first of two episodes dealing with the impeachment scandal. 

Please also find Soojin and Rachel's accompanying blog post here: http://blog.keia.org/2019/10/impeachment-precedent-lessons-nixon-clinton-administrations/

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A Team of Their Own: Seth Berkman

November 22nd, 2019

While it is frustrating to see North Korean projectiles flying out to sea and Pyongyang’s erratic, unpredictable reactions in negotiations, we cannot forget where things stood in 2017 - the days of Fire and Fury. The exchange of rhetoric between the United States and North Korea appeared to be pushing both sides towards a confrontation. Then a shift happened just as quickly as the escalation - especially after North Korea’s showed interest in jointly participating in the Olympics with South Korea at Pyeongchang in early 2018. 

At the heart of this joint participation in the Olympics was the ice hockey team that was formed with athletes representing both North and South Korea - these are events that you might be already familiar with, but a lot was happening at Pyeongchang, both at a geopolitical level and at a human level. 

The unified Korea team was more than just a story of North-South reconciliation. The team was pan-Korean with players of Korean descent from Canada and the United States skating side-by-side.  

Seth Berkman is the author of the first book on this unique event. His new book "A Team of Their Own: How an International Sisterhood Made Olympic History" is now available wherever good books are sold. 

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The Korean Revolutionary in Cuba: Joseph Juhn

November 15th, 2019

What does it mean to be Korean?

Is a person's Korean identity contingent on their birth on the Korean Peninsula, their parents’ ethnicity, or their ability to speak Korean? 

100 years ago - this was an easier question to answer - a person self-identifying as Korean was likely born on the Korean Peninsula, to two ethnic Korean parents, and spoke Korean.

But the complexity of Korean identity in the 21st century parallels the turbulence of Korea’s history in the 20th century: displacement of caused by Japanese colonialism, Stalin’s deportation of ethnic Koreans to Central Asia, Zainichi Koreans left in limbo after the second world war in Japan, and the migration of Koreans to the Americas in search of new opportunities.  

Now there is a vast Korean diaspora around the world - and also a new multi-cultural Korean community in the Korean Peninsula.

Our guest Joseph Juhn spent the last 3 years developing a documentary about one particular group: the Korean Cubans. His project focuses on the life of one Korean-Cuban in particular - Jeronimo Lim who fought alongside Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in the 1958 Revolution. "Jeronimo: An Untold Tale of Koreans in Cuba" premiers in South Korea on November 21, 2019. 

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South Korea as a Liberal Democracy: Darcie Draudt

November 8th, 2019

30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, people’s aspiration to establish a pluralistic liberal democracy appears to be under scrutiny around the world - anti-immigration policies dominate political discourse in many countries, and strongmen like Viktor Orban in Hungary and Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines have come to power in nominally democratic countries.  

What about South Korea? In 2016 and 2017, the world was witness to millions of Koreans rallying to oust then-president Park Geun-hye who faced allegations of corruption and influence peddling. The so-called Candlelight movement succeeded and a progressive administration under Moon Jae-in assumed the mandate after the impeachment. For a little bit, South Korea appeared to be a global outlier. 

However, all is not well - there are simmering tensions when it comes to issues like gender equality and the resettlement of refugees from the Middle East.  

Is South Korea perhaps not an outlier after all? More broadly, is South Korea living up to the ideals of liberal democracy?  

Our guest today, Johns Hopkins University Ph.D. candidate Darcie Draudt, assesses the health of South Korea’s democracy by examining the evolution of the country’s conception of citizenship and what groups are excluded in the current social contract.

You can find the paper here: http://www.keia.org/sites/default/files/publications/kei_aps_draught_191017.pdf

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Mongolia and the Korean Peninsula: Dr. Alicia Campi

November 1st, 2019

Strategically located at the crossroads of Central Asia, China, and Russia, Mongolia has long attracted the attention of regional powers - including the Koreas. How is this traditionally-nomadic, but resource-rich, country establishing its own place in the modern world? What challenges does it now face? What role does the Korean Peninsula play in its foreign policy?

Dr. Alicia Campi joins us on Korean Kontext to provide an in-depth look at Ulaanbataar's worldview and discuss her new book "Mongolia's Foreign Policy: Navigating a Changing World."

 

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East Meets South: Ahn Choong-yong and Jagganath Panda

October 25th, 2019

Though hesitant to officially join the U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy, South Korea is seeking to promote many of the same values through the Moon administration’s “New Southern Policy.” Central to this agenda is strengthening South Korea’s relations with India. With a strategic partnership and a free trade agreement between the two countries, the foundations of the relationship are already strong. However, both capitals must rise to meet evolving regional security challenges and capitalize on new economic opportunities. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Act East” policy is complementary to Moon’s “New Southern Policy,” but both must work to synchronize the two agendas to upgrade bilateral economic ties and expand security cooperation.

Drs. Ahn Choong-yong and Jagannath Panda join Korean Kontext to discuss what they see on the horizon for South Korea-India economic cooperation.

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Peace Corps Story: Kathleen Stephens

July 19th, 2019

The U.S. Peace Corps was active in South Korea between 1961 and 1981. One of the many volunteers who served in South Korea was KEI president and CEO Kathleen Stephens. Her time in Korea was the beginning of a long journey that would eventually lead her to become U.S. ambassador to the country in 2008. In this episode, we look back on her first visit to South Korea.

This interview was conducted by Tyler Lloyd who runs the wonderful podcast series “My Peace Corp Story,” which you can find on iTunes and here: https://mypeacecorpsstory.com/.

The episode is a little longer than the usual Korean Kontext episode, but it is highly informative and worth every minute.

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Korea, Japan, and the Missing Advocate: Kristin Vekasi and Jiwon Nam

July 12th, 2019

This month, the world was reminded once again that the relationship between the Republic of Korea and Japan is deeply fractious. Japan has imposed restrictions on the export of chemical components for semiconductor chips – accusing South Korea of failing to provide sufficient guarantees that these materials are not being smuggled into North Korea. However, the accusation comes amid a rift between the two countries over the South Korean court’s ruling that select Japanese companies that had forced Koreans into slave labor during the Second World War had to compensate surviving victims.

This crisis builds on top of existing tensions around other historical legacy issues stemming from Japan’s 35-year colonial occupation of Korea – including a disputed islet, ongoing controversy around compensation for sexual slavery by the Japanese military, and how Japan writes about these historical events in its textbooks.

The U.S. government has encouraged the two countries to make amends for decades with limited success. In this environment, who can be the advocate of reconciliation?

Dr. Kristin Vekasi (@ProfVekasi) and Jiwon Nam believe that the private sector has a critical role to play. The discussion builds on their recent research for the Korea Economic Institute, which you can find here: http://www.keia.org/sites/default/files/publications/kei_aps_namvekasi_190624.pdf

Also, keep your eye open for the upcoming publication of Vekasi and Nam's "Boycotting Japan Boycotting Japan: Explaining Divergence in Chinese and South Korean Economic Backlash" in the December 2019 issue of the Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs.

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The Great Successor: Anna Fifield

July 5th, 2019

When Kim Jong-il died in 2011, the world held its breath as North Korea entered uncharted waters. No other communist dictatorship in the last century – for that matter no other autocratic state that is not a monarchy – has been able to successfully transfer power to a third generation. Some analysts in Washington and elsewhere raised the possibility of the country collapsing in mere months.

But when that didn’t happen, a new theory arose – would he be the great reformer to lead North Korea to the community of nations? 8 years on, that has not yet happened either.

We still know so little about the North Korean leader – and so much of how we think of Kim Jong-un comes from media portrayals, the parodies, and assumptions amalgamated from our knowledge of other autocrats.

But a new book provides the first comprehensive and readable study of the incumbent North Korean leader. Written by the veteran Washington Post correspondent Anna Fifield, the exhaustively researched new book, titled “The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un” provides a more rounded picture of the first North Korean leader to meet the U.S. president.

Anna Fifield (@annafifield) came to KEI and sat down with KEI President Ambassador Kathleen Stephens – in fact, just before the Trump-Kim meeting on June 30, 2019 - for a brief chat.

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Defending Korea, from the Nakdong to the Chosin: Colonel John Stevens

June 28th, 2019

On June 25, 1950, North Korea launched a surprise invasion of South Korea and started a war that is still technically ongoing. But it was – as North Korea’s Kim Il-sung presumed when he launched the all-out assault – almost a short war.

The North Korean invasion force was comprised of more than a hundred Soviet tanks and an air force – all armaments that had devastated the German army on the Russian front during WWII. By contrast, the South Korean army had no tanks and an airforce comprised solely of reconnaissance planes.

Predictably, South Korea’s capital Seoul fell in three days. And by August, the North Korean forces had nearly reached the southern port city of Busan – the last pocket of territory held by the Republic of Korea. And had it not been for the intervention of the United Nations forces, South Korea as we know it would not exist.

Our guest today, Colonel John Stevens is a veteran of the Korean War – he was at the Busan Perimeter, also called the Nakdong Line. He joins us today by phone to tell us about his experience in the war.

If you would like more information about the Korean War Memorial Foundation, please visit https://www.kwmf.org/

Please also read about Colonel Stevens' service in the Pacific theater of the Second World War in this article: https://nedforney.com/index.php/2018/09/28/john-stevens-marine-wwii-korean-war/

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How China Sees the Korean Peninsula: Lee Seong-hyon

June 21st, 2019

In light of the meeting between China’s leader Xi Jinping and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un this week, we are rebroadcasting an episode from February on Beijing’s foreign policy objectives on the Korean Peninsula.

The visit by Xi Jinping comes on the 70th year of official diplomatic relations between the People’s Republic of China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea – a date that the Chinese leader made sure to emphasize through an op-ed in North Korea’s official state newspaper (see here: https://bit.ly/2Zzu8oW).

Our guest, Dr. Lee Seong-hyon, is the Director of the Center for Chinese Studies and Department of Unification Strategy at the Sejong Institute. He sat down with KEI’s Juni Kim to provide us with his views on how China approaches the tensions on the Korean Peninsula and its broader ambitions in the region vis-a-vis the United States.

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At Best Unique, At Worst Delusional - North Korea’s Special Economic Zones: Theo Clement

June 14th, 2019

The North Korean economy is changing – we know this because of widely reported growth of private markets since the famine of 1990s. But black markets and illicit activities are not the only drivers of this development. The North Korean state is also actively promoting reform through the development of Special Economic Zones.

Dr. Theo Clement sits down with KEI to explain the deep roots of North Korea’s reform efforts and how it influences and is influenced by geopolitics. And most importantly, a police recommendation for how China, South Korea, and the United States should work together to push North Korea towards real reforms.

You can find Dr. Clement’s paper titled “From Failed Economic Interfaces to Political Levers: Assessing China-South Korea Competition and Cooperation Scenarios on North Korean Special Economic Zones” here: http://www.keia.org/sites/default/files/publications/kei_aps_clement_190604_final.pdf

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Explainer: The Political Origins of Korean Baseball

June 7th, 2019

In May, The Korean-born Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin was named The National League Pitcher of the Month.

When you think of Asians and baseball, you might think first of Japan – with famous players like Ichiro Suzuki and Yu Darvish in Major League Baseball. But South Korea also has an illustrious domestic league with competitive players who are breaking ground in the United States. How did baseball get its start in South Korea and where is it going? KEI Senior Director Troy Stangarone and intern Haram Chung explain the political origins of the Korean Baseball Organization and the where it is headed on the international stage.

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Explainer: The State of Korea’s Childcare Industry

May 31st, 2019

In March, a curious protest took place in Seoul. Private kindergartens were going on strike. Protests by industry groups or workers are not uncommon in South Korea, but something about the protest in the childcare sector struck a raw nerve. What was the industry protesting against? And where are the public kindergartens?

KEI Senior Director Troy Stangarone and intern Steven Lim answer these questions and address how childcare affects demographic trends. Steven Lim's recent Peninsula Blog article is a good accompaniment for this episode, and we highly recommend you check it out: http://blog.keia.org/2019/05/market-options-fail-children/

 

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North Korea’s Illicit Trade Winds: Hugh Griffith

May 24th, 2019

North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations Kim Song demanded that the United States release a North Korean vessel that is currently held by authorities in American Samoa, warning that the detention of the vessel would imperil any future disarmament negotiations.

But wait, why is there a North Korean vessel in American custody in the first place?

To answer that, our guest today is Hugh Griffith, the author of the UN panel of experts report on international sanctions against North Korea.

(You can also find the full report here: https://www.undocs.org/S/2019/171)

In this interview, he tells Korean Kontext about how North Korea has been using ship-to-ship transfers to evade sanctions and how illicit cybercrime activities now bring in as much revenue for Pyongyang as its weapons sales.

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Why North Korea Won’t Budge: Ken Gause

May 17th, 2019

It’s been nearly one year since the Singapore Summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un and the two countries are at an impasse. North Korea signals no intention of giving up its existing nuclear arsenal before sanctions relief and the United States has repeatedly underscored that no sanctions would be lifted until Pyongyang makes an irreversible step towards disarmament. But why is this happening? Didn’t North Korea come to the table because international sanctions had become too unbearable? In the face of what the North Korean state media has called the worst drought in 40 years, shouldn’t Kim Jong-un want a compromise?

Or perhaps, we need to reexamine our assumptions and look at the world from behind Kim Jong-un’s desk. How would an autocrat change what had been his country’s single-minded objective for decades?

Our guest, Ken Gause is the foremost expert on North Korea’s leadership. In this episode, he scrutinizes what we think we know about Kim Jong-un.

Ken Gause is CNA's senior foreign leadership analyst and directs the organization's Adversary Analytics Program. He spent the last 20 years developing methodologies for examining leadership dynamics of hard-target, authoritarian regimes. In particular, he is an internationally respected expert on North Korea who has written three books on North Korean leadership, including "North Korean House of Cards: Leadership Dynamics Under Kim Jong-un."

Please also find the video of KEI's public event with Ken Gause here: https://youtu.be/xpup38ee1Ds

 

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Going Back to The Source: Jeffrey Robertson

May 10th, 2019

What if our understanding of North Korea is inadvertently colored by the very resources that we rely on to deepen our knowledge of the country? What does this say about our policies towards North Korea, our coordination with South Korea on North Korea, and the discipline of international relations as a whole? 

Professor Jeffrey Robertson tackled these very questions in his latest paper for the Korea Economic Institute, titled "Is Pyongyang Different in Washington and Seoul? English and Korean Language Policy Discourse on North Korea."

In this interview, he addresses the most fundamental question in diplomacy: how do we go about engaging with a country that comes to the table with a different history, perceives events in a different context, and speaks a different language. 

You can find his article in this link below: http://www.keia.org/sites/default/files/publications/kei_aps_robertson_190423.pdf

His book “Diplomatic Style and Foreign Policy: A Case Study of South Korea” is available from Routledge. https://smile.amazon.com/dp/1138334154/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_U_x_6.B1Cb6PTWAX5

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[Rebroadcast] Valuing Age and Experience: Yongmin Cho and Quan Nguyen

May 3rd, 2019

Although it is happening more rapidly in South Korea, an aging society is a common feature in post-industrial societies around the world. With the number of retirees growing and the number of children dwindling, countries are faced with numerous public policy challenges: how to pay for public schools with smaller and smaller enrolments, how to provide a comfortable and fulfilling life for people after retirement, how to best pass on the knowledge accrued by older workers, etc. Carefully measured planning and public policy are required to address these challenges.

We are rebroadcasting an episode from 2017. Jenna Gibson interviewed executives at a company in South Korea called SAY that pairs senior citizen tutors with young students - a market-based solution to some of the challenges that aging societies face. 

Please also find in the link below, the article from the New York Times on how a rural town in southwestern South Korea is responding to low school enrollment due to demographic decline: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/27/world/asia/south-korea-school-grandmothers.html

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