Can we engage North Korea with soft power?

Can we engage North Korea with soft power?

As articulated by Joseph Nye, soft power is the ability to achieve goals through attraction rather than by threat or coercion. Soft power exists when a dominant party possesses a sufficiently attracti…

September 17th, 2014
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Watching the defectors: speaking truth to power

Watching the defectors: speaking truth to power

As they used to say about London buses: You wait for ages, then two come along at once. Right now, here in the Disunited Kingdom, it’s a bit like that with North Korean defectors. It’s a ra…

September 15th, 2014
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Behind North Korea’s official economic numbers

Behind North Korea’s official economic numbers

One of the major problems every aspiring student of North Korea has to keep in mind is the dramatic shortage of the available information dealing with this country. In the information-saturated world …

September 15th, 2014
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Incheon’s idiocy just flags up more trouble

Incheon’s idiocy just flags up more trouble

Sometimes a piece of news comes in, and your heart sinks. Really sinks. This is such a time. Good news first. The 17th Asian Games (or Asiad) are set to kick off in the South Korean port city of In…

September 11th, 2014
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Engagement and its geopolitical context

Engagement and its geopolitical context

This is the second in a two-part series on why the U.S. has not engaged with North Korea. The first can be found here.  Back in 2010 U.S. political scientist Mel Gurtov asked, in an article in the…

September 10th, 2014
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How North Korea uses, abuses history

How North Korea uses, abuses history

One of the major features of North Korea’s official attitude toward history and, broadly speaking, all humanities is a very high level of politicization. In Medieval Europe, philosophy was frequentl…

September 9th, 2014
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Engaging with engagement: Preferring to talk only to God

Engaging with engagement: Preferring to talk only to God

Quite frequently there are calls from Americans for their government to “engage” with North Korea. Such exhortations naturally are more frequent around anniversaries, such as that of the signing o…

September 8th, 2014
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Straws in the wind: Might the U.S. and DPRK get it on again?

Straws in the wind: Might the U.S. and DPRK get it on again?

Might U.S.-DPRK relations, after years of going nowhere, be about to pick up a wee bit? Nope, says Washington. Or as Yonhap’s headline put it on Sept. 1: “White House says U.S. policy on…

September 3rd, 2014
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What N. Koreans think of S. Korean entertainment

What N. Koreans think of S. Korean entertainment

The last two decades have been a time in which South Korean movies and TV shows have spread across North Korea. Technically, South Korean videos have always been illegal in the realm of the Kim dynast…

September 1st, 2014
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North Korea – by those who have lived there

North Korea – by those who have lived there

Having been lambasted in the pages of the Huffington Post and in somewhat more measured tones in the British House of Lords following my last essay on the British Council’s photographic exhibition,…

August 25th, 2014
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North Korean dialect as a Soviet Russian translation

North Korean dialect as a Soviet Russian translation

Many of my English-language colleagues and friends complain that it is surprisingly difficult to translate North Korean language texts into English. The result, they say, often sounds highly artificia…

August 21st, 2014
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Meet Mr. Pak: North Korean entrepreneur

Meet Mr. Pak: North Korean entrepreneur

Let me introduce you to an acquaintance of mine, Mr. Pak (not his real name, of course). I have known him for a long time, and have even worked with him on a number of projects. I think many of you mi…

August 19th, 2014
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Losing face: Explaining Pyongyang’s currency change

Losing face: Explaining Pyongyang’s currency change

This week, North Korea’s central bank began replacing the country’s highest denomination currency unit: the 5,000 won. After paying visits to the Korean Central Bank to make their own exchanges, D…

August 12th, 2014
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Grading Obama’s North Korea approach

Grading Obama’s North Korea approach

We are reaching the mid-way point of President Obama’s second term, and now seems to be a good time to make some preliminary conclusions about the Obama administration. Of course, the present author…

August 8th, 2014
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The Great Illusion – South Korean version

The Great Illusion – South Korean version

In 1910 Norman Angell published his famous book The Great Illusion, in which he argued that war between the interlocked advanced economies would be so dysfunctional that militarism was obsolete. 1914 …

July 30th, 2014
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