North Korea: links and commentary
Here you can find both a series of what I consider to be excellent links to information about North Korea,as well as some of my own musings about the topic. (Some of the links may require you to be a member in order to access the articles). I also make no promises about how frequently I'll update this page.
My own commentary and (usually incorrect) predictions
(some of these are duplicated on my publications page)
- The Next Nuclear Agreement with North Korea: prospects and pitfalls, (Washington, D.C.: National Committee on North Korea and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, December 2007).
- A discsussion between myself and Aaron Friedberg about how best to deal with North Korea (Council on Foreign Relations, December 2006).
- Follow-up interviews with NOW on PBS, February 16 and October 13, 2006
- "North Korea Threatens Nuclear Test," (Washington Post Online chat), October 4, 2006
- Responding to North Korea's Missile Test,(NOW on PBS), July 7, 2006
- "A Better Korea Strategy," Washington Post, November 28, 2005
- "Why I favor regime change in North Korea,(in both Korean and English) Choson Ilbo, December 23, 2004
- "International Relations Theory and the Second Korean war," International Studies Quarterly 47, no. 3 (September 2003)
- "Think Again: The Korean Crisis," (with Victor Cha), Foreign Policy (May/June 2003)
- *new* Michael Mazarr on the recent improvement in US-North Korea relations (Foreign Affairs, September/October 2007)
- Katharine Moon on "Hippocrates, not Hipocrisy" in North Korean human rights (Washington Post, July 11, 2007)
- Wonhyuk Lim on "Inter-Korean Cooperation at a Crossroads," KDI, December, 2006.
- A Western intelligence officer's imaginary discussion with a North Korean police detective following the nuclear test. James Church wrote "A Corpse in the Koryo," a great detective story set in North Korea, definitely worth a read.
- The International Crisis Group on North Korean refugees to China (October 26, 2006)
- Bennett Ramberg on economic engagement as containing the nuclear crisis (CSM, October 11, 2006)
- South Korean Catholic Bishop's statement about the nuclear test and sanctions (October 13, 2006)
- Brad Glosserman on why Japan will not go nuclear (October 11, 2006)
- Marcus Noland on the recent nuke test (October 11, 2006)
- Marcus Noland on economic reforms in North Korea (2003)
- Scott Snyder on negotiating with North Korea (2004)
Data on North Korea
(People often ask me about specific facts about North Korea, and often at talks I hear wild numbers thrown about, often without any basis. This is my attempt to provide data about a some of the most requested information, using the most responsible and authoritative sources, to the best of my ability. NOTE: data about North Korea is often at best speculative, so beware of taking anything at face value, including information on this site.)
- Is there a secret, 2nd North Korean HEU nuclear program?
In 2002, the US accused the North of having a second program (highly enriched uranium) in violation of the agreed framework. Most of us just accepted this at face value, b/c it's so easy to assume the worst about North Korea. It has recently come to light that the assessments were somewhat exaggerated -- although North Korea did purchase some components (between 20 and 32 centrifuges) that might be used in such a program, there is little evidence that they started that program or made sufficient purchases of components to do so, according to the Washington Post.
- What is the death toll from the famine of the late 1990s?
Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland have performed probably the most careful estimation of the effects of the famine in their superb book, Famine in North Korea: Markets, Aid, and Reform. In chapter six ("Excess Mortality"), they estimate that between 500,000 and one million North Koreans died because of the famine in the late 1990s.
- How much money does North Korea counterfeit?
In testimony before the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Secret Service noted that since 1989, the U.S. had seized about $50 million of North Korean counterfeited currency, for a rate of $2.8 million annually. To put that in a comparative context, "the amount seized is comparatively low in contrast to other known counterfeits...investigation into counterfeit currency in Columbia yielded seizures in excess of $380 million." "Statement of Michael Merritt, Deputy Assistant Director, Office of Investigations, U.S. Secret Service," before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, April 25, 2006.
- What is the deal with Banco Delta Asia?
There are very few factual details available to the public, and I have no idea what actual information is available to government officials. The Treasury department has not released many details on the actual issue itself. However, there has been some very detailed research that comes to some skeptical conclusions done by the China Matters blog, as well as by John McGlynn in Japan Focus. They question many of the claims surrounding the BDA case. On the other side is the testimony of David Asher, who sees the Treasury's BDA case as an unmitigated win for the U.S., and Balbina Hwang, who sees such actions as an essential component of cutting off North Korea's illegal activities. Right now, the information publicly available is confusing enough that I remain hesitant to draw any firm conclusions about BDA itself.
- How much international food aid is diverted to the military and does not reach the intended recipients?
Once again relying on Haggard and Noland, estimates run from as high as 50% of the food aid is diverted, (a number estimated by Goodfriends, a South Korean humanitarian group), to between 10 and 30% (as reported by other aid agencies). It is almost impossible to monitor aid once it has reached North Korea, and thus any estimates rely on measures such as surveys of refugees or inspections by aid workers in North Korea.
A personal anecdote: my uncle's church in South Korea donated materials (not money) to a village in Hamgyung province to build houses, and the houses actually got built.
- How much trade and aid is there between North and South Korea?
In 2005, South-North trade surpassed $1 billion for the first time. However, this is less than 0.2% of total South Korean trade. Aid in 2005 was approximately 500,000 metric tons of food, and 350,000 metric tons of fertilizer.
- What do North Korean workers actually make at Kaesong?
The South Korean Ministry of Unification has released detailed data on the Kaesong Industrial Complex. They note that of the $57 monthly wages paid to the North Korean government, $35 goes to the workers, while about $22 is paid in the form of taxes, insurance, and other fees.
- What is North Korea's GDP?
North Korea does not publish reliable statistics on its economy, but the CIA estimates that North Korea's 2006 GDP was approximately $40 billion, for a per capita income of $1,800. By way of comparison, Vietnam's 2006 per capita income was $3,100, and Borat's homeland (Kazakhstan) had a per capita income of $9,100.
Other links with very useful information