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The National Committee on North Korea

U.S. Policy towards North Korea: Strategic Shaping and Interim Steps to Denuclearization

February 26, 2014

Today, the National Security Network and the National Committee on North Korea released the paper, “U.S. Policy towards North Korea: Strategic Shaping and Interim Steps to Denuclearization.” The paper’s release coincided with an event on Capitol Hill featuring Ambassador Christopher Hill, NSN Executive Director John Bradshaw, and NCNK Executive Director Karin Lee. An executive summary of the paper is available here.

To read the full report, click here

New NCNK Issue Brief on Special Economic Zones in North Korea

January 14, 2014

For over twenty years, North Korea has periodically attempted to bolster its economy through the creation of SEZs, starting with the establishment of the Rason Special Economic Zone in the far northeast of the country in 1991. The two Koreas have also established two joint economic zones in the North, the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) and the Mount Kumgang Tourist Region (where operations are now suspended). All of North Korea’s SEZs established to date have been enclaves, attracting investment and foreign currency but not spurring greater economic growth in the rest of the country through the establishment of linkages or through a “demonstration effect” leading to more effective economic policies elsewhere. This issue brief covers the history and recent upsurge of interest in special economic zones (SEZ) in the DPRK.

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Kim Jong Un's New Year's Address

January 2, 2014

In his second annual New Year's address, Kim Jong Un referenced the recent purge of Jang Song Taek, praising "the resolute measure of removing the factionalists lurking in the Party." The speech also called for North and South Korea to "put an end to such slander and calumny that bring no good to both sides," marked "the 50th anniversary of the theses on socialist rural question made public by President Kim Il Sung," and warned that upcoming U.S.-South Korean military exercises "precipitates a critical situation where any accidental military skirmish may lead to an all-out war."

The full text of the speech is available here. Andray Abrahamian at Choson Exchange discusses the economic priorities in the speech here, while CFR's Scott Snyder places its references to inter-Korean relations in the context of recent North-South interactions. Peter Hayes and Roger Cavazos at the Nautilus Institute note that "Kim stuck to roughly the same formulae used in the 2013 New Year’s address." Writing in 38 North, Robert Carlin points out that "Many times over the past 30 or 40 years, the two sides have started dialogue by agreeing to stop slander of the other," while Ruediger Frank analyzes the speech in relation to previous New Year's editorials.

Reactions to the Jang Song Taek Purge

December 18, 2013

In NCNK's new briefing book, we have collected official statements, international responses, commentary, and media speculation on North Korea's ouster and execution of Jang Song Taek. The briefing book is available here.

Overview of U.S. Detainees in North Korea

September 18, 2013

Since 1994, the detention of U.S. citizens in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has periodically been an issue in U.S.-DPRK relations. On several occasions, high-profile U.S. envoys, including former presidents, have travelled to North Korea to secure the release of U.S. citizens, at times in a nongovernmental capacity. Negotiations over the release of U.S. citizens detained in the DPRK are complicated by the fact that the U.S. does not have diplomatic representation in the country. Although official U.S. communication with the DPRK is possible through the DPRK Mission to the UN, on the ground U.S. interests in North Korea are represented through the Embassy of Sweden, and the Swedish Ambassador to the UN is authorized to make official visits to detainees.

The frequency of detentions has recently increased, beginning with the arrests of journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling in 2009. Kenneth Bae, who was arrested while entering North Korea in November 2012, was the sixth American detained in North Korea since 2009; he has also been detained for the longest time.

This issue brief, using publically available information from government and media sources, seeks to depict the circumstances of each individual’s arrest, the length of their detention, the type of sentence they were given (if any), and the conditions that led to their release.

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New Issue Brief on North Korea's Ballistic Missile Program

April 24, 2013

NCNK has released a revised version of its issue brief examining the history and status of North Korea's ballistic missile program. The revised brief includes a discussion of recent developments in North Korea's missile capabilities, as well as an overview of the country's arsenal and a review of U.S.-DPRK missile negotiations. 

North Korea’s development and international sales of ballistic missiles have long been seen by the United States and its allies in East Asia as a major security threat and source of regional instability, and developments in North Korea since Kim Jong-un’s assumption of power demonstrate a renewed focus on advancing its missile capabilities. The DPRK has deployed an estimated 600 short-range ballistic missiles capable of striking parts or all of South Korea, and perhaps 150-200 medium-range Nodong missiles which could potentially reach Japan. North Korea has also developed several intermediate-range or intercontinental ballistic missiles, although it is not certain if any of these missiles are currently deployed or operational. These missiles include the Taepodong-1 and -2, tests of which have triggered strong international reaction, as well as the Musudan and road-mobile KN-08 missiles, which have not been flight-tested by the DPRK.

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Senate Hearing Outlines North Korea Policy

March 11, 2013

Appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last Thursday, Special Representative for North Korea Policy Glyn Davies testified on the U.S. and international responses to North Korea's recent nuclear and missile tests. He emphasized that the U.S. would continue a two-track policy combining "openness to dialogue when possible," with "sustained, robust pressure through sanctions when necessary." Davies said that China remained central to altering North Korea's policies, and that diplomacy with China in this regard would be a "key locus" of U.S. efforts to put additional pressure on North Korea.

Davies also discussed human rights in North Korea, emphasizing U.S. support for an in-depth inquiry from the UN Human Rights Council. "How the DPRK addresses human rights will have a significant impact on prospects for improved U.S.-DPRK ties," he added. In response to questions from Senator Ben Cardin (D-MA), Davies said that it was important to "clear the path" for U.S. NGOs providing humanitarian assistance to North Koreans, and that he had confidence in their abilities to deliver adequately-monitored food aid if the U.S. were to resume such programs.

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Who We Are

The National Committee is a non-partisan coalition of individuals with extensive and complementary knowledge of and direct experience related to the society, economy, government, and history of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

We are a diverse group. A number of members served as diplomats in some of the landmark U.S.-DPRK negotiations. Some have authored major books on the history, society, and security of the Korean Peninsula. Other members have worked in virtually all parts of North Korea, and on issues related to the country's current economic, humanitarian, refugee, and medical crises. Some of our experience reaches back to the era of the Korean War. Most have extensive contacts in the Republic of Korea, China, Japan, and Russia related to the Korean Peninsula. While the National Committee on North Korea is non-governmental, several of the members have worked in official positions and have ongoing ties with current or past administrations and with the United States Congress.

The idea to form a National Committee on North Korea originated during The Musgrove III Conference held in mid-May 2004, which was attended by many of the founding committee members. The first meeting was held on November 4, 2004.