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The National Committee on North Korea

NCNK Briefing Book on "The Interview"

Last updated January 9, 2014

NCNK's latest briefing book compiles official statements, news stories, and commentary on the film "The Interview" and the cyber attack and threats linked to it. The compilation will be updated as the story continues to develop.

The briefing book is available here

Kim Jong Un's New Year's Speech

January 1, 2015

In his annual New Year's Speech, Kim Jong Un promised the continued development of the North Korea's military, economy, and ideological system. Notably, he stated that "there is no reason why we should not hold a summit meeting [with South Korea] if the atmosphere and environment for it are created," but identified joint U.S.-ROK military exercises as the "root cause of the escalating tension on the peninsula."

On economic policy, Kim called for "proactive efforts to establish the economic management method of our style as demanded by the reality so that all the economic organs and enterprises can conduct their business activities creatively on their own initiative." He expressed the desire to "foster external economic relations in a multilateral way and accelerate the projects for economic development zones including the Wo’nsan-Mt. Ku’mgang international tourist zone." Additionally, Kim called for new mass contruction projects, and for "enterprises to wage a dynamic struggle to get rid of the proclivity to import."

Kim also pledged to "firmly consolidate our self-reliant defence capability with the nuclear deterrent as its backbone," and condemned what he called "the despicable 'human rights' racket" pursued by "the United States and its vassal forces."

The text of the entire speech is available here.

Secretary Kerry on DPRK Human Rights, and the North Korean Response

November 6, 2014

On September 23, following a high-level meeting on North Korean human rights on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a speech condemning Pyongyang's human rights record.

We say to the North Korean Government, all of us here today: You should close those camps. You should shut this evil system down. As the Commission of Inquiry report concludes, “The gravity, scale, and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.” And the commission makes a set of clear recommendations to the DPRK Government. Some are as simple as acknowledging its abuses and holding those responsible to account. Others involve reforming the basic institutions of society.

Earlier this week, a statement by North Korea's Foreign Ministry published in KCNA gave an apparent response to Secretary Kerry's remarks and other U.S. calls for improvements in human rights and a return to denuclearization dialogue. The statement said that North Korea "will never allow any human rights dialogue or nuclear one with the enemy keen to overthrow it."

The present U.S. administration, the present U.S. secretary of State, in particular, unlike the successive U.S. administrations, are officially pursuing a policy for bringing down the state and social system of the DPRK over the "human rights issue", thus reneging on the September 19, 2005 joint statement which calls upon the DPRK and the U.S. to "respect each other's sovereignty and exist peacefully," the statement which laid a basic groundwork for denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

Revised Issue Brief on U.S. Detainees in the DPRK

October 21, 2014

A revised and updated version of NCNK's issue brief on U.S. detainees held in North Korea is now available. NCNK will continue to update this issue brief as the situation progresses.

The issue brief is available here.

North Korea’s Incheon Landing

October 9, 2014

In an op-ed for Project Syndicate, Kathy Moon, Chair of Korea Studies at the Brookings Institution, assesses North Korea's recent diplomatic outreach to South Korea and elsewhere. Moon argues that there is no clear explanation for North Korea's recent, seemingly contradictory behavior:

North Korea seems to be posing a non-existent united front in order to put pressure on the US to soften its stance toward the DPRK regarding its nuclear program and human-rights record, and to reconsider economic sanctions against the North. Seen in this light, the visit to Incheon was a way to persuade Seoul to put pressure on the US to play nice.

Adding to the mixed messages is the symbolic date of October 4, the seventh anniversary of the 2007 declaration on inter-Korean cooperation signed by the late South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun and the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. This could be a positive reminder that the DPRK is seeking to pursue some of the agreements contained in that declaration. On the other hand, the North could be taking advantage of criticism of South Korean President Park Geun-hye by her opponents on the left for failing to include the October 4 agreement in her five-year plan regarding inter-Korean relations.

Complicating matters further, military theatrics resumed just two days after the friendly visit to Incheon, when a boat from the DPRK crossed the disputed Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the Yellow Sea, inciting a ten-minute firefight with South Korean forces.


North Korea's Saturday Surprise at the Asian Games

October 6, 2014

Victor Cha, Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, provides some insight into the visit of three high-ranking North Korean officials to the closing ceremonies of the 17th annual Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.

Q1: What is the significance of this visit?

A1: This is probably the “Big Two” after Kim Jong-un, so it is pretty high-level as these things go. Hwang Pyong-so is the director of the Korean People's Army Political Bureau, vice chairman of the National Defense Commission (since last month, September 25, during the 2nd session of the 13th Supreme People's Assembly) and first deputy director of the powerful Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) Organization and Guidance Department.  He is widely believed to be the second highest-ranking official in North Korea. Choe Ryong-hae is currently the WPK's Secretary for Workers' Organization and chairman of the State Physical Culture and Sports Commission (since last month, and a position last held by the executed Jang Song-thaek) and until recently the number two but still a powerful official in Pyongyang. The third top official is Kim Yang-gon, head of the department that handles diplomatic relations with South Korea. Their inclusion made this the highest -level delegation to visit South Korea since 2009. 

Read more at the CSIS website.

The Forgotten American POWs and MIAs – A Matter Worthy of Discussion with North Korea

September 18, 2014

Statement in observance of the 2014 National POW/MIA Recognition Day, September 19, 2014

At the signing of the Korean War Armistice in July of 1953, several thousand Americans were listed as missing – either dead or alive in North Korea.

Since 1953, consecutive U.S. Administrations paid diminishing attention to the fate of those service members who were left behind. Even today, South Korea estimates that a few hundred South Koreans - military and civilian - continue to be held against their will in North Korea from the time of the Korean War.

The 2011 “Record of Arrangement” agreement between the U.S. Department of Defense and the Korean People’s Army of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) emphasized joint activities focusing only on the remains of U.S. personnel from the Korean War. Missing from this agreement was a commitment to account for American Prisoners of War detained at the end of the War.

The unresolved status of these American military personnel represents an unfulfilled obligation by successive U.S. Administrations on behalf of those considered Prisoners of War or Missing in Action.

Although the Korean War has been referred to as The Forgotten War, proper honor for those who served in that war involves a good-faith effort to achieve the same standards of accountability for those left behind that have been applied to the other battlefields on which Americans have served and died. What about the promise to not leave any soldier behind?

Over sixty years after the end of the War, family members of the missing continue to die without answers. They and the American public are long overdue for renewed military to military engagement with North Korea seeking accountability for every American life. An important step could be, with the consent of U.S. officials, if informal discussions were to begin between retired U.S. military officials and North Koreans.

UN Programs in North Korea Warn of Possible Shutdown Due to Lack of Funding

August 28, 2014

The World Food Program (WFP) may have to shut down its operations in North Korea by early next year unless it gets more funding from international donors this fall, the WFP's director for Asia has told the Associated Press.

Kenro Oshidari, the WFP regional director, said that the organization has already scaled back a planned two-year, $200 million food aid program to feed 2.4 million people in North Korea due to lack of funds. It would need about $50 million in new funding to implement a credible nutritional program aimed at preventing stunting in North Korean children.

The WFP and other foreign aid groups in North Korea have also faced problems with transferring money into the country this year due to sanctions against North Korea's Foreign Trade Bank. The AP reports that a prior arrangement with a Russian bank to transfer aid groups' funds into North Korea fell through earlier this year, and that aid groups have resorted to carrying money into the country by hand.

For the full story, click here. More information on aid programs and humanitarian issues can be found in NCNK's humanitarian news digest.

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.