Meet the Knowing North Korea 2024 Cohort!

May 22, 2024

NCNK is delighted to welcome our 2024 Knowing North Korea cohort! Each participant brings valuable perspectives and experiences, and we look forward to hosting them in DC on May 23rd & 24th. 

The Knowing North Korea Workshop is intended to provide graduate-level scholars and young professionals with a comprehensive overview of critical topics related to North Korea, as well as an introduction to practical skill sets that can enhance and broaden a career in North Korea-focused analysis and research. The program includes a two-day conference featuring workshops and discussions with North Korea specialists, policy professionals and US government officials. The 2024 agenda takes a closer look at a number of hot-button issues including prospects for peace on the Peninsula, new approaches to the nuclear standoff and an inside look at the North Korean economy. 

2024 Cohort

Chelsie Alexandre

Chelsie Alexandre is the Policy Program Officer at The Korea Society. She works with the Director of Policy to develop and implement events that address issues shaping the dynamics of U.S.-ROK relations, the Korean peninsula, and Northeast Asia. Before joining The Korea Society, Chelsie received a Fulbright Research award to conduct research in South Korea on the role of middle power countries in the Korean peace process with Korea University’s Peace and Democracy Institute. During her time in Seoul, she also briefly reported on domestic Korean affairs for The Diplomat.

Prior to her current role, Chelsie was a Partnerships Coordinator at the New York City-based nonprofit, The Concordia Summit, and she worked as a Legal Analyst at the global law firm Kobre & Kim. Chelsie also had previous experience as a research Intern at The Korea Society. She graduated with a B.A. in Politics from Princeton University, with minors in East Asian Studies and Diplomacy.


Jonathan Bak

Jonathan Bak is a driven professional with a passion for international affairs and a background in the legal sector. Jon holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish with a minor in Latin American Studies from Stetson University, as well as a Master of Arts in International Security Studies from the University of Arizona.

Jon’s interest in international affairs sparked during his transformative study abroad experience in Chile, where he cultivated a cross-cultural perspective and a profound understanding of international issues. His insights into contemporary Chilean affairs, including indigenous community rights and the legacy of former dictator Augusto Pinochet, fueled his aspiration to contribute meaningfully to the realm of international affairs.

Since 2018, Jon has been actively engaged in the legal sector in the Chicagoland area, initially as a legal assistant and now as a paralegal assistant. Throughout his tenure, he has worked on a wide range of civil and federal cases, showcasing his versatility and adaptability. His dedication to excellence has propelled him to participate in legal trials, refining his analytical prowess, research acumen, and meticulousness. Jon's multifaceted skill set, blending hands-on experience in the legal field with comprehensive postgraduate studies, uniquely positions him to make a lasting imprint in international security. His resolute commitment to advancing global peace, security, and justice underscores his potential to effect positive change in the field.

Chelsea Ellis

Chelsea Ellis is an Associate Attorney specializing in international trade, trade enforcement matters, economic sanctions, export controls, CFIUS, internal corporate compliance, internal investigations, financial technology, and other cross-border transactional and regulatory law. Ms. Ellis also advises foreign investors and U.S. businesses in high-technology sectors through the intricacies of CFIUS requirements, ICTS regulations, and securing the necessary licenses and approvals from U.S. trade authorities.

Previously, Ms. Ellis previously worked in the United States Trade Representative’s Office in Washington, D.C. as a contract attorney and as a Russia trade analyst. Before USTR, Ms. Ellis was an associate at a law firm in Chicago, where she worked in the corporate and finance practice groups dealing with issues including financial technology. She also previously worked at an offshore corporate consulting firm in St. Julian’s, Malta, and as a summer associate in the Moscow, Russia office of an AmLaw 100 firm. Ms. Ellis received her J.D. from the University of Illinois Chicago School of Law and is a graduate of Youngstown State University, where she received her B.A. in International Relations and Political Science and minored in Russian studies. She also studied at the St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University in Russia and Imperial College in London, England.

Oscar Escobar

Oscar Escobar hails from Orlando, FL, and is an M.S. in Foreign Service candidate at Georgetown University. He earned his B.A. in International Studies and East Asian Studies at Emory University, and spent a semester abroad at Yonsei University in Seoul. Following his graduation, he worked in the nonprofit and civil society spheres on refugee and immigrant issues for several organizations including Re’Generation Movement, the Coalition for Refugee Service Agencies, and Aurora NK. Oscar was subsequently awarded the State Department Rangel Fellowship and will be joining the U.S. Foreign Service upon graduating from Georgetown. As part of the Rangel Fellowship, he interned in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Consulate General Ho Chi Minh City.

Oscar’s background is in East Asia with a focus on U.S.-ROK-DPRK relations. In addition to his studies on Korea, he has worked extensively with NGOs on issues related to the Korean peninsula, and with North Korean refugees on educational programming. Oscar also served as a panelist for the 2021 DMZ Forum organized by the Ministry of Unification. He currently serves as Vice President of Georgetown’s newly founded SFS Korea Policy Club.

Shaquille James

Captain Shaquille James is currently an MS student at Troy University and active-duty ICBM operator in the U.S. Air Force. Before entering active duty, Capt James studied and researched issues relating to China and North Korea with particular emphasis on North Korean human rights. As part of this work, Capt James collaborated extensively with think tanks, human rights organizations, Korean government officials, North Korean defectors, and defector-led organizations. Capt James has also completed multiple scholastic and language study programs in Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

In addition to his primary duties, Capt James conducts briefs on East Asian adversaries and nuclear challenges geared towards diplomats, intelligence analysts, embassy personnel, and other military personnel. Capt James writes for Air University’s Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs (JIPA) and is an organizer for JIPA’s podcast service. Capt James received his BA in Linguistics from Georgetown University, where he also received a certificate in Asian Studies from the Georgetown Asian Studies department, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in International Relations from Troy University.

Kaitlyn King

Kaitlyn King is a Program Assistant at the Stimson Center with the 38 North Program. Prior to joining Stimson, she was a communications and research intern at the Korea Economic Institute. Kaitlyn holds a MA in International Affairs with a concentration on Asian Studies from George Washington University and a BA in International Relations with a minor in East Asian Languages & Cultures from the University of Southern California.

Sarah Kirchner-Barney

Sarah Kirchner-Barney is a MA Student in Security Policy Studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University where she focuses on security issues in the Indo-Pacific. Her main interests are North Korean and Chinese nuclear proliferation along with the ongoing U.S.-ROK-Japan trilateral cooperation and American extended deterrence. Currently, she is a Program Assistant Intern at the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation where she provides support on the Mike Mansfield Fellowship, the Next Generation of U.S.- Japan Nuclear Policy Experts, and Roundtable programs.

Ms. Kirchner-Barney obtained her BA from the University of North Carolina Wilmington with a double major in International Studies and Political Science and a double minor in International Relations and Asian Studies, during which she studied abroad at Korea University in Seoul, South Korea. She taught English in Seoul, South Korea prior to initially pursuing her graduate studies in International and Developmental Studies with a concentration in Conflict, Peace, and Security at the Geneva Graduate Institute in Geneva, Switzerland before transferring to GWU. She speaks conversational Korean, along with basic Mandarin and Swiss French.

Michelle Lee

Michelle Lee is a 2023 Thomas R. Pickering Fellow from Dallas, Texas, who is currently pursuing an MPA in International Security Policy at Columbia SIPA. She is actively involved in the academic community, serving on the boards of Korea Focus and the SIPA Student Association. Prior to her studies at SIPA, she earned a degree in International Relations and Economics from Wellesley College. Her academic journey has also included participation in the London program of the School for Ethics and Global Leadership and the Overseas Korean Foundation. Michelle's has interned for Artis Ventures and Lumen, an NGO dedicated to promoting information freedom globally, as well as for government organizations including USAID/RDMA Thailand, the United States House of Representatives, and the United States Department of State. Upon graduation, she looks forward to embarking on a career as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer.

JuAn Lee-Thacker

JuAn Lee-Thacker is a Project Associate for DPRK Counterproliferation/UN Sanctions Compliance at CRDF Global, where she has worked on the maritime sanctions and cybersecurity portfolios. JuAn holds a Master of Arts from Georgetown University's Security Studies Program in the Walsh School of Foreign Service and a Bachelor of Arts in Chinese and International Economics from University of Kentucky.

Anitha Quintin

Anitha recently completed two years as a Fulbright Scholar teaching at Hwasun High School, Jeollanam-do, South Korea, where she also volunteered as a research assistant at the May 18 Memorial Foundation in Gwangju, South Korea. She is a 2021 UW-Madison graduate with majors in Mathematics, Political Science, and International Studies. Anitha is currently assisting Dr. David Fields on his research project in conjunction with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, which seeks to use trends in personal vehicles in satellite imagery of Hamhung, North Korea as a proxy for North Korean economic development. Her research interests include the role of youth in contentious politics, the influence of colonial legacies on modern international relations, and U.S. foreign policy to East Asia and the Sahara-Sahel region. In Fall 2024, she will matriculate as a J.D. student at the Georgetown University Law Center.

Shawn Rostker

Shawn Rostker is a Research Analyst with the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. His research investigates issues of nuclear strategy, arms control and emerging technologies, with a regional focus on East Asia. Prior to joining the Center, Rostker worked on technology policy and competition at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, as well as nuclear deterrence and the North Korean weapons program during his time at the Center for Political-Military Analysis. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of California, San Diego where he graduated summa cum laude, and is currently a Master’s candidate in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University.

Emma Whitmyer

Emma Whitmyer is a Program Officer for the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) in New York. She works with ASPI's Vice President of International Security and Diplomacy Daniel Russel and Assistant Director Blake Berger on issues relating to East and Southeast Asia. Prior to joining ASPI, she was a Junior Scholars Fellow with the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Whitmyer has a Master's of Global Affairs & Policy from Yonsei University in South Korea, as well as a Bachelor's from Eastern Michigan University in International Affairs and Business German.

Nia Williams

Nia Williams is the Program Assistant at the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, where she helps support the organization’s public events, programs, conferences, and Track I ½ and Track II dialogues. Before joining the National Committee, she gained experience working for a nonprofit organization and a think tank. She earned her B.A. in International Politics and Economics from Middlebury College.