A weak state by many measures, North Korea has managed to survive while other regimes have fallen. To many, the nation remains a seemingly impenetrable mystery when it comes to understanding motivations and behavior. But historian Charles Armstrong believes the near opposite is true. Lessons from history provide insight into the relative success, or at least survival, of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and reveal better ways to deal with contemporary North Korea.

Charles K. Armstrong is The Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Studies in the Social Sciences Department of History and Director, Center for Korean Research, at Columbia University. He is the author of Tyranny of the Weak: North Korea and the World, 1950-1992 (Cornell, 2013, The North Korean Revolution, 1945–1950 (2003), and The Koreas (2007), editor of Korean Society: Civil Society, Democracy and the State (2006), and coeditor of Korea at the Center: Dynamics of Regionalism in Northeast Asia (2006).