Modern Korean History | Wilson Center

Modern Korean History

On the Brink: Trump, Kim, and the Threat of Nuclear War

In 2017, the world watched as President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un traded personal insults and escalating threats of nuclear war amid unprecedented shows of military force. Former Pentagon insider and Korean security expert Van Jackson traces the origins of the first American nuclear crisis in the post-Cold War era, and explains the fragile, highly unpredictable way that it ended.

ROK-U.S. Cooperation in an Era of U.S.-China Strategic Competition

How should middle powers such as South Korea navigate the growing strategic competition between the United States and China? For Northeast Asian nations like South Korea, maintaining harmonious relations with China has been a priority going back centuries while its alliance with the United States dates back only decades. Scholars from Asia and the United States will debate the dilemma faced by South Korea and debate the direction the Seoul government should take as the nation seeks to strike the right balance in policy with its allies and neighbors.

Parsing the propaganda: What to make of Kim Jong Un on a white horse

Kim Jong Un on a white horse, galloping through the snowy mountains at top speed, fog and mist rising behind him. Kim Jong Un leading the charge up a steep mountain, like a general leading warriors heading off to battle. Kim Jong Un lost in thought as he rides solemnly through the forests of Mount Paektu, his sister at his side.

Secret Mission: Understanding South Korea-Japan Tensions Through a Popular South Korean Film

It’s a dramatic scene: Japanese police armed with rifles chase two young Korean men down the street in colonial-era Seoul. They finally catch them, killing them execution-style. The men’s crime: making a Korean language dictionary, then considered an illegal act of defiance by the Japanese government, which had banned Koreans from using their native language.

The Interrogation Rooms of the Korean War: The Untold History

The Korean War is often synonymous with the 38th parallel and the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on the Korean peninsula.  What happens if we tell the story of the Korean War from inside the interrogation room? Professor Monica Kim tells the story of two generations from both sides of the Pacific creating and navigating a landscape of interrogation, transforming the Korean War into a global history about warfare, decolonization, and sovereignty. 

Nuclear Weapons and Their Pride of Place in North Korea

Visiting my colleague Van Jackson’s office in New Zealand last week, I spotted a classic North Korean souvenir on his shelf: commemorative stamps, packaged as a booklet and sold to the tourist who brought it back for him as a gift last year. These stamps are not of the iconic Juche Tower or the Arch of Triumph (which every North Korean will point out is taller than its counterpart in Paris).

Behind Asia’s Other Trade War

While the trade war between Washington and Beijing has garnered significant attention, another trade war between two of the world’s largest and most advanced economies is heating up. Japan and South Korea are the world’s third- and twelfth-largest economies, respectively, representing an annual GDP of greater than $6.5 trillion. Yet trade friction between Tokyo and Seoul has intensified as a political standoff, rooted in history and inflamed by domestic politics on both sides, has begun to impact the economies of two critical American allies and global supply chains.

Flash Analysis: Chinese President Xi Jinping's Visit to North Korea

On June 20th, Chinese President Xi Jinping is scheduled to make a two day state visit to North Korea.  While Kim Jong Un has traveled to China several times over the last year, this will be Xi's first trip to Pyongyang.  Three Wilson Center experts offer their analysis of the implications and potential outcomes.

 

Jean H. Lee, director of the Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean History and Public Policy:

Perspectives from Pyongyang: Highlights from the Jeju Forum

Featured Speaker: Katharina Zellweger of KorAid

Geopolitical Implications of a New Era on the Korean Peninsula

The second summit meeting between the United States and the DPRK in Vietnam ended without a deal.
 
There is yet no roadmap on how denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula might be possible, nor is there a clear way for North Korea to be able to join the fold of the international community and have sanctions lifted. In short, a great number of uncertainties remain while hopes for peace continue to be strong.
 

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