Modern Korean History | Wilson Center

Modern Korean History

Assignment: North Korea

Images and insights from inside the DPRK

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may have transformed his image from Hermit King to diplomatic statesman by stepping out onto the world stage in 2018 and 2019. But in 2020, with few Americans traveling to Pyongyang due to years of tightened sanctions and travel bans, the people of North Korea remain as hidden and muted as ever before.

Two years on, a sobering look at the human toll of the maximum pressure campaign against North Korea

We are now more than two years into the Trump Administration's "maximum pressure" campaign against North Korea, a sanctions regime designed to compel Pyongyang to give up its nuclear program. This almost total embargo on the country has yet to yield any concrete progress on denuclearization. All it seems to have achieved is hurting ordinary North Koreans.

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.

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:

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