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James Person

Global Fellow

Professional affiliation

Professor of Korean Studies and Asia Programs, JHU SAIS; Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Institute, SAIS

Full Biography


James Person is one of the country’s leading experts on the inner workings of the elusive North Korean regime and dynamics on the peninsula. The founding Coordinator of Wilson’s groundbreaking North Korea International Documentation Project, he has visited the country twice. Person also teaches at George Washington University and has been interviewed by top-tier outlets, including CBS, CNN, Newsweek, NPR, and USA Today.

Full Bio

James F. Person was the founding Director of the Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean History and Public Policy. Between 2007 and early 2017, he served as the founding Coordinator of the North Korea International Documentation Project at the Wilson Center. Between 2013 and early 2017, he was Deputy Director of the History and Public Policy Program. Person holds a Ph.D in modern Korean history (2013).

Person’s principal research interests include modern Korean history, inter-Korean relations, DPRK foreign relations, US-Korea relations, and the Cold War in Asia. His PhD dissertation explored the transformation of North Korea’s political, ideological, and political systems between 1953 and 1967.

Person teaches courses on modern Korean history at the George Washington University. He has appeared on CBS, CSPAN, National Public Radio, Vice News, KBS, and his interviews have appeared in Newsweek, CNN, USA Today, the LA Times, the Donga Daily, and other news outlets. He has worked as a consultant on historical documentaries.

He has a Ph.D in Modern Korean History from George Washington University, a M.Phil. in Soviet History from Moscow State University, and a B.A. in History and Fine Arts from George Washington University.


Major Publications

Want to be a successful dictator? Copy North Korea” The National Interest, with Isozaki Atsuhito (March 2017).

"North Korea’s chuch’e philosophy," in Routledge Handbook of Modern Korean History, ed. Michael J. Seth (New York: Routledge, 2016), 211-220.

"On North Korea, US Policymakers Misunderstand the History Between Beijing and Pyongyang" The Diplomat, (February 12, 2016). 

"Historical Trends in North Korea’s Economic Development and Prospects for Openness and Integration into the Global Economic System," The Review of Northeast Asian Studies, Vol. 5 No. 3. (December 2013)

"North Korea’s Purges Past," The National Interest, (December 30, 2013).

"The Cuban Missile Crisis and the Origins of North Korea’s Policy of Self-Reliance in National Defense," Cold War International History Project Bulletin 18, (October 2012).

"New Evidence on North Korea in 1956," Cold War International History Project Bulletin 16/17, (September 2008).

"We Need Help From Outside: The North Korean Opposition Movement of 1956,” Cold War International History Project Working Paper No.52, (August 2006).