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"North Korean media analysis is, simply put, a process of separating the wheat from the chaff. Much of North Korean media content is routine propaganda, perhaps even meaningless noise. More often than not, trends and patterns that are key to understanding Pyongyang's intentions remain buried under meaningless propaganda, and it is the job of the analyst to filter out the noise and discern the message. Serious analysis of North Korea's public messaging requires the right methodology and a well-trained eye to apply it rigorously and systematically to decode the messaging. ...The objective of this paper is to introduce the basics of a propaganda analysis method to help both consumers and producers of North Korea analysis avoid the all-too-common pitfalls of cherry picking [...] this paper will examine a) the significance of North Korea's public line for understanding Pyongyang's intentions; b) a time-tested analytic framework for propaganda analysis; and c) the key changes in the North Korean communications strategy since the U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi and potential implications for this analysis method."

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The Understanding North Korea roundtable series is a joint program of the National Committee on North Korea and the Wilson Center’s Hyundai Motor - Korean Foundation Center for Korean History and Public Policy. The roundtable series was established to enable emerging scholars of North Korea to share their research ideas with peers and experts in the field, and to publish their findings in a format accessible to a general audience.

This paper reflects the views of the author alone and not those of the National Committee on North Korea, the Wilson Center, or any other organizations.

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About the Author

Rachel Minyoung Lee

Nonresident Fellow with the 38 North Program at the Stimson Center

Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean History and Public Policy

The Center for Korean History and Public Policy was established in 2015 with the generous support of the Hyundai Motor Company and the Korea Foundation to provide a coherent, long-term platform for improving historical understanding of Korea and informing the public policy debate on the Korean peninsula in the United States and beyond.  Read more