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Showing posts for "Scott A. Snyder"

New Year’s Greetings From Kim Jong-un

by Scott A. Snyder
new-years-2014-in-pyongyang Fireworks explode in the sky over Pyongyang as part of New Year celebrations in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency. (KCNA/Courtesy: Reuters)

From fireworks over the Potonggang to the inauguration of a mysteriously newly procured ski lift at Masikryong Pass, North Korea’s leaders have undertaken great efforts to project a return to normalcy and the façade of unity under the Party’s leadership, progress in economic development, and the strengthening of national defense. These themes were reflected in Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s Day address, which annually sets the tone and states the priorities of the North Korean leadership. The speech focused on practical steps to improve North Korea’s domestic economy across a wide range of sectors under the Party’s centralized leadership. “Factional filth” of uncle Jang Song-taek is gone; keep calm, labor on. Read more »

North Korean Leadership Tremors: Catalyst for U.S.-ROK-China Cooperation?

by Scott A. Snyder
park-and-xi-in-beijing-june2013 South Korean president Park Geun-hye and Chinese president Xi Jinping agreed to push for new talks with North Korea at their first meeting on June 27, 2013 in Beijing. Following recent news of internal political upheaval in Pyongyang, coordinating the direction of South Korea-China-U.S. cooperation is all the more important (Wang Zhao/Courtesy Reuters).

I participated last Friday morning in a perfectly timed, wide-ranging panel discussion hosted by The Korea Society and named in honor of Robert A. Scalapino, formerly Professor of Political Science at UC Berkeley. (Bob was an excellent mentor, gentleman, and scholar-diplomat, in addition to being the broadest and deepest scholar on Asian politics of his generation.) Read more »

Kim Jong-un’s Post-Jang Song-taek Foreign Policy Void

by Scott A. Snyder
hu-and-jang-in-2012 Prior to his dismissal, Jang Song-taek was seen as a proponent of increased business ties with China. Here, Jang (L) shakes hands with Hu Jintao, then president of China, in Beijing on August 17, 2012 (China Daily/Courtesy: Reuters).

Following the drama of Jang Song-taek’s humiliation at a Korean Workers’ Party conclave and execution following a military tribunal last week, the next big question for foreign observers is what the implications are likely to be for North Korea’s relations with its neighbors. China’s perception of Jang as an economic partner may make Beijing unsure of their relationship with Pyongyang in the near term, and the consolidation of power under Kim Jong-un will make Seoul likewise wary of working with the young leader. Read more »

The Removal of Jang Song-taek

by Scott A. Snyder
jang-song-taek-ousted North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (L) and North Korean politician Jang Song-taek (R) attended a commemoration event for the Korean People’s Army in Pyongyang July 25, 2013. Jang’s dismissal from senior party posts was confirmed at a December 8, 2013, meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Korean Workers’ Party. (Jason Lee/Courtesy: Reuters)

There is nothing like a good purge to spark off speculation about the future of an opaque totalitarian regime like the one in North Korea. The problem, of course, is that unless one knows what is going on inside the leader’s head (a tough task for even the most seasoned analyst) events are impossible to predict and exceedingly difficult to explain. Read more »

Biden’s Bet on a South Korea Squeezed on All Sides

by Scott A. Snyder
biden-and-park-in-seoul South Korean President Park Geun-hye shakes hands with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden before their meeting at the presidential Blue House in Seoul December 6, 2013. (Ahn Young-joon/Courtesy Reuters)

Joe Biden wasted no time in affirming American security assurances to South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye during his meeting in Seoul, stating that it has “never been a good bet to bet against America . . . and America will continue to place its bet on South Korea.” Read more »

Challenges in Designing an Effective North Korean Human Rights Policy

by Scott A. Snyder
refugee-interview-photos North Korean refugees provide some of the mounting evidence against systemic human rights abuses in North Korea. Here, one refugee shows pictures of his family in North Korea. (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy Reuters).

There is no more vexing issue than the challenge of how to support the improvement of human rights in North Korea, a country that has consistently ranked at the bottom of international indices rating human freedom around the world.  The U.S. Congress passed the North Korea Human Rights Act almost a decade ago, the United Nations has appointed a rapporteur to examine the human rights situation inside North Korea for almost as long, and the Korean Institute for National Unification has published an ever-growing annual white paper on North Korean human rights since 1996.  This year the UN Human Rights Council appointed a Commission of Inquiry that has held public hearings in Seoul, Tokyo, London, and Washington, DC; the commission will report back to the UN Human Rights Council with its assessment and recommendations by spring of next year.  But the stream of North Korean refugee testimony to unspeakable atrocities and evidence of systemic abuses inside North Korea continues to grow. Read more »

The Economic Costs of North Korean Nuclear Development

by Scott A. Snyder
Kim Jong-un, here at the May 11 Factory, is taking a greater interest in economic reforms that may impact the international trade prospects for North Korea. Kim Jong-un, here at the May 11 Factory, is taking a greater interest in economic reforms that may impact the international trade prospects for North Korea (KCNA/Courtesy Reuters).

International sanctions have thus far failed to convince North Korean leadership that they cannot survive as a nuclear weapons state.  With its policy of simultaneously pursuing economic and nuclear development, North Korean leaders clearly assume they can manage the economic costs resulting from nuclear development. But the costs of such a policy are staggering compared to the economic benefits North Korea might enjoy without nuclear weapons. Comparing the estimated costs of the nuclear program to economic growth with the benefits of becoming a normal economy integrated with its neighbors reveals the steep price of the byungjin policy. Read more »

The Motivations Behind North Korea’s Pursuit of Simultaneous Economic and Nuclear Development

by Scott A. Snyder
In a plenary meeting of the Workers' Party of Korea on March 31, 2013, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un first announced the dual policy to pursue economic development and continue its nuclear program. In a plenary meeting of the Workers' Party of Korea on March 31, 2013, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un first announced the dual policy to pursue economic development and continue its nuclear program (KCNA/Courtesy Reuters).

North Korea has been relatively straightforward in revealing both its aspirations and perceived constraints as it tries to improve its economy while strengthening its nuclear “deterrent” through its dual policy (the byungjin line), announced by Kim Jong Un at a Korean Workers’ Party meeting in March 2013. The policy prioritizes the nuclear and munitions industrial sector; the electric power, coal, metal and railway transport sectors; and new applications of science and technology, while also rejecting that it must make a “strategic choice” for denuclearization as a primary means of survival, as the Obama administration has insisted. Thus, North Korea’s welcome emphasis on improving its economy could also be a “breakout” strategy by which North Korean leaders may believe they can survive as a nuclear weapons state. Read more »

Engage DPRK: Mapping International Projects in North Korea

by Scott A. Snyder
A group of tourists from Shanghai, China arrives at an airport in Pyongyang on an Air Koryo Tupolev Tu-2004-300 passenger jet in this picture taken on July 1, 2011 and released on July 2, 2011 by Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). KCNA said that the group was the first Chinese tourists to arrive in North Korea via the Shanghai-Pyongyang air route, and that they would visit monuments in Pyongyang, the International Friendship Exhibition House, Panmunjom, Mt. Kumgang and Kaesong area during four nights and five days (KCNA/Courtesy Reuters). A group of tourists from Shanghai, China arrives at an airport in Pyongyang on an Air Koryo Tupolev Tu-2004-300 passenger jet in this picture taken on July 1, 2011 and released on July 2, 2011 by Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). KCNA said that the group was the first Chinese tourists to arrive in North Korea via the Shanghai-Pyongyang air route, and that they would visit monuments in Pyongyang, the International Friendship Exhibition House, Panmunjom, Mt. Kumgang and Kaesong area during four nights and five days (KCNA/Courtesy Reuters).

Former ambassador Donald Gregg has labeled North Korea “our longest-running intelligence failure.” North Korea’s long-running quest to keep the veil over the “hermit kingdom” has vexed scholars who have tried to gain empirical data on how North Korea works. However, a project to map out almost two decades of non-governmental engagement with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) reveals that it has more foreign exposure than most people think, and that the number of outsiders visiting sanctions-weary North Korea for tourism and business reasons has been going up sharply. Read more »

South Korea and Vietnam Between Beijing and Washington

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korea's President Park Geun-hye (L) shakes hands with her Vietnamese counterpart Truong Tan Sang after a news briefing at the Presidential Palace during her official visit in Hanoi on September 9, 2013. (Luong Thai Linh/courtesy Reuters) South Korea's President Park Geun-hye (L) shakes hands with her Vietnamese counterpart Truong Tan Sang after a news briefing at the Presidential Palace during her official visit in Hanoi on September 9, 2013. (Luong Thai Linh/courtesy Reuters)

One of the most dramatic effects of China’s economic rise has been the potential strategic dilemma facing South Korea (and the other countries in East Asia), as it depends on relations with China as a major source of economic growth while it still relies on Washington for security. As reflected in President Park Geun-hye’s discussion of the “Asian paradox” and her Northeast Asian cooperation proposals, South Korea’s strategic preference is to avoid having to make a choice between Washington and Beijing. Therefore, South Korea has a major stake in good China-U.S. relations. Nonetheless, what are the hypothetical circumstances under which South Korea would make a strategic choice in favor of China over the United States? Read more »