North Korea

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North Korea, formerly designated a state sponsor of terrorism by the United States, emerged as a nuclear-armed enigma under the dictatorship of Kim-Jong Il. RAND’s research on both deterrence and failed states includes expert analysis of the North Korean regime, opportunities for its modernization and democratization, and implications for post–Cold War geopolitics.

  • A throng of shoppers in Myungdong, downtown Seoul, South Korea, July 17, 2011, photo by United Nations/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Report

    A North Korean Artillery Attack Could Kill Thousands in Only an Hour

    Aug 6, 2020

    North Korea maintains nearly 6,000 artillery systems within range of major South Korean population centers. Five attack scenarios show that casualties could range from 4,500 to more than 200,000. The United States and South Korea should avoid military provocation cycles that could lead to these attacks.

  • U.S. and North Korean diplomacy depicted by pencils and people running off cliffs to meet in the middle, photo by wildpixel/Getty Images

    Report

    Is There a Better Way to Negotiate with North Korea?

    Oct 26, 2020

    The failure of recent efforts by the United States to engage North Korea in denuclearization talks calls for a different approach. A new method that addresses the reasons for past failures and reflects current realities offers promising ways forward.

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  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un presides over a meeting of the Workers' Party of Korea Central Military Commission, May 24, 2020, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    For the U.S., South Korea, and Japan, It’s the North Korean Regime, Not Kim Jong Un Per Se, That Is the Threat

    Would Kim Jong Un's death improve U.S., South Korean, and Japanese security? Maybe not. North Korea's advancing nuclear and other military capabilities are driving an expanded set of problems, and while Kim's sudden death might constitute a destabilizing factor for the regime, the available evidence suggests the regime itself is the problem.

    Jun 8, 2020

  • Kim Jong Un attends the completion of a fertilizer plant with his younger sister Kim Yo Jong, in a region north of Pyongyang, May 2, 2020, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    North Korea Post–Kim Jong Un Reappearance: Expect Business as Usual in the Hermit Kingdom

    Kim Jong Un's return, while it leaves much to be desired in the way of explanation, should send one message to the international audience: North Korea's fate rests still in the hands of Kim Jong Un. And judging by appearances in recent days, Kim does not appear to intend to change the course of his strategy to reduce tensions with the United States.

    May 19, 2020

  • Kim Jong-un attends the completion of a fertilizer plant north of Pyongyang, in this image released by KCNA on May 2, 2020, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    North Korean Provocations, Not Denuclearization

    Kim Jong-un's reappearance raises questions about the course of U.S.–North Korea relationships in the coming year. What should we expect? What can we learn from the past?

    May 8, 2020

  • Blog

    A Proposed COVID-19 Cure, Economic Decline, North Korea: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on the unintended consequences of a proposed COVID-19 treatment, another wave of economic destruction, North Korea after Kim Jong Un, and more.

    May 1, 2020

  • The Future of the North Korean Regime

    Multimedia

    The Future of the North Korean Regime

    Soo Kim, policy analyst with the RAND Corporation, discusses the future of the North Korean regime.

    Apr 28, 2020

  • North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un sits in his vehicle after arriving at a railway station in Dong Dang, Vietnam, at the border with China, February 26, 2019, photo by Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

    Commentary

    North Korea After Kim Jong Un: 'How' Matters More Than 'Who'

    With rumors swirling that Kim Jong Un has suffered a health crisis, some are already asking who might succeed him as leader of North Korea. But who is not the most important question. What will matter more is what the new regime does to establish its legitimacy and how the United States and its allies respond.

    Apr 28, 2020

  • Kim Jong Un speaks during the 5th Plenary Meeting of the 7th Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in this undated photo released on December 29, 2019, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    Why We Really Don't Know What Happens If Kim Jong Un Dies

    The potential changes in the North Korean regime pose more questions than they answer. How prepared are observers and keen watchers from the “outside world” for a North Korean contingency? Should there be a power vacuum in Pyongyang, will U.S. policy toward the DPRK remain largely as-is?

    Apr 27, 2020

  • Blog

    Medical Supply Shortfalls, Parenting Through the Pandemic, North Korea: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on reducing medical supply shortfalls, understanding who's in charge during a pandemic, North Korea's nuclear blackmail, and more.

    Apr 17, 2020

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a drill of long-range artillery sub-units of the Korean People's Army, North Korea, image released by Korean Central News Agency on March 2, 2020

    Commentary

    The Coronavirus and North Korea: Is There a Cure for Kim's Nuclear Blackmail?

    Despite the pandemic, North Korea's recent activities suggest that Kim Jong Un will likely stay the course in his ongoing campaign against the United States and the broader Northeast Asia region.

    Apr 13, 2020

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un observes the firing of suspected missiles in this image released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 22, 2020, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    North Korea: Denying COVID-19

    According to Pyongyang, North Korea has not yet suffered any cases of COVID-19. That would be surprising, since it is a neighbor and extensive trading partner of China. There are signs that this claim is yet another North Korean deception.

    Apr 2, 2020

  • South Korea and U.S. Special Forces during a joint military exercise in Gangwon province, South Korea, November 7, 2019, photo by Capt. David J. Murphy/U.S. Air Force/Reuters

    Commentary

    U.S.–South Korea OPCON Transition: The Element of Timing

    As Washington and Seoul continue to examine the feasibility and conditions for wartime operational control transition, decisionmakers will likely face political pressure on timing. It may well be to the advantage of both allies that the determination of the transfer be driven by a hard, thorough diagnosis of military capabilities against emerging threats.

    Apr 2, 2020

  • A projectile is fired during North Korea's missile tests in this undated picture released by North Korea's Central News Agency (KCNA) on November 28, 2019, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    Japan's North Korea Challenge in 2020

    North Korea began 2020 by announcing a shift toward a more hard-line foreign policy approach. While this is bad news for all countries in the region, it is particularly unwelcome for Japan.

    Jan 27, 2020

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during the 5th Plenary Meeting of the 7th Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) in this undated photo released on December 28, 2019, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    North Korea: Selling Political Deception

    Why did Kim Jong-un substitute releasing the North Korean Workers' Party Plenary report instead of his traditional New Year's address? As with many things in North Korea, we do not know, forcing us to speculate.

    Jan 3, 2020

  • Blog

    Preventing the Winter Blues, North Korea, Opioids: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on how to ward off the winter blues, Kim Jong Un's latest threat, how to spend opioid settlement funds, and more.

    Jan 3, 2020

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reads a letter from U.S. President Donald Trump in Pyongyang, photo by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency via Reuters

    Commentary

    Stability in Northeast Asia and the North Korean 'Christmas Present'

    North Korea's extreme rhetoric is worrying people in Northeast Asia. Pyongyang is threatening a presumably violent “Christmas gift” to the United States at the same time that Washington's patience with Pyongyang has worn thin.

    Dec 24, 2019

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversees a super-large multiple launch rocket system test in this undated picture released by North Korea's Central News Agency (KCNA) on November 28, 2019, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    North Korea Holds Most of the Cards in Nuclear Negotiations

    North Korea has been reminding the United States that the window to negotiate a nuclear deal is closing. Pyongyang will likely continue trying to force Washington's hand into a deal that allows North Korea to keep its weapons while still reaping economic and political concessions.

    Dec 20, 2019

  • Closeup of South Korean and Japanese flags, photo by Oleksii Liskonih/Getty Images

    Commentary

    South Korea Should Consider Sticking with Intelligence-Sharing Pact with Japan

    South Korea announced its intent to withdraw from an intelligence-sharing arrangement with Japan. There are four reasons that Seoul should strongly consider reversing course.

    Nov 5, 2019

  • Blog

    The Syria Withdrawal, Climate Policy, Drones: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on the effects of the U.S. withdrawal from Syria, one expert's take on climate policy, how drones could help get blood to soldiers who need it, and more.

    Oct 25, 2019

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this undated photo released on June 21, 2019, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    U.S. Economic War on China Weakens Nuclear North Korea, Too

    An effective way to bend North Korea toward denuclearization may be exerting consistent and targeted pressure on China. Diminishing Beijing's relevance isn't a cure-all. But it could pierce Kim's illusion of invincibility and place him in a bind to make some concessions.

    Oct 18, 2019

  • World map in red pixels on a dark background, photo by Lidiia Moor/Getty Images

    Report

    Are States Using Cyber Operations to Coerce Others?

    Cyber operations have become another tool of statecraft. But have any cyber operations sponsored by Russia, China, Iran, or North Korea met the definition of cyber coercion? If so, how? And what should the United States do to respond?

    Sep 17, 2019