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.

  • South Korea's new President Kim Dae-jung waves on the grounds of the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, February 25, 1998, photo by Str Old/Reuters

    Commentary

    Three Principles for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security

    May 20, 2022

    In his inaugural address in 1998, former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung defined three principles for Korean Peninsula peace and security. How might these principles be adjusted to manage today's changing North Korean threats and the Korean security environment?

  • A new type of submarine-launched ballistic missile being launched in waters off the east coast of North Korea in a photo released by the North Korean Central News Agency on October 20, 2021, photo by KCNA via/Latin America News Agency via Reuters Connect

    Commentary

    North Korea's Nuclear Arsenal and Prospects for Regional Peace

    Dec 16, 2021

    Nuclear talks between the United States and North Korea have hovered at a standstill since 2019. With the door to diplomacy seemingly closed and North Korea marching forward on weapons development and making threatening statements, what are the prospects for Pyongyang's denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula?

Explore North Korea

  • President Joe Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-in attend the Medal of Honor Ceremony for Ret. U.S. Army Col. Ralph Puckett, Jr. at the White House in Washington, D.C., May 21, 2021, photo by Carlos Fyfe/Official White House photo

    Commentary

    Takeaways from the Biden-Moon Summit: Three Observations on China

    North Korea was not the only elephant in the room during the recent U.S.–South Korea summit. In the broader context of U.S. foreign policy priorities and South Korea's geopolitical concerns, China was probably the larger presence.

    Jun 7, 2021

  • President Joe Biden participates in a restricted bilateral meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., May 21, 2021, photo by Adam Schultz/Official White House Photo

    Commentary

    The Biden-Moon Meetings: Much Ado About Something?

    The May summit meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-in elicited a wide range of opinion about its value. With diplomacy-first progressives in power simultaneously in both nations for the first time in two decades, even subtle gains may be significant.

    Jun 4, 2021

  • People take part in the celebrations for the National Liberation Day near the Arch of Reunification in the city of Pyongyang, North Korea, August 14, 2005, photo by Yuri Maltsev/Reuters

    Commentary

    An Economic Blueprint for North Korea

    It would be simplistic to think that developing detailed blueprints for economic development in North Korea could on its own cut through decades of conflict and mistrust, triggering political and economic reform. But by expanding the terms of the debate it might move the needle on peace.

    Jun 4, 2021

  • South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Joe Biden hold a joint news conference at the White House, in Washington, D.C., May 21, 2021, photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    Commentary

    U.S.-ROK Summit: Assessing Moon's Vaccine and Peace Promises

    U.S. President Joe Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-in held their first in-person summit in Washington in May. But beyond the formalities, how fruitful was this first sit-down, face-to-face, no-mask meeting for Moon?

    Jun 3, 2021

  • People take part in the celebrations for the National Liberation Day near the Arch of Reunification in the city of Pyongyang, North Korea, August 14, 2005, photo by Yuri Maltsev/Reuters

    Report

    From Hermit Kingdom to Open for Business

    When the situation in North Korea becomes conducive to foreign investment and development, what might it take to kick-start the country's economy?

    May 25, 2021

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Netizen Opinion and China's Foreign Policy: Interpreting Narratives About North Korea on Chinese Social Media

    This article collects a novel dataset of thousands of Chinese-language social media posts on the leading microblog, Sina Weibo, in 2015. Analysis of this dataset reveals four multilayered popular Chinese narratives on North Korea.

    May 18, 2021

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Through the Looking Glass: Chinese Open Source Assessments of North Korea's Ballistic Missile Capabilities

    This report examines Chinese assessments of North Korean ballistic missile capabilities between 1998 and 2017. Chinese analyses mirror Western conclusions that North Korea has a functional ICBM that can reach the U.S. with a nuclear weapon.

    May 14, 2021

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Deciphering PLA Media Commentaries on North Korea: All Show or Real Talk?

    Does Chinese military commentary represent accurate and authoritative views on policy toward North Korea? Are there certain military officials or publications that we should watch closely?

    May 14, 2021

  • Connected dotted lines representing a network, image by liuzishan/Getty Images

    Report

    New Model Helps Predict Cyber Threats and Improve Resilience

    Today's evolving cyber threats require a tailored and targeted approach to cybersecurity. Current defenses focus on managing threats after a network has been breached. RAND's Scalable Warning and Resilience Model (SWARM) can help defenders proactively protect their systems through early warning of cyber incidents before they occur.

    May 11, 2021

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts as he attends a parade to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, in this image released by North Korea's Central News Agency on October 10, 2020, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    Biden's North Korea Policy Review Is Sparse on Details. Here's One Interpretation

    The Biden administration recently completed its North Korea policy review. Details have been sparse, but based on prior U.S. dealings with the Kims, some informed guesses about Washington's approach towards Pyongyang under the new administration can be had. Here's one.

    May 6, 2021

  • Blog

    Summer Learning, America's Middle Class, Waking Up After the Pandemic: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on how to make summer learning count, U.S. deterrence in the ‘gray zone,’ why so many Americans are stuck outside the middle class, and more.

    Apr 23, 2021

  • Still from a documentary by a North Korean TV station, titled “The efforts and sacrifices (of the Chairman of the North Korean State Affairs Committee, Kim Jong-un) for the people in 2020,” broadcast February 1, 2021, photo by KCTV via / Latin America News Agency/Reuters

    Commentary

    COVID-19 Exacerbates North Korea's Bad Choices

    Recently, Kim Jong-un admitted that North Korea is facing a dire situation. It was surprising that he would admit circumstances which at face value suggest major failures on his part. Why is Kim admitting that such circumstances are developing in the North now?

    Apr 20, 2021

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks during the conference of the Central Military Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in this image released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 23, 2020, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    Think the Coronavirus Is Curbing Kim's Atomic Appetite? Think Again

    Coronavirus or not, Kim Jong-un's appetite for nuclear and missile bargaining with the United States remains intact. This likely spells further weapons demonstrations from North Korea, with potentially longer-range missile demonstrations to test Washington's resolve in its nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang.

    Apr 20, 2021

  • Blog

    COVID-19 Demographic Trends, Vaccinating 'High-Contact' People, the Iran Threat Network: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on how the pandemic is shaping demographic trends, targeting vaccines to "high-contact" people, the Iran Threat Network, and more.

    Apr 16, 2021

  • Call with the Experts: The North Korean Nuclear Threat

    Multimedia

    The North Korean Nuclear Threat

    In this Call with the Experts podcast, Jeffrey Hiday, director of Media Relations at RAND, is joined by Bruce Bennett, RAND adjunct international/defense researcher, Bruce Bechtol, professor of political science at Angelo State University, and Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow with the Heritage Foundation, for a discussion about the North Korean nuclear threat.

    Apr 12, 2021

  • North Korea displays what appears to be its largest intercontinental ballistic missile during a parade to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of its ruling Workers' Party, October 10, 2020, photo by KCNA

    Report

    Countering the Risks of North Korean Nuclear Weapons

    There is a growing gap between North Korea's nuclear weapon threat and South Korean and U.S. capabilities to defeat it. Because these capabilities will take years to develop, attention should be focused on where the threat could be in the mid to late 2020s and strategy options that could be employed to counter it.

    Apr 12, 2021

  • Report

    Report

    The U.S.-Japan Alliance and Rapid Change on the Korean Peninsula: Proceedings from a Pair of Conferences

    Few areas of the world are more geostrategically important to the United States and Japan than the Korean Peninsula. These conference proceedings explore how changes on the Korean Peninsula are seen by observers in Japan and the United States.

    Mar 26, 2021

  • News Release

    News Release

    Interest in a U.S. Grand Strategy of Restraint May Be Growing, So Advocates Need to Provide More Details

    As the Biden Administration takes over, some U.S. policymakers have expressed interest in a new approach to America's role in the world: a realist grand strategy of restraint under which the U.S. would cooperate more with other powers, reduce its forward military presence and end or renegotiate some security commitments.

    Jan 22, 2021

  • A world map puzzle with a piece on top, photo by Yuriy Panyukov/Adobe Stock

    Report

    A U.S. Grand Strategy of Restraint

    Some U.S. policymakers have expressed interest in a realist grand strategy of restraint. Under this approach, the United States would cooperate more with other powers, reduce its forward military presence, and end or renegotiate some security commitments. What are the policy implications of embarking down this path?

    Jan 21, 2021

  • Strategies for Denuclearization

    Multimedia

    Strategies for Pushing North Korea Toward Denuclearization

    RAND policy analyst Soo Kim and RAND senior defense analyst Bruce Bennett discuss strategies for pushing the Kim administration toward denuclearization.

    Jan 15, 2021