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 suspected missile is fired, in this image released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 22, 2020, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Multimedia

    North Korean Sanctions Evasion

    The United Nations imposed increasingly restrictive sanctions on North Korea after each of the six nuclear weapons tests that it conducted between 2009 and 2016. In this film, experts discuss the threats posed by North Korean proliferation and the importance of enforcing sanctions.

    Aug 15, 2022

  • Kim Jong-un watches a military parade in Pyongyang to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean People's Revolutionary Army in this image released by KCNA on April 26, 2022, photo by EyePress via Reuters

    Report

    The Risks of North Korean Weapons of Mass Destruction

    In addition to its nuclear weapons, North Korea has amassed chemical, biological, and electromagnetic pulse weapons. It has also created an active cyber hacker force. What can the United States and South Korea do to deter and, if necessary, counter these threats?

    Aug 29, 2022

Explore North Korea

  • 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

  • RAND Weekly Recap

    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

    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

  • RAND Weekly Recap

    Blog

    Schools and COVID-19, Health Care Resources, Leaving Afghanistan: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on allocating scarce but lifesaving resources during a pandemic, insights from America’s educators, the lopsided telework revolution, and more.

    Nov 20, 2020

  • North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un gives field guidance at construction sites in Samjiyon County, North Korea, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on August 18, 2018

    Commentary

    North Korea: Seeking Influence on President-Elect Biden

    North Korea's past post-election provocation patterns suggest that the United States might have days to weeks before the North's first provocations. The Biden team might consider actions to convince Kim Jong-un that provocations will hurt him.

    Nov 17, 2020

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    South Korea: Capable Now, Questions for the Future

    South Korea is a capable US military ally. It faces a substantial military threat from North Korea, especially North Korea's WMD. South Korea's demographics are shrinking its military, challenging South Korea's ability to defend itself in the future.

    Nov 3, 2020

  • RAND Weekly Recap

    Blog

    'Vaccine Nationalism,' a Pandemic Election, Women in the Workforce: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on why 'vaccine nationalism' could be costly, how Americans feel about voting during a pandemic, why women are leaving the workforce, and more.

    Oct 30, 2020

  • 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?

    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.

    Oct 26, 2020

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during the 13th Political Bureau meeting of the 7th Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) in this image released June 7, 2020 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    North Korea Has Agreed to Denuclearization. Trump Could Try to Make It Happen

    President Trump came into office determined to rein in the North Korean nuclear weapons program. But it has become quite clear that North Korea has no intention of giving it up. How might the United States bring North Korea into compliance with its denuclearization commitments?

    Sep 28, 2020

  • Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga gestures as he is elected as new head of Japan's ruling party paving the way for him to replace Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in Tokyo, Japan, September 14, 2020, photo by KYODO/Reuters

    Commentary

    To Mr. Suga, the New Prime Minister, Three Top Priorities Presented by U.S. Researchers

    Understanding that there will be domestic pressures to focus on economic recovery and COVID-19 responses, what then might the next prime minister of Japan prioritize in the foreign policy and defense domains? There are three critical issues that could be top priorities for the next administration.

    Sep 15, 2020

  • Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives at his official residence in Tokyo, Japan, August 28, 2020, photo by Issei Kato/Reuters

    Commentary

    What Abe Leaves Behind

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's unexpected resignation leaves several of his policy priorities unfinished, including revising Japan's constitution and finalizing a peace treaty with Russia. But the security issues facing Japan and the region remain unchanged, and Abe's successor may be forced to confront several of them on his very first day.

    Sep 11, 2020

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a drill of long-range artillery sub-units of the Korean People's Army, March 2, 2020, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Report

    How Does North Korean Leadership Make Decisions?

    With talks between the United States and North Korea at a standstill, U.S. policymakers must consider what the regime might do next and know what signs or decisions to look for. Will Kim open the DPRK economy? What if conventional deterrence fails on the Korean Peninsula? And what could lead to the use of nuclear weapons?

    Aug 20, 2020

  • A missile is seen launched during a military drill in North Korea, May 10, 2019, photo by Korean Central News Agency via Reuters

    Commentary

    In North Korea, The U.S. Could Take the Lead

    North Korea is hurting: its economy is stagnant and it is having trouble feeding even its elites because of the UN/U.S. sanctions designed to pressure North Korean toward denuclearization. A combined carrot and stick approach may help overcome some of North Korea's reluctance to negotiate the future of its nuclear weapons program.

    Aug 17, 2020

  • RAND Weekly Recap

    Blog

    Preparing for a COVID-19 Election, Hurricane Response, North Korea: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on preparing for a COVID-19 election, how the pandemic is affecting artists, North Korea's deadly artillery, and more.

    Aug 7, 2020

  • 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

    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.

    Aug 6, 2020