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.

Explore North Korea

  • 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

  • Making a move during a unique wargame hosted by RAND with a group called Girl Security, photo by Dori Gordon Walker/RAND Corporation

    Essay

    A Wargame at RAND Puts Teen Girls in Command

    RAND analysts developed and hosted a wargame to help young women learn firsthand about national security. It's a lesson in strategy, in the hard realities behind news headlines, but also in agility and resilience. In that, it's not so far removed from the daily life of a teenage girl.

    Aug 20, 2019

  • A typical communist style statue in the capital city of North Korea, photo by alexkuehni/Getty Images

    Commentary

    Searching for Signs of Doi Moi in North Korea

    President Trump's second summit with Kim Jong Un prompted voluminous commentary about whether Pyongyang might adopt the “Vietnam model” of economic reform and opening up, known as doi moi. Some version of doi moi is not impossible in North Korea, but it will likely be more difficult than it was in Vietnam and made all the more so by Kim's reluctance to risk losing absolute control.

    Aug 12, 2019

  • Blog

    Youth Sports, Autonomous Vehicles, Mental Health: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on why low-income children aren't playing sports, who's liable when autonomous vehicles get hacked, supporting children with mental health issues, and more.

    Jul 19, 2019

  • U.S. President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the demilitarized zone on the border of North and South Korea, June 30, 2019, photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    Commentary

    Why U.S. Negotiators Face a Tough Task After the Trump-Kim DMZ Meeting

    Denuclearization talks between the United States and North Korea may be under time constraints tied to America's next presidential election. This further complicates the task facing U.S. negotiators, who seek to reach a deal that endures beyond 2020.

    Jul 15, 2019

  • Blog

    DMZ Meeting, Students with Disabilities, Iran: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on Trump's meeting with Kim Jong Un, supporting students with disabilities, the flawed logic of a proportional response in Iran, and more.

    Jul 5, 2019

  • U.S. President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates the two Koreas, Panmunjom, South Korea, June 30, 2019, photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    Commentary

    How Trump Reset U.S.–North Korea Relations

    The meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the DMZ may lead to follow-on talks. But the success of future negotiations depends on Kim actually taking action to denuclearize.

    Jul 2, 2019

  • Blog

    Iran, School Discipline, North Korea: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on the costs of U.S.–Iran confrontation, discipline reform in America's schools, why the North Korea problem is bigger than nukes, and more.

    Jun 21, 2019

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervises a strike drill during a military drill in North Korea, May 4, 2019, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    One Year After Singapore: The North Korea Problem Is Bigger Than Nukes

    After two summits between the United States and North Korea, and little to show in the way of deliverables on dismantlement, hopes that a third summit may yield a denuclearization deal seem a bit unrealistic. Essentially, there has been no indication of intent on Kim's part to denuclearize. But the North Korea problem is much greater than nukes.

    Jun 17, 2019

  • Blog

    ISIS, Homelessness, India's Election: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on what can be done about ISIS detainees, a program that helps reduce homelessness, Modi's reelection in India, and more.

    Jun 7, 2019

  • Missiles being launched during a military drill in North Korea, May 10, 2019, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    Downplaying North Korea's Missile Tests Carries Risks

    North Korea test-fired short-range ballistic missiles for the first time in 18 months. President Trump is downplaying the tests, refusing to call them a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. But if North Korea starts testing longer-range missiles, it could become harder for Washington to return to talks, risking the end of diplomacy with Pyongyang altogether.

    Jun 5, 2019

  • People walk in front of a monitor showing news of North Korea's fresh threat in Tokyo, Japan, August 10, 2017, photo by Toru Hanai/Reuters

    Tool

    DPRK Sanctions: Countering DPRK Proliferation Activities

    This tool provides an understanding of sanctions regimes currently in force against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

    Apr 29, 2019

  • Blog

    AI Bias, Opioids, Afghanistan: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on the danger of artificial intelligence bias, infants with opioid withdrawal symptoms, peace talks in Afghanistan, and more.

    Mar 15, 2019

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un bids farewell before boarding his train to depart for North Korea at Dong Dang railway station in Vietnam, March 2, 2019, photo by Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

    Commentary

    Where Do U.S.–North Korea Relations Go After the Hanoi Summit?

    If Kim Jong-un is sincere about denuclearization, it is time for him to match his words with actions. If North Korea's nuclearization continues, the U.S. government may eventually face some pressure to take military action to stop it.

    Mar 13, 2019

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends wreath laying ceremony at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam March 2, 2019, photo by Jorge Silva/Pool/Reuters

    Commentary

    After the Hanoi Summit

    The best-case scenario for future U.S.-North Korea relations is that President Trump and Kim Jong-un remain committed to diplomacy. In the worst case, both countries' frustrations could spiral out of control.

    Mar 13, 2019

  • North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and Vietnam's President Nguyen Phu Trong review an honor guard during a welcome ceremony in Hanoi, Vietnam, March 1, 2019, photo by Luong Thai Linh/Reuters

    Commentary

    The Hidden Components of the North Korean Military Challenge

    In an era of global competition in which U.S. military resources are stretched thin, the United States should consider looking for opportunities to scale back potential overcommitment. The current inter-Korean dialogue presents such an opportunity.

    Mar 12, 2019

  • Soldiers in military gear are silhouetted against the setting sun.

    Multimedia

    Strategic Rethink: America's Security Deficit

    The global security landscape is shifting dramatically. How can the United States protect itself in today's tumultuous world? This video provides an overview of findings from the second volume in RAND's Strategic Rethink series, which recommends a suite of options that could help policymakers ensure that resources remain aligned with strategic demands.

    Mar 7, 2019