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Engaging North Korea


Many people attend a mass rally marking the "day of struggle against U.S. imperialism" at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang in June 2013.
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Senior Fellow
  • Professor, Sociology
David Straub

Rapidly changing circumstances continue to shape relations on the Korean Peninsula and in East Asia. Leaderships in both Seoul and Pyongyang as well as in the region have transitioned in recent years, nationalism has fueled rising tensions throughout the area, and North Korea has continued to engage in provocative behavior. The constant flux of political, social and economic affairs in the region has also created challenges for long-standing alliances.

This research project seeks to examine the interests and policy environments of South Korea, North Korea and their neighbors. Issues addressed will include the role of North Korea, nuclear proliferation, Japan’s economic future, the rise of China, and Korean reunification.

Project investigators seek to understand the future domestic and global implications of North Korea’s political situation and social conditions. As part of America’s rebalancing efforts in Asia, the United States and South Korea must also adapt and strengthen their alliance. Security, trade, and the environment, among other issues, are shared concerns the two countries can cooperate on. 

This initiative stems from the annual Koret Conference that first convened in 2009. Operating as a policy workshop, the conference brings leading scholars and professionals from Asia and the United States to Stanford to discuss contemporary Korean affairs.

Publications stemming from the project include a book that Gi-Wook Shin and David Straub co-edited with Choe Sang-Hun, then a Korean Studies visiting fellow at Stanford and Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter, entitled Troubled Transition: North Korea’s Politics, Economy, and External Relations (Shorenstein APARC, 2013). In 2013, a Shorenstein APARC team led by Shin published the policy brief, “The North Korea Problem and the Necessity for South Korean Leadership.”

American experts on engaging North Korea were invited to the 2014 annual Koret workshop to take a fresh look at existing and proposed projects with North Korea. Additional seminars and colloquia on this and related topics will be held at Shorenstein APARC and in the region over the course of the research project.