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Why Pyongyang Invited the New York Philharmonic

  • Robert Carlin
Some people said North Korea would not survive the end of the USSR and dissolution of the Soviet bloc. Some people said Kim Jong Il's likely tenure could be measured in months. Some people said that North Korea was on the verge of collapse in 1997; some people, in fact, proclaimed that the economy had already collapsed.

What sorts of myths and misperceptions do we entertain and perpetuate that make it difficult for us to deal with North Korea coherently?

Robert Carlin is a 2007 Pantech Fellow at Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center and has been a visiting fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University since 2005. After receiving an A.M degree from Harvard University's East Asian Regional Studies program, he joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1971. From 1974 to 1988, he was a senior North Korea media analyst in the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), where he received the director of the CIA's Exceptional Analyst Award. From 1989 to 2002, he was the chief of the Northeast Asia Division in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Concurrently, from 1993 to 2002, Mr. Carlin served as senior policy advisor to the U.S. special envoy for talks with North Korea, taking part in every significant set of U.S.-DPRK negotiations of which there were many--during those years. He was on the delegation accompanying Secretary of State Madeline Albright to Pyongyang in October 2000. From 2003 to 2005, Mr. Carlin was senior political advisor to the executive director of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), leading numerous KEDO negotiating teams to the DPRK. Altogether, he has made 25 trips to North Korea.

Much of Mr. Carlin's analysis on North Korea from his years at FBIS has been declassified and is available either in the "Trends in Communist Propaganda" or "Trends in Communist Media". Over the years, he has written chapters for several books on the Korean issue including, most recently, "Talk to Me, Later," appearing in North Korea: 2005 and Beyond. In 2006, he co-authored an IISS Adelphi paper "North Korean Reform: Politics, Economics and Security." His essay on negotiating with North Korea will appear in Korea 2007 - Politics, Economy, Society. Over his career, Mr. Carlin has lectured at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, the State Department's Foreign Service Institute, foreign ministries and intelligence organizations abroad, and numerous universities.