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Council on Foreign Relations Korea Update
January 2014

The Regional Implications of Purging Jang Song-taek

Kim Jong-un signaled the end of his uncle Jang Song-taek's political career long before the announcement of his execution, writes Scott A. Snyder, CFR senior fellow for Korea studies and director of the program on U.S.-Korea policy. Signs of Jang's waning influence included his replacement by Choe Ryong-hae as special envoy to Beijing in May 2012 and a decline in Jang's public appearances with President Kim over the past year. In the short term, the purge will strengthen Kim's power, but it does not reconcile the policy contradictions facing the regime as it seeks to establish special economic zones despite being under international sanctions for its nuclear pursuits. Read the post on Asia Unbound »


North Korea and the World

Kim Jong-un’s Reign of Fear: What’s Next?

Kim Jong-un's bold move to consolidate power has undoubtedly shaken senior cadres throughout Pyongyang. Purging Jang also affects North Korea's relations with China, not least because Jang symbolized the importance of reforms and promoted economic ties with China, argues Snyder. Read the op-ed in the Los Angeles Times »

Assessing the Future of North Korea

On C-SPAN's Washington Journal, Snyder addressed a variety of issues regarding North Korea, including the implications of Jang Song-taek's removal, Dennis Rodman's most recent visit to Pyongyang, North Korea's current relationship China, and prospects for international cooperation on dealing with North Korea. Ultimately, these recent events reveal much about Kim Jong-un and his immaturity as a leader. Watch the interview »

Tallying the Economic Costs of Korean Nuclear Development

International sanctions have failed to convince North Korean leadership that the regime cannot survive as a nuclear weapons state. With a policy of simultaneous economic and nuclear development (the byungjin line), North Korean leaders assume they can manage the economic costs resulting from nuclear development. But the costs of such a policy are staggering compared to the economic benefits North Korea might enjoy without nuclear weapons. Comparing the estimated costs of the nuclear program to economic growth with the benefits of becoming a normal economy integrated with its neighbors reveals the steep price of the byungjin policy. Read the post on Asia Unbound »

President Park Geun-hye Proposes DMZ Peace Park

South Korean president Park's plan to build a peace park in the Korean demilitarized zone marks the first time the government has offered a specific proposal for environment-focused development, points out Snyder in a presentation at the Korea Global Forum 2013. The forum was cohosted in Seoul by the South Korean Ministry of Education and the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. Read the session sketch »

Preventive Priorities Survey 2014: North Korea Cited as a Tier I Priority

CFR's Center for Preventive Action (CPA) asked more than 1,200 government officials, academics, and experts to evaluate a list of thirty conflicts that could break out or escalate in the next twelve months and assess their expected relative impact on U.S. interests. CPA then categorized the contingencies into three tiers, in order of priority to U.S. policymakers. North Korea ranks as a Tier I priority on this year's survey due to its February nuclear test and U.S. estimates that North Korea has enough plutonium to produce five nuclear weapons. Also of great concern is North Korea's internal political instability. Read the full report »

China-Korea Relations

International Coordination on North Korea Policy

Meetings between the leaders of the United States, South Korea, and China in 2013 signify greater convergence on positions toward North Korea, particularly regarding the issue of denuclearization. To discuss prospects for ROK-U.S.-China cooperation vis-à-vis North Korea, Snyder was invited by the Korea Society in New York City to participate in a panel on December 13 with Ralph Cossa of the Pacific Forum CSIS, John Delury and Han Sukhee of Yonsei University, Lee Sung-yoon of the Fletcher School, and Shen Dingli of Fudan University. Watch the panel »

Deepening U.S.-Korea Relations

China's relationship with South Korea has undergone a profound transformation over the past twenty years, said Snyder at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies' Beijing Forum 2013. Because of China's recent prioritization of geopolitics over ideology concerning North Korea, China and South Korea may be able to further improve their relations if the countries come to a clear understanding on North Korea and the role of the ROK-U.S. alliance. Read the session sketch »

South Korea and the U.S. Rebalance

Biden Bets on a South Korea Squeezed From All Sides

Vice President Joseph Biden reaffirmed U.S. security assurances to President Park in Seoul on December 6, stating that it has "never been a good bet to bet against America . . . and America will continue to place its bet on South Korea." South Korea suddenly found itself directly affected by dual regional security crises from both an internally fluid North Korean leadership situation and from South Korea's southern maritime flank, following China's unilateral assertion of an Air Defense Identification Zone on November 23. A strengthened U.S.-ROK security commitment provides the only viable antidote to this situation. Read more at Asia Unbound »

CFR's Korea Program in the News

ABC News, "U.S. Not Expecting Much Diplomatically From Dennis Rodman's Trip to North Korea" (December 19, 2013)

Los Angeles Times, "North Korea Leader's Purge Looks Like China's Cultural Revolution" (December 13, 2013)

Wall Street Journal, "North Korea Purge Raises Stability Questions" (December 9, 2013)

Time, "Kim Jong-un's Purge of His Uncle May Test Ties with China" (December 9, 2013)

Globe and Mail, "The Moment North Korea's Dictator Purged his No. 2 (Who Is Also his Uncle)" (December 9, 2013)

Korean Broadcasting System, "U.S. Expert: Denuclearization Benefits Outweight Nuclear Gains" (Novebmer 27, 2013)



The Program on U.S.-Korea Policy

The program on U.S.-Korea policy was established at the Council on Foreign Relations in September 2011. It aims to strengthen the U.S.-Korea relationship by providing relevant policy recommendations and promoting dialogue on sensitive bilateral, regional, and global issues facing the two countries. The program acknowledges the generous support it has received from the Smith Richardson Foundation, Korea Foundation, and South Korean private sponsors, including Hyundai Motors, Korea International Trade Association, and the Federation of Korean Industries. It also acknowledges with thanks additional support received from individual donor Sandor Hau.

Scott A. Snyder, Director
Follow @snydersas on Twitter

Darcie Draudt, Research Associate


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