Upcoming Events

[Webcast] North Korea’s Eighth Party Congress

January 26, 2021, 12:00 pm EST to 1:00 pm EST


North Korea senior analysts Robert Carlin and Glyn Ford speak about the political and economic implications of the party congress with senior director Stephen Noerper. Stanford University’s Carlin and Track2Asia’s Ford provide critical insight on possibilities for change, impasse and next steps in this timely, newsmaker event. This program is made possible thanks to support from the Korea Foundation.

The Columbia University's Center for Korean Research (CKR) is a promotional partner for this program.

[Webcast] Remote Sensing for Environmental Security in North Korea

January 27, 2021, 2:30 pm EST to 3:30 pm EST


Much of the imagery and remote sensing analysis in the Open Source Community pertains to North Korea’s nuclear weapons pathway and military capability. However, many questions remain regarding economic and agricultural health in a nation known for denial of access to outside observation. But by applying emerging analytical and processing technology of satellite imagery and data, we can address the challenge of examining economic and environmental patterns in the North.

Machine Learning technology has been used to analyze rudimentary objects like roads or buildings on satellite imagery for years, but has yet to be successfully employed to better understand nuanced patterns of life. In our partnership with the analytics company Orbital Insight, we have undertaken a project of counting thousands of objects in satellite images taken over the past five years to uncover North Korea’s trade relationship with China.

This project includes counting number of trucks at each side of the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge as a measure of trade activity between North Korea and China. By applying artificial intelligence to more than 300 satellite images, we observed fluctuations of truck counts, which peak during the month of November. A significant drop in the truck counts during the year of 2020 is noticed as a result of restricted traffic from the global pandemic, although as much as 30 trucks were observed in the month of June on both sides of the border. The project demonstrates the utilities of machine learning in analyzing emerging datasets. Careful monitoring of trade between the two states can aid in better understanding the China-North Korea economic relationship and how it evolves over time.

CISAC is also partnering with international organizations and geospatial systems specialists to apply data derived from public space mapping systems to better understand macro-environmental, agricultural, and water security trends over the past twenty years in North Korea. For decades, scientists of every discipline have been analyzing remotely-sensed images and data sets to extract otherwise-imperceptible insight pertaining to broad aspects of environmental health including coastal erosion, deforestation, land subsidence, and global thermal changes. But because of a post-war technology vacuum and broadly-applied sanctions against space-derived information, North Korea has never had access to this data or the advanced software and data storage architecture necessary to support it. The potential for direct collaboration with the North on environmental analysis may enhance North Korea’s ability to mitigate its own agricultural risk and potentially facilitate informal international collaboration.

[Webcast] Negotiating the North Korean Nuclear Crisis: Where Are We Headed?

January 27, 2021, 4:00 pm EST to 5:30 pm EST


In the national security toolkit, sanctions have become the dominant policy tool on a host of foreign policy issues. This lecture will examine the key factors leading to the rapid increase in the use of sanctions as well as the intended and unintended consequences. North Korea will serve as a case study of how a target regime was able to develop resilience to sanctions.

Despite the increasing application of sanctions, North Korea achieved technological breakthroughs in 2017 with its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and nuclear weapons programs. In a counterintuitive manner, sanctions that were specifically designed to prevent the North Korean regime from acquiring the components to further these programs ended up sparking innovation in its evasion practices.

Dr. John Park, an Asia security analyst at the Harvard Kennedy School, will discuss the lingering illusions and dominant realities that make the North Korean nuclear crisis one of the most complex challenges for the international community. Building on the contemporary historical context provided in the three readings, he’ll examine why the core countries – the U.S., China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia – view the threat differently and how they are applying disparate policy tools in addressing the threat. Dr. Park will also assess where we are likely headed based on current trend lines.

[Webcast] Human Rights and North Korea: Honoring the Anniversary of the UN Commission of Inquiry Report

February 4, 2021, 1:00 pm EST to 2:00 pm EST


The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) executive director Greg Scarlatoiu and Bush Institute senior fellow Victor Cha join senior director Stephen Noerper for a discussion of human rights in North Korea and its placement on the Biden administration’s new policy agenda. The event marks the anniversary of the historic UN Commission of Inquiry report release. This program is made possible thanks to support from the Korea Foundation.

[Webcast] State of Grace: The North Korean-Built Angkor Panorama Museum in Light of DPRK-Cambodian Cultural Relations

February 18, 2021, 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm EST


Relatively little known, and yet readily visible in the form of its conspicuous façade situated along Siem Reap’s present-day tourist trail, the Angkor Panorama Museum stands as a curious component of Angkor Archeological Park. Designed and built by Mansudae Overseas Project, a branch of North Korea’s central art studio, the space opened in December 2015 only to shutter its doors less than four years later in November 2019. On at least one front the Angkor venture veered from Mansudae Overseas Projects’ representative work, a corpus that has to date consisted largely of socialist monuments commissioned by or gifted to African nations. With the Angkor Panorama Museum, Mansudae for the first time engaged with overtly religious subject matter, giving shape to a singular condensation of socialist realism and visual conventions associated with Hinduism and Buddhism.

This talk contextualizes the eccentricities of Mansudae’s Angkor project against the historical background of what amounted to an enduring friendship between Cambodian Prince Norodom Sihanouk (1922–2012) and Kim Il-sung (1912–1994). Exiled for prolonged periods throughout his life, Sihanouk spent substantial intervals at a palace Kim had ordered built for him outside of Pyongyang. There he produced music and poetry eulogizing North Korean–Khmer solidarity, and directed several films in the Korean language that featured all-Korean casts. This array of cultural artifacts anticipated the narrative arc of Mansudae’s Angkor museum by suggesting an unlikely convergence between the respectively secular-communist and religious ideological foundations of the North Korean and Cambodian states—one rooted in a proven resiliency against imperialist aggressors.

[Webcast] Pathways to a Brighter Future for North Korea's Economy

February 18, 2021, 6:00 pm EST to 7:00 pm EST



The Korea Society will host a discussion about scenarios for North Korean development and inter-Korean economic integration. Seoul National University economics Professor Byung-Yeon Kim, former World Bank economist and a consultant on Asian affairs Brad Babson, and NK Pro analyst Peter Ward join Korea Society President Tom Byrne in conversation. Together, they investigate what domestic reforms will be necessary to empower development and forecast potential roles for South Korea, the U.S. and the international community. Korea Society Policy Director Jonathan Corrado moderates audience questions. This program is supported by a grant from the UniKorea Foundation.

[Webcast] New Developments in Inter-Korean Relations


March 4, 2021, 12:00 pm EST to 1:00 pm EST



Woodrow Wilson Center director of the Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean History and Public Policy Jean Lee converses with senior director Stephen Noerper on ROK-DPRK relations. They address impasse and opportunity between North Korea and South Korea and offer recommendations for US and other policy makers on peninsular realities and possibilities. This program is made possible thanks to support from the Korea Foundation. The Columbia University's Center for Korean Research (CKR) is a promotional partner for this program.

[Webcast] The Historical Causes of Korea's Division and Challenges to Reconciliation

March 18, 2021, 12:00 pm EDT to 1:00 pm EDT


Michael D. Shin, a Fellow of Robinson College, Cambridge, looks at the late Joseon period and the Japanese colonial period to examine the historical causes of Korean division and investigate their impact on inter-Korean reconciliation in this program supported by the UniKorea Foundation. Understanding the deep historical causes of Korean division sheds light on the persistence of the division after the end of the Cold War.

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