With North Korea in the news, we would like to call attention to the range of research the Journal of East Asian Studies has published on the country. A central issue is how the regime managed to acquire its current nuclear capability and whether and to what extent those weapons are destabilizing. In Issue 10,1, Walter Clemens reviews the raft of new evidence on the evolution of the weapons program that has come out of the Soviet and Eastern European archives. His overview underscores the persistence of the regime in pursuing its nuclear objectives and draws the inference that they are unlikely to give them up.

Strategic interactions among the parties around the peninsula have been the subject of several quantitative international relations contributions to the journal. In Issue 11, 2, Jong-Han Yoon brings some data to bear on whether hard-line or soft-line strategies on the part of the US are more conducive to peace. He believes that softer approaches have positive effect, but also notes a triangular consequence: that differences between the US and its South Korean ally inflame tensions by pushing North Korea toward more hostile behavior toward South Korea. In a clever contribution to 12, 2 Vito D’Orazio offers a very striking and relevant finding. Despite the emphasis that the regime currently places on the halting the US-ROK exercises, D’Orazio finds that North Korea does not systematically escalate conflictual rhetoric or behavior around the exercises. He speculates that the reason has to do with the relatively constant nature of North Korean rhetoric and the corresponding difficulty of separating out real signals from noise.

China plays a significant role in the current international politics around the peninsula. In Issue 5, 1, Michael Chambers offers a comparative historical consideration of China’s relations with other “truculent allies,” noting a history of Chinese reneging on security commitments; the lessons are highly germane to current expectations in Pyongyang about how China might ultimately respond to its provocations. In Issue 12, 1 Peter Gries provides more contemporary survey evidence on Chinese views of the two Koreas, focusing on the immediate aftermath of the inter-Korean tensions in 2010. He finds that Chinese netizens are profoundly disillusioned with a North Korea that refuses to adopt Chinese-style “reform and opening.” But high-profile cultural disputes generated dismay and even anger toward South Korea as well, suggesting the ongoing role of history conflicts in the region.

Finally, there is tremendous interest in what is going on inside North Korea itself. In Issue 8, 2, Patrick McEachern made an important early contribution to this debate by asking whether North Korea could be understood—as other Communist systems were during the Cold War—in interest group terms. In Issue 12, 2,  Andrei Lankov, In-ok Kwak and Choong-Bin Cho look at the so-called “organizational life” in North Korea: the state- and party-organized bodies that facilitate conformity through surveillance.  In Issue 17, 2 Andrei Lankov returns to the journal with Peter Ward, Ho-yeol Yoo and Ji-young Kim with a discussion of the “hollowing out” of state-owned enterprises in the North. Drawing on defector interviews, Lankov details how state-owned firms are increasingly surviving in the North by partnering with private entrepreneurs, forging an increasingly hybrid political economy held together with corruption.

More virtual special issues from the Journal of East Asian Studies can be found here. You can access these issues for free through October 15, 2017.

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