North Korea

North Korea

The reclusive country is in a fragile dance with China and the United States fraught with mistrust.

What is going on with Kim Jong-un, and is his sister taking charge?
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Inkstone Explains unravels the ideas and context behind the headlines to help you understand news about China. Rumors over North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s health have swirled this year, and the latest is that he has given his sister, Kim Yo-jong, partial authority over the country to ease his workload. But long-time observers have raised skepticism over these claims, pointing out no one has a full grasp of the situation in North Korea. Pyongyang’s stability is a concern for the world because its stockpile of nuclear warheads could grow to 100 by the year’s end, and the struggle to read the signals continues. Was Kim Jong-un really on the verge of death? Kim’s he
Defectors from North Korea hit an all-time low
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Inkstone Index features one important number about China to give you insight into the rising power. 12: The number of North Koreans who defected to South Korea between April and June this year. The figure, an all-time low, represents a dramatic drop compared to the 320 people in North Korea who crossed into the South over the same period last year. According to South Korea’s Ministry of Unification, in the first three months of 2020, 135 North Koreans sought asylum in its southern neighbor, a 41% drop compared with 2019. Ministry spokesperson Yoh Sang-key told reporters that regional border closures caused the drop due to the coronavirus pandemic. Experts said th
Who is North Korea’s Kim Yo-jong?
On June 16, 2020, an inter-Korean liaison office was demolished in North Korea after Kim Yo-jong said it was “useless” and would soon be seen "completely collapsed.” Many were intrigued by the high-profile remarks from the only sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who is emerging as an apparent close ally and even a potential heir to her brother’s leadership role.
North Korea blows up inter-Korean liaison office
The North Korean government “blew up” its joint liaison office with South Korea on June 16, 2020. Located in the border city of Kaesong in North Korea, the destruction of the building was confirmed by South Korea’s Unification Ministry in a report sent to journalists. The move by North Korea comes after Pyongyang cut off communication with Seoul on June 9, and expressed anger over North Korean defectors sending balloons across the border filled with pamphlets critical of Kim Jong-un. 
‘Congee boiling in a pot’: the volcano in China they thought was extinct
A volcano in northeast China could be “recharging” for an eruption, with a vast amount of magma believed to be rising up underneath it, according to a team of geophysicists. The researchers say they discovered two huge magma chambers under Wei Mountain in Heilongjiang, near the border with Russia and North Korea. Their modeling suggests the chambers dwarf the volcano, which is 328 feet tall and 3 miles wide. It was a surprise discovery, since the volcano last erupted more than 500,000 years ago and was considered extinct. Geologists have been more focused on Changbai Mountain (known in North Korea as Mount Paektu), to the south, whose eruption in 946AD was one of the most powerful volcanic e
The latest social media craze in China: watching North Koreans
China’s booming online video scene offers something for everyone: cute animals, cooking tutorials, quirky artwork and now, a glimpse into the world’s most reclusive country. Residents in China’s northeast near North Korea have gained legions of fans online by posting videos of North Koreans on the other side of the border.  On the popular video and live-streaming site Kuaishou, users have posted hundreds of videos of North Koreans walking on the road, shopping at markets, riding bicycles and even taking baths in the Yalu River that separates the two countries.  “We can film them because the river is quite narrow here,” a 34-year-old video host in the northeastern county of Changbai, which ov
What’s behind Xi Jinping’s meeting with Kim Jong-un?
China's President Xi Jinping touched down in Pyongyang on Thursday, making him the first Chinese leader to visit North Korea in almost 15 years. The meeting between Xi and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un comes at an important time for both nations. Each needs to get something out of this trip. North Korea is looking for a new way to boost its economy, and China needs a bargaining chip in the form of a denuclearized North Korea to bring to its talks with the US. In the video above, we spoke with South China Morning Post reporter Lee Jeong-ho, who covers the Korean peninsula, about what this meeting means.
North Korea has turned the tables on the US
Two North Korean actions during the past week demonstrate how paramount leader Kim Jong-un senses that, with China’s help, he has reversed the balance of leverage between his country and the United States over the last year and a half. On Thursday, Pyongyang announced it had tested a new type of “tactical guided weapon,” with no additional details. Later the same day, senior North Korean foreign ministry official Kwon Jong-gun made a public statement calling on Washington to replace Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as the leader of US negotiations with Pyongyang over the long-running nuclear weapons crisis. How things have changed since 2017-18, when the Donald Trump administration’s approach
The US, China and North Korea are stuck in a three-way chess game
Trade and nuclear weapons. On the surface, they seem like two completely different issues. One is business, the other is geopolitics. But President Donald Trump has made no bones about linking the two. This is why the two most-watched diplomatic events of the past year or so – the negotiations over the US-China trade war and Trump-Kim summits – have been so heavily intertwined. The two issues are part of a three-way chess game between China, the US and North Korea, one that in recent months has involved diplomats frequently shuttling between the three countries for talks. Trump, a property tycoon turned president known for being results-oriented, sees everything as a commodity that has a pr
Trump-Kim meeting: 3 things to watch out for
A little more than eight months after they first shook hands, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un will meet this week for a second time to continue their talks about denuclearization. The leaders of the United States and North Korea first met in June in Singapore, where they agreed to the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” That wasn’t the first time North Korea had made that promise – the country signed a denuclearization deal with its southern neighbor as early as 1992, and has made similar pledges in the years since. Obviously, Trump and Kim wouldn’t have had to meet last year if any of those pledges had been met. As they prepare to meet in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Wednesday and Thurs