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Leonid Petrov at Chatham House

Korea Discussion Group
Thursday 6th December 2007
“Squaring the Circle in North Korea: Pyongyang Strives for “Economic Miracle”
(Domestic Politics and Socio-Economic Realities)

Speaker: Leonid Petrov

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Lunch: 12.30-1.00 (£10.00 charge)
Meeting: 1.00-2.00pm
Film Screening: 2.15 — 4.15pm
Chair: Jim Hoare

The talk will draw heavily on the findings of a recent visit to the DPRK by Dr. Petrov. In detail, the substance of the presentation will be as follows:

The current socio-economic situation in the DPRK (North Korea) is dominated by two conflicting policies: “The Army-First Politics” and “The 1 July Economic Measures”. Both policies serve as supreme guidelines for domestic governance, industry management, and even foreign relations and trade, placing all other political motions and economic campaigns firmly inside their original frameworks. Implementation of these two policies has brought many changes to every side of life in the DPRK. However, these changes are so frustratingly slow that at times Pyongyang-watchers overseas raise a legitimate question: “Is anything really changing in North Korea?”

In this presentation the officially adopted DPRK domestic policies will be examined and projected onto the realities of everyday life in North Korea. The ambitions of Pyongyang policymakers will be juxtaposed with the tough realities of life, where the growing social inequality and chronic economic dislocations continue besetting the cities and countryside. The motivations for different social groups in North Korea to support (or otherwise) this “slow-motion reform” will be examined along with the prospects for success in creating the second “Korean miracle”, this time north of the 38th parallel.

The talk will also be followed by a screening of Pak Sang-Bok’s 1991 film ‘Girls in My Hometown” (subtitled in English).

A Brief introduction and discussion on the film will be offered by Dr. Petrov. The film is dedicated to the disabled soldiers and their wives, and addresses the issue of growing individualism and selfishness in North Korea. Filmed in the northern side of Kangwon province, this work depicts the daily life of a North Korean village with its scenic beauty, melodic songs, and passionate dances.

Speaker Details:

Leonid Petrov graduated from St. Petersburg State University (1994) in Russia, where he majored in History of Korea. He obtained a PhD in History at the Australian National University (2003) in Canberra.

Professor Petrov has considerable experience of practical and academic work in Korea. In 2003-2005 he conducted post-doctoral research at the Academy of Korean Studies in Seongnam, and lectured on the history of North-South Korean relations at the Intercultural Institute of California in San Francisco. Professor Petrov taught Korean Economy at the International Summer Academy for Korean Studies at Keimyung University in Daegu (2006).

Currently, he works on the Australian Research Council project “Historical Conflict and Reconciliation in East Asia” and cooperates with the French CNRS-EHESS project “North-South Interfaces on the Korean Peninsula”. A list of publications by Prof. Petrov is available on

Should you wish to attend please register with Tamara Lynch.

The Korea Discussion Group is made possible thanks to the generous support provided by the The Korea Overseas Information Service (KOIS)

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