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Conference news: North Korea – Beyond the Headlines, at LSE, 18 March

Following the interesting conference in February focusing on the Republic of Korea, now comes a day concentrating on the North. The organisers have lined up a diverse range of speakers, and it should be a good day.

North Korea: Beyond the Headlines

Sat 18 March 2017, 9:00am – 6:00pm
London School of Economics and Political Science | Houghton St | London WC2A 2AE
Tickets £15 – £40 via Eventbrite

North Korea Beyond the Headlines

North Korea is one of the most secretive and isolated countries in the world. Little is understood of the state beyond reports of its humanitarian crises and speculation over its nuclear programme development.

An all-day conference, “North Korea: Beyond the Headlines”, at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) on Saturday, 18th March 2017, will provide a platform for detailed discussions on various aspects of North Korea, from North Korean society to the prospects for, and challenges of, Korean unification.

The conference is hosted by the LSE Institute of Global Affairs, in collaboration with the LSE SU Korea Future Forum and the LSE SU China Development Society, and is supported by the Doosan Group, Embassy of the Republic of Korea, LSE SU Korean Society.

Please visit for more details on the confirmed speakers and the full programme. At time of writing the following speakers are confirmed:

Professor Seyul Choe is a US citizen currently teaching Computer Engineering at the only International University in Pyongyang [Pyongyang University of Science & Technology], and is also developing appropriate technology as the director of the R&D centre for the rural community in North Korea. He has also founded EnoVision, a social enterprise based in Singapore, with 12 other PUST professors to promote renewable energy products to the frontier market and to support PUST graduate engineers on overseas assignments.

Prior to teaching at PUST, he has worked in Silicon Valley for 35 years taking on numerous executive positions in various companies. Positions he has taken up include Vice President of Asia Pacific for CoWare, Vice President of 0-In design, and CEO of n-Tool in San Jose.

 Curtis MelvinCurtis Melvin is a researcher at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins SAIS, a contributor to the website 38 North, and editor of the blog “North Korean Economy Watch.” Since 2006 Mr. Melvin has been one of the most prolific open source researchers who uses publicly available satellite imagery, along with other innovative forms of data collection and data fusion, to identify and analyze changes in North Korea’s political, economic, cultural, and security infrastructures. Mr. Melvin received a master’s degree in economics from George Mason University and a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Georgia.

Jonathan D. Pollack is Interim SK-Korea Foundation Chair in Korea Studies in the Center for East Asia Policy Studies and Senior Fellow in the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. He served as Director of Thornton Center during 2012-2014. Prior to joining Brookings in late 2010, he was Professor of Asian and Pacific Studies and Chairman of the Strategic Research Department at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, where he is now Professor Emeritus. Between 1978 and 2000 he worked at the Rand Corporation in Santa Monica, California, in a wide array of research and management capacities. In addition, he has taught at Brandeis University, the Rand Graduate School of Policy Studies, UCLA, and the Naval War College.

Dr. Pollack’s principal research interests include U.S.-China relations; Korean politics and foreign policy; U.S. strategy in Asia and the Pacific; and East Asian international politics. His edited publications include: Strategic Surprise? U.S.-China Relations in the Early 21st Century (2004); Korea-The East Asian Pivot (2006), and Asia Eyes America: Regional Perspectives on U.S. Asia-Pacific Strategy in the 21st Century (2007). His book on North Korea’s nuclear identity and weapons development, No Exit: North Korea, Nuclear Weapons, and International Security, was published in 2011 by Routledge; a revised Korean language version was published by the Asan Institute of Policy Studies in 2012. His newest volume, Endangered Order: Revisionism and Strategic Risk in Northeast Asia, will be published by Brookings in 2017.

Oh Joon is the Former Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Republic of Korea to the United Nations in New York. He assumed this position in September 2013. He served as the 71st President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for the 2015- 2016 term. Currently, he is serving as President of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and a member of the High Level Panel on the Future of Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

He was Ambassador of the Republic of Korea in Singapore from 2010-13 and Deputy Minister for Multilateral and Global Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Seoul from 2008-10.

From 2005 to 2007, he was Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative at the Permanent Mission of Korea to the United Nations in New York, during which time he chaired the United Nations Disarmament Commission (UNDC) for the 2006 session. During the Korean presidency of the 56th session of the UN General Assembly from 2001 to 2002, he worked in the President’s office as Deputy Chef de Cabinet. From 2003 to 2005, he was Director-General for International Organizations at the Korean Foreign Ministry. He also chaired the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) from 2004 to 2005.

He joined the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1978 and has served as Special Adviser to the Foreign Minister (2007-08); Minister, ROK Embassy in Brazil (2002-03); Deputy Director-General for Policy Planning (1999-2001); Counselor, ROK Embassy in Malaysia (1997-99); and Director, United Nations Division (1995-97).

The ROK Government awarded him an Order of Service Merit twice, first the Order of Green Stripes in 1996 and the Order of Yellow Stripes in 2006. In 2014, he received the Youngsan Diplomat Award for his work on North Korean human rights issues. Rehabilitation International awarded him the Global Presidential Award in 2016 in acknowledgment for his achievements as President of CRPD.

Dan Damon presents World Update on the BBC World Service. He is also part of the team developing a new BBC radio service in Korean.

Dan and his wife, camera woman Siân, worked around the globe from 1988 to 1995 covering wars and revolutions. Now they live in Wales. They have three children. Their eldest daughter, Lejla, was a war orphan whose story they had covered in Bosnia. Lejla is now 24 and is a campaigner against sexual violence in conflict.

Dan reported on the collapse of East European Communism. Recently he has presented live programmes from Djibouti, Somalia, Uganda, Kenya, Northern Ireland, Vatican City, South Korea, Iraq and the US.

Monique Macias:

“I was born in Equatorial Guinea, a small country in West Africa and when I was 6 years old I was sent to North Korea to study. I spent my childhood, adolescenthood, and part of adulthood in Pyongyang just like North Korean.”

Monique is the author of “I am Monique, from Pyongyang”.

Bradley O. Babson is a consultant on Asian affairs with a present concentration on North Korea. He worked for the World Bank for 26 years before retiring in 2000. Most of his World Bank career was spent working on East Asia and Southeast Asia, where he led a regional office based in Bangkok and opened the resident office in Hanoi Vietnam in the early 1990’s. Since 2000 he has consulted for the World Bank and United Nations and been involved in projects sponsored by various institutes, foundations and universities. He presently is Chair of the DPRK Economic Forum at the U.S.-Korea Institute, John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and serves on the Advisory Council of the Korea Economic Institute of America and Steering Committee of the National Committee for North Korea. In Maine, he is President of the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust. Mr. Babson received his BA degree from Williams College in 1972, and MPA degree from the Woodrow Wilson School of International and Public Affairs at Princeton University in 1974. He lives in Brunswick, Maine.

Dr Liu Ming currently is professor, executive director of the Institute of International Relations (IIRS), and director of the Center for Korea Studies, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS), and Senior Fellow of the Charhar Institute. He was director of the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies at SASS from 2009-2012. Dr. Liu holds a Ph. D. in political sciences from World Economy Institute, Fudan University in 1999. He has also been a visiting scholar at Columbia University, Seoul National University and Stanford University, respectively in 1993, 1996 and 2000.

His research interests cover major power relations, US strategy, Chinese foreign policy, maritime security, Northeast Asia security. Over his 27 year career, Liu has contributed extensively to several leading Chinese and English journals in China, the US, Canada and South Korea. The current English publications include: “BRICS development: a long way to a powerful economic club and new international organization” (Pacific Review, 2016) ; “Northeast Asia Order after WWII: Continuity, Compliance, Power-Transition and Challenges”(the Korean Journal of Defense Analysis, 2015); “Opportunities and Challenges for Sino-American Cooperation on the Korean Peninsula”(the Korean Journal of Defense Analysis) ; “China and the North Korean Crisis: Facing Test and Transition”(Pacific Affairs); “The Paradox of Economic Integration and Territorial Rivalry in the South China Sea” (Palgrave Pivot, 2015); Korean Peninsula Division / Unification and China: From the Economic Perspective of China” (Korea Institute for National Unification, 2012); “Changes and Continuities in Pyongyang’s China Policy” (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2012); “Northeast Asian Regional Policy Coordination in an Era of Fundamental Change in North Korea”(The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation, 2011) and “Chinese Perspectives on the East Asian Security Environment and the Korean Peninsula”(Korean Institute for National Unification, 2014), etc.

Kihl-jae Ryoo (PhD) is professor at the University of North Korean Studies, where he has taught North Korean politics since 1998. He left school in March 2013 to serve as Minister of Unification, Republic of Korea, until March 2015. Before joining the government, he was President of the Korean Association of North Korean Studies. From July 2008 to June 2010, he served as Member of Advisory Committee to the Senior Secretary to the President for Foreign Affairs and National Security.

Ian Bennett is the UK Outreach Coordinator for Choson Exchange, a Singapore-based non-profit which provides in-country training for North Koreans in Economics and Entrepreneurship, through regular workshops in Pyongyang, Rason and Wonsan. The organisation also takes North Koreans to Singapore to study mini-MBA programmes. Ian first went to the DPRK in 2008, and now visits the country several times a year to help lead workshops with Choson Exchange. He also works as an occasional tour guide with Koryo Tours, a Beijing-based North Korea tourist company.

Professor Erik Berglof is the inaugural Director of the Institute of Global Affairs (IGA) at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). The IGA, its Global Policy Lab and eight constituent centres bring together LSE faculty and students from across departments to design research-based and locally rooted solutions to global challenges.

Prior to joining the LSE, Professor Berglof was the Chief Economist and Special Adviser to the President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). Previously, he was Director of the Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics (SITE) and Professor at the Stockholm School of Economics. He was Assistant Professor at Universite Libre de Bruxelles and has held visiting positions at Harvard, Stanford and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He has also served as Special Adviser to the Prime Minister of Sweden.


9:00 – 9:30 Registration
9:30 – 9:45 Welcome and objectives

  • Prof. Erik Berglof, Director of the Institute of Global Affairs, LSE
  • Minister Deuk-hwan Kim, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of the Republic of Korea
9:45 – 11:00 Panel I: North Korea in a global and regional geopolitical context

Chair: Prof. Erik Berglof, Director of the Institute of Global Affairs, LSE

  • Prof. Kerry Brown, Director of the Lau China Institute at King’s College London
  • Mr. Aidan Foster-Carter, Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology and Modern Korea, Leeds University
  • Mr. Joon Oh, Former Korean ambassador to the United Nations
11:00 – 11:30 Coffee break
11:30: – 12:45 Panel II: Economic changes – marketisation and reforms

Chair: Mr. Christopher Green, Cambridge University

  • Mr. Bradley Babson, Chair of the DPRK Economic Forum at the U.S.-Korea Institute, John Hopkins SAIS
  • Mr. Curtis Melvin, Researcher at the US-Korea Institute, Johns Hopkins SAIS
  • Ms. Piroska Nagy-Mohacsi, Programme Director of the Institute of Global Affairs, LSE
12:45 – 13:45 Lunch
13:45 – 15:00 Panel III: How to Engage with North Korea and its people?

Chair: Ms. Jieun Baek, Author of ‘North Korea’s Hidden Revolution’, Oxford University

  • Mr. Ian Bennett, Choson Exchange
  • Prof. Seyul Choe, Pyongyang University of Science and Technology
  • Ms. Monique Macias, Author of ‘I am Monique, from Pyongyang’
15:00 – 15:45 Keynote speech

  • Prof. Kihl-jae Ryoo, former Minister of Unification, Republic of Korea
15:45 – 16:15 Coffee break
16:15 – 17:30 Panel IV: Korean Unification – prospects and challenges

Chair: Mr. Dan Damon, BBC

  • Prof. Ming Liu, Executive Director at Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences
  • Dr. Jonathan D. Pollack, Senior Fellow at Brookings Institution
  • Prof. Kihl-jae Ryoo, former Minister of Unification, Republic of Korea
17:30 – 17:45 Key takeaways & closing remarks

  • Prof. Erik Berglof, Director of the Institute of Global Affairs, LSE
17:45 – 18:45 Networking with refreshments

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