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2018 LSE SU North Korea Forum: Before He Presses the Button

The LSE Students’ Union presents what seems to be turning into an annual one-day conference on matters North Korean:

2018 LSE SU North Korea Forum: Before He Presses the Button

24 March at 9:00–18:00
The London School of Economics and Political Science | Houghton Street | London WC2A 2AE
Tickets £15 – £35 | Buy tickets
Check the event’s Facebook page for updates

LSE North Korea forum

Concerned about the issues surrounding North Korea that are threatening the stability of the global community, the LSE SU Korea Future Forum, China Development Society and Japan Society, with support from the LSE Institute of Global Affairs (IGA), have come together to hold the 2018 LSE SU North Korea Forum: Before He Presses the Button.

The forum will uncover diverse issues relevant to North Korea by tackling not only internal matters, such as the sprouting market economy, humanitarian crimes and social structures in North Korea, but also external matters including nuclear crisis, security dynamics, sanctions and negotiations, cooperation and unification.

The forum will be unique in two aspects. Firstly, top academics and government officials from South Korea, China and Japan will be invited to explicate each country’s stance on a wide range of North Korea issues. On top of that, the forum will be the world’s most premier conference devoted to North Korea issues.

17 world-class experts have confirmed their participation, such as the Former 1st Class Agent of North Korea Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Founding Member of the British Embassy in Pyongyang, Former Special Envoy for Six Party Talks and Founding Member of the U.S. National Committee on North Korea, to name a few.

We welcome all students and professionals who have an interest in North Korea issues. Please click going/interested if you have purchased the ticket, are planning to come or are interested. Make sure to regularly check this page for further updates of the conference programme, speakers list and more!

LSE forum speakers

Panel 1: Economy

Proposed Topics and Questions

1. The Internal Economy

  • Structure
    • What markets exist? How does it function?
    • What are the major sectors/industries in the economy? And why are they significant?
  • Market reform
    • What are the drivers behind the market reform that has been taking place?
    • How have consumers’ choices and spending power improved through reform? What was it like in the past?
    • How should it proceed going forward?
  • The role of the informal economy
    • What is the historical context of North Korea’s informal economy?
    • What role is it playing in people’s lives now?
    • What are the potential dangers posed by the informal sectors to the citizens?
    • What are the implications of growing informal sectors to the regime?

2. External Relations

  • History of trade relations
    • To what extent did North Korea depend on its trading partners?
  • Sanctions
    • What are the immediate and long term economic consequences of international sanctions?
    • Are sanctions the best course of action? If not, what should the rest of the world be doing?


  1. Christopher Green: PhD Candidate, Korean Studies, Universiteit Leiden
  2. William Brown: Adjunct Professor of Georgetown University School of Foreign Service; Former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Economics in National Intelligence Council
  3. Tat Yan Kong: Reader in Comparative Politics & Political Economy, SOAS, University of London
  4. Piroska Nagy-Mahacsi (moderator): Programme Management Director of the Institute of Global Affairs (IGA); Former Economist in the International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Panel 2: Social & Humanitarian & Human Rights

Proposed Topics and Questions

1. Political and Social Structure

  • What is the social class ranking system and how is discrimination apparent in reality?
  • How are the people’s political rights violated by the implementation of this system and in North Korea in general?
  • How is the political elite structured? What are the decision-making mechanisms?
  • How sustainable is the succession system? Who comes next?

2. The Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK established in 2013 reported nine “systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights” in North Korea:

  • Violations of the right to food,
  • Violations associated with prison camps,
  • Torture and inhuman treatment,
  • Arbitrary detention,
  • Discrimination,
  • Violations of freedom of expression,
  • Violations of the right to life,
  • Violations of freedom of movement, and
  • Enforced disappearances, including in the form of abductions of nationals of other States

3. Please provide some insight into the situation regarding some violations included and not included above, such as how they are being perpetrated and which you feel is(are) in most need of urgent attention?

4. Have there been improvements due to the political pressure exerted by foreign governments?

5. Is there any awareness amongst the North Korean citizens in terms of how they are mistreated and is there any potential for them to fight for themselves?

6. What are some of the tools that international organisations and NGOs are utilising to address the human rights issues? And how effective are they?

7. What needs to change for more to be achieved?


  1. James Edward Hoare: Associate Fellow, Asia Programme, Chatham House, Founding Member of the British Embassy in Pyongyang
  2. Gianluca Spezza (moderator): Research Associate, International Institute of Korean Studies (IKSU), University of Central Lancashire; Contributor to NK news and IRIN news
  3. Aidan Foster-Carter: Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology and Modern Korea at Leeds University
  4. Christine Chung: Human Rights Officer, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Panel 3: Military and Security Panel – Strength, Agenda and the Future

Proposed Topics and Questions

This panel’s discussion will revolve around the Nuclear Crisis of North Korea. We seek to assess the present situation in relation to several factors: history, military capabilities of the involved countries and their positioning and possible underlying objectives. We also seek a substantial discussion on the likelihood of potential outcomes of the security crisis and what is required to reach them.

1. Overview

  • The evolution of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities and the conflict revolving around it
  • How does the current Korean nuclear crisis compare with historical examples?

2. Assessing the Present

  • What is NK’s strike capability? What can we realistically expect within the next decade?
  • How effective are South Korea’s, Japan’s, and the US’ defence mechanisms?

3. Conflicting Agendas

  • What are North Korea’s priorities given their recent conciliatory gestures?
  • What is North Korea’s ideal endgame scenario?
  • What are US, South Korea, Japan, and China’s security objectives in the Korean Peninsula?
  • Are their ulterior motives to the positioning of the different countries?

4. The Future

  • What are the options available to the involved countries?
  • Which options are the different parties most attracted to?
  • What is the likelihood of physical war? What would be the tipping point?
  • What is the realistic outcome and timeline of the conflict?


  1. Hans-Joachim Schmidt: Associate Fellow, Peace Research Institute Frankfurt
  2. Joseph R. DeTrani: Special Envoy for Six Party Talks with North Korea; Associate Director of National Intelligence and Mission Manager for North Korea
  3. Yu Jie (moderator): Head of China Foresight Project at LSE IDEAS
  4. Alexandre Mansourov: Founding Member of the U.S. National Committee on North Korea; Senior Associate of the Nautilus Institute

PANEL 4: Foreign Policy & Relations – Conflict, Diplomacy and Negotiations

This panel is dedicated specifically to the foreign policy objectives and stances of the countries most involved in the conflict – North and South Korea, the US, China and Japan. We seek to discuss the mechanisms of diplomacy and their respective efficacy. Further, we seek a discussion on the topic of Reunification and its likelihood.

Proposed Topics & Questions

1. Conflict

  • How do the interests of South Korea, Japan and China align or conflict with regard to North Korean issues in general?
  • How does North Korea’s stance and attitude towards each country in the region differ?
  • Besides the nuclear crisis, what are other issues that need to be resolved with North Korea?

2. Cooperation

  • What is required each from South Korea, Japan and China to ensure the stability of the region given the climate consisting North Korea’s increasing provocation and the unpredictability of Trump’s response?
  • Can the Six-Party Talks be revived? Is diplomacy merely an aesthetic display?
  • What is the UN’s role in the region? Is there a role for Peacekeeping?

3. Toward Unification of the Korean Peninsula

  • Under what terms and conditions is Reunification a realistic outcome?
  • How can diplomacy play a role in reunification?
  • What are the costs for Japan, China and other stake-holding countries of reunification?
  • In the case of reunification, what are the implications and desirable outcomes for each country?


  1. Ramon Pacheco Pardo (moderator): Senior Lecturer at King’s College London and KF-VUB Korea Chair at the Institute for European Studies
  2. John Hemmings: Director of the Asia Studies Centre at the Henry Jackson Centre; Former Research Assistant at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI)
  3. Hayato Hosoya: Academy Fellow, International Security Department, Chatham House;
  4. Jae H. Ku: Director of the US-Korea Institute (USKI) at Johns Hopkins SAIS, Director of the Human Rights in North Korea Project at Freedom House

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