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North Korea is often described as ‘strange’ or ‘paranoid’ country. Nothing can be further from the truth, leading North Korea-watcher Andrei Lankov argues. North Korea’s leaders are rational and far-sighted, and they are successful survivors and master diplomats who have outsmarted even the most formidable adversaries.
They know that doing as many tell them to — surrender the nuclear programme and emulate Chinese reforms — will be almost suicidal. The existence of the rich (and free) South makes their situation completely different from that of China. Their stubborn unwillingness to abandon the old system, however inefficient and brutal it might be, is a rational strategic choice.
That said, North Korea is changing — often against the clearly expressed wishes of its rulers, says Dr Lankov. The North Koreans have discovered markets and the old hyper-Stalinist system of surveillance lost much of its efficiency. In the long run, these changes will probably be decisive.
For all the predictions of North Korea’s impending collapse, Dr Lankov, who is based in Seoul, argues that the endgame is probably years ahead — and is unlikely to be smooth.
DATE: Tuesday, December 15th
VENUE CONFIRMED: German embassy, details below
ENTRANCE: free to FCCC members, 50 rmb on the door to non-members
REGISTRATION: email email@example.com so we know numbers and for security clearance, as it’s likely to be in an embassy
ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Leading North Korea-watcher ANDREI LANKOV is Associate Professor of History at Kookmin University, in Seoul.
He was born in Leningrad (now St Petersburg) in 1963. Dr Lankov graduated with a PhD from the Leningrad Sate University and then studied at Pyongyang’s Kim Il-sung University between 1984 and 1985. He taught Korean history and language at the Australian National University, and since 2004 has been teaching at Kookmin University. He researches North Korean history and politics.
Dr Lankov has written columns for the New York Times, Financial Times, and Newsweek, and has had a number of articles in academic journals, including the latest issue of Foreign Affairs.
His books in English include From Stalin to Kim Il Sung: The Formation of North Korea, 1945-1960; Crisis in North Korea: The Failure of De-Stalinization; North of the DMZ: Essays on Daily Life in North Korea; and The Dawn of Modern Korea.
Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany
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