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Children are our future, our present: Dafna Zur

Interest in the Korean peninsula is generally very narrow in the United States - it tends to be focused on North Korea and security issues, particularly the country's ballistic and nuclear weapons developments. Given the security challenges, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but how do we begin to engage with a society that we don’t quite understand? What are the aspirations of the North Korean people? What is their world view? Making the task particularly difficult, North Korea is a...


Remembering President George H.W. Bush's Legacy in Korea: Ambassador Donald Gregg

Last Friday, on November 30, 2018, President George H.W. Bush passed away. In the days that followed, there were many discussions in the foreign policy community about the late president's handling of the many dramatic events during his tenure: the collapse of the Soviet Union, unification of Germany, democratization of Eastern Europe, the Gulf War, etc. Here, the Korean Peninsula often gets sidelined - however, President Bush senior should be remembered for strengthening not only the...


How Koreans Define Koreaness: Christopher Green and Steven Denney

What does a unified Korea look like? Beyond the question of whether the government of this new country will be a unitary or federal one, how will the people - separated not just by time, but also increasingly language and worldview - interact with one another? This goes to the heart of the research by Christopher Green (PhD candidate, Leiden University) and Steven Denney (PhD candidate, University of Toronto) who are examining how the broader Korean perspective on what defines a Korean...


Across the Tumen River: A Journey through North Korea

On this week’s episode, we welcome back Victoria Kim, a researcher and multimedia journalist. When she last joined us in 2016, Victoria discussed her project “Lost and Found in Uzbekistan: The Korean Story” which chronicled the stories of the Korean diaspora in Central Asia, including her own grandfather. This time, she sat down with KEI Program Manager Juni Kim and discussed her experiences and impressions from her recent trip to North Korea, and what the trip meant to her as she...


[Rebroadcast] Home is Where Our Story Begins: Min Jin Lee, author of Pachinko

This is a re-broadcast of an episode from January - KEI's Jenna Gibson interviews Min Jin Lee, award winning author of Pachinko. Spanning nearly a century and multiple generations, Min Jin Lee's 2017 novel Pachinko tells the story of a Korean family struggling to find their place in Japan before, during, and after the Korean War. Praised by The Chicago Tribune, NPR, CNN, and others, the novel touches on a myriad of themes, including identity, the role of women, war, and discrimination,...


North Korea, The Global Arms Dealer: Dr. Bruce Bechtol

When we think about the threat posed by North Korea, we tend to narrowly talk about the missiles and nuclear weapons that are inside North Korea. But North Korea is also a prolific international arms dealer - it is largely responsible for the missile programs in Iran and Pakistan, not to mention small arms proliferation in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite this, other than the occasional news stories about a boat load of North Korean guns in the Caribbean and gas masks that were heading to...


How Things Look from the Peninsula: WSJ's Jonathan Cheng

From the United States, events on the Korean Peninsula have moved quickly and dramatically - we were first surprised to find that North Korea had ballistic weapons that could reach continental United States and before we knew it, the president of the United States was meeting Kim Jong-un face-to-face. But what did this all look like in South Korea? The South Korean people have lived with the risk of war for decades - they have also seen their presidents travel to Pyongyang in the past to...


War's Impact on the American Homefront: Robert Powell and Sam Yoon

What happens if there is a war on the Korean Peninsula? In addition to the incalculable cost of lives lost, a potential conflict on the Korean Peninsula would have an immense, tangible impact on the livelihood of Americans far away from the front lines. Our guests, Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Senior Consultant Robert Powell and Korean-Americans for Action Executive Director Sam Yoon, explain exactly what is at stake if the current peace process falters. You can also find Robert...


Learning from Past Engagements with Pyongyang: Ambassador Chun Yung-woo

Are negotiations with North Korea headed in the right direction? Between the high-profile summit meetings and images of an inter-Korean team competing in the Olympics together, are we any closer to denuclearization than we were before? We can start answering these questions by examining where we erred in the past. Ambassador Chun Yung-woo represented South Korea in the final rounds of the Six Party Talks - he watched a deal come together then fall apart. Building on his unique experience,...


Growing Up as a Defector Migrant in South Korea

Life in North Korea is difficult. But when defectors make their way to South Korea, they confront new challenges. This is particularly true for children who have to deal with not only adapting to South Korean society, but also its infamously rigorous education system. To get a glimpse into their lives, Jenna Gibson sat down with administrators and students from Keunsaem, an afterschool program dedicated to defector-migrant youth from North Korea. In this special episode of Korean Kontext,...


[Rebroadcast] Talk to Us in Korean: The Mavericks of Teaching Korean Online

It started in 2009 with a few audio lessons. Within just six years, Talk to Me in Korean has grown into a huge hit, with millions of listeners from all over the world visiting the site to improve their Korean language skills. The organization has now expanded to include video lessons, textbooks, and even a coffee shop. In this episode of Korean Kontext, host Jenna Gibson connects with TTMIK founder Hyunwoo Sun to discuss how how he got the idea for the site, how they have dealt with its...


[Rebroadcast] Korean American Day 2018: Photojournalist Chang Lee

As part of KEI’s annual commemoration of Korean-American Day on January 13th, KEI honors exceptional Korean-Americans in various fields and industries for their respective contributions to both their professions and the Korean-American community. For 2018, KEI honored three Korean-American journalists. Jenna Gibson also sat down with honoree Chang Lee, a photojournalist from the New York Times. He spoke with Jenna on how he first became interested in photography and his experiences of...


[Rebroadcast] Covering PyeongChang: The Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Cheng

From February 9-25, athletes and fans from around the world gathered in PyeongChang for the 2018 Winter Olympics. But while the athletes competed for gold, the Olympics also had major political implications, especially after the North Koreans decided to send a high-level delegation to the Games and agreed to field a joint women's hockey team with South Korea. In this episode of Korean Kontext, host Jenna Gibson spoke with Jonathan Cheng, the Seoul Bureau Chief for the Wall Street Journal,...


K-pop's HIgh Tide in the United States

With appearances on major mainstream American TV shows like Jimmy Kimmel and the American Music Awards, BTS have broken into the American market in an unprecedented way this year. With their success and increased popularity for k-pop in the United States, it is clear that Korean pop music is here to stay. But how has k-pop managed to break through in 2018 in a way it has not been able to before? To learn more about the state of k-pop in the United States and how we got to the point...


How Would New U.S. Auto Tariffs Impact Hyundai and Kia?

The Trump Administration is once again considering using Section 232 to impose tariffs on imported goods based on a threat to national security. The President originally used this provision to add tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, and his administration is now considering whether to allow tariffs on auto imports as well. To learn more about Section 232 and how it would impact not only car manufacturers, but also local dealers, and even the American consumer, Korean Kontext host...


Behind the Scenes of Repatriating American Soldiers' Remains from North Korea

On August 1, the remains of what are believed to be 55 American servicemen lost during the Korean War finally returned home, arriving in Hawaii to begin the long process of identification. These are the first remains returned from North Korea since the June 12 Singapore Summit, when Kim Jong-un pledged to begin sending back bodies recovered in North Korea. This week's guest personally participated in previous efforts to recover and return American remains from North Korea during the 1990s...


Examining Korea’s Economic Growth: A View from the OECD

After more than a year in office, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and has administration have pushed for an economic policy of "income-led growth," which includes a minimum wage increase, providing more public sector jobs, and higher social spending. Dr. Randall Jones, the head of the Japan/Korea Desk at the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), returns to Korean Kontext to discuss the 2018 OECD Economic Survey on South Korea and what the results mean for the...


Ambassador Chris Hill on North Korea Negotiations

With the Trump Administration's North Korea negotiations ongoing, many analysts have been making comparisons to past talks to try to make sense of the current process, and to predict what may happen in the future. For this episode, Korean Kontext host Jenna Gibson spoke with a distinguished expert who has firsthand knowledge of negotiating with North Korea during one of those previous processes, the Six Party Talks. Ambassador Chris Hill was Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and...


[Rebroadcast] Shamans, Goblins, and Ghosts: A Look at Korean Folk Culture

Ghosts and goblins are everywhere in Korean folktales, causing havoc for people through their antics. Equally common are the shamans who act as intermediaries, helping offer solutions to life's supernatural problems. For this week's episode of Korean Kontext, host Jenna Gibson interviewed Dr. Michael Pettid, of the State University of New York at Binghamton, who specializes in pre-modern Korea, particularly the role shamanism and folk culture has played in Korea. They discuss the history...


Farewell Podcast with KEI President Donald Manzullo

On June 30, after 5 1/2 years as the head of KEI, Donald Manzullo will be retiring. In honor of his service to the Korea policy community, Korean Kontext host Jenna Gibson sat down with him to chat about his journey to KEI, how things have changed in the last five years since he took over the organization, and his advice for Korea policy watchers going forward. Please enjoy this conversation with President Manzullo, and join us in thanking him for his leadership over the last five years.