Ten years ago, in the summer of 1995, it was fashionable in Washington and Seoul to predict the imminent collapse of North Korea's political and economic systems, and even the state itself. While clearly an errant forecast, it is easy to see why pundits and analysts thought as they did. Kim Il-Sung had died. Kim's son and successor, Kim Jong-Il, was failing to lead just as the country suffered a massive agricultural failure. A nuclear-weapons dispute with the United States had forced a costly full-scale mobilization of the country's million-man army. It was likewise clear that North Korea's industry had shut down; night imagery of the peninsula showed, quite literally, that the lights were out in North Korea.
Ten years on, this volume aims to rectify misconceptions and increase collective understanding about North Korea. It is intended to present a snapshot of what is happening in North Korea now -- economically, politically, and socially. To be sure, much of the country remains in shadow, and there is much we still do not know. Moreover, issues of North Korean nonproliferation are so often binary that compromise becomes difficult, if not impossible.
The distinguished contributors -- specialists in politics, economics, human rights, and security -- advocate a subtler, more multidimensional approach to the North Korea problem. Offering cautionary perspective on this poorly understood place, they highlight recent positive developments and suggest solutions to seemingly intractable problems. Most attest that economics, commerce, and integration -- all arenas in which slow progress is being made -- may be the most powerful forces for change on the Korean peninsula. This timely book encourages thoughtful, pragmatic discussion about North Korea and seeks to light the road ahead, for the Korean peninsula and beyond.