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CSPO 1145A - North Korea behind the scenes

Type d'enseignement : Elective

Semester : Spring 2017-2018

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English


No Korean language skills is required

Course Description

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), despite its opaque and erratic nature, seems predictable. The regime has repeatedly defied efforts of the international community and has remained uncompromising in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Yet, the nuclear issue, even at the top of the political agenda, does not cover the complexity of North Korea. The country challenges our conventional ideas about authoritarian systems and socialist economies while most of the time being considered only through enduring clichés. Regarded as one of the world's most enigmatic country, this course goes beyond the media images to explore the main features of North Korea's history, politics, economics, military and foreign policy. A special focus will be done on the current nuclear crisis and its regional stakes. That critical introduction to North Korean studies aimed at giving a coherent outline of a fantasized country to facilitate a better understanding of current developments in the country while acknowledging the difficulties and constraints in studying North Korea.


BONDAZ, Antoine L. (PhD, Researcher)

Pedagogical format

“North Korea behind the scenes” will cover most of the available knowledge about that secretive state based on a variety of sources including academic books and articles, documentaries, statistics, and the instructor's personal experience. This interactive course will be divided into 12 classes to strike a balance between breadth and depth. The course's methodology will stress written and oral communication to increase the student's analytic skills to understand and summarize complex issues, and communication skills to present structured arguments in an efficient way.

Course validation

The course grade system intends to include the students as much as possible in this interactive course. Exercises will intend to increase students' analytical and communication skills while focusing on questions students may have about North Korea. Oral presentation (30%): this key exercise consists in presenting a short policy-oriented research related to a key question regarding North Korea in a 10-minutes oral presentation. An outline, including an introduction, a short plan, and a bibliography, will be uploaded on the google drive group before the day of the presentation. Final exam (35%): A short 2-pages research paper will answer to a key question students may have regarding North Korea's history, politics, economics, military and foreign policy. Research papers will be combined to give the other campus students an overview on North Korea. Book commentary (25%): students will present the required reading (book or chapters) in a short analytical paper (1200 words) and then briefly orally before the class, summarizing the main ideas to offer students a key overview and provide them with additional knowledge about North Korea. Active participation (10%): Attendance and active participation in the class discussion is mandatory and will be reflected in final grade.

Required reading

KRISTOF Nicholas, “Why I Went to North Korea”, The New York Times, October 14, 2017 & ROY Dennis

Additional required reading

  • CUMINGS Bruce, “Korea: forgotten nuclear threats”; Le Monde Diplomatique, December 2004
  • Chapters 1 & 3, SUH Jae-Jung (ed.), Origins of North Korea's Juche: Colonialism, War, and Development, Lexington Books, 2012
  • CHEONG Seong-chang, “The anatomy of Kim Jong-un's power”, Global Asia, Vol.9, No.1, Spring 2014
  • Chapters 2 & 3, CHA, Victor, The impossible state: North Korea, past and future, Random House, 2012