17th Annual Shorenstein Journalism Award Panel Discussion: How North Korea Is, and Isn't, Changing under Kim Jong Un

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

12:00 pm

Fisher Conference Center, Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center, 326 Galvez St, Stanford, CA Map

Sponsored by:
Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center

A common assumption is that North Korea is a "Hermit Kingdom" that froze in time some decades ago. There are certainly many things about North Korea that have persisted, including the all-encompassing personality cult, the brutal repression, and the pervasive fear. In the last six years, however, since Kim Jong Un came to power and predictions of imminent collapse immediately followed, North Korea has changed in significant ways. 

In the course of her reporting on North Korea, Anna Fifield, the 2018 Shorenstein Journalism Award recipient, has watched a leader who is much bolder and more audacious than his father ever was. Sometimes that boldness comes out in executions of family members and launching of missiles. But recently, it has manifested itself as summit diplomacy with enemy leaders. Kim Jong Un is now trying to re-position himself as a responsible, if nuclear-armed, global leader. He has adeptly accelerated the nuclear program and allowed a class of nouveaux riches to flourish. 

An often-overlooked fact about North Korea, reports Fifield, is that life there has been getting slightly better for many people, in relative terms. Over the last several years, she has been struck by the number of North Korean defectors she met who have escaped not because they were starving, but because they were disillusioned. 

Why have these and other changes occurred in North Korea? And how does the current diplomatic engagement with the North present an opportunity for us to help the country’s transformation? 

On this panel discussion, celebrating the 2018 Shorenstein Journalism Award, the award winner, Anna Fifield, the Beijing bureau chief for The Washington Post, will consider these and other questions, drawing on her long career in journalism covering Asia and focusing on North Korea.


Anna Fifield, Beijing bureau chief for The Washington Post, is responsible for coverage of greater China. She joined The Washington Post  in July 2014 as Tokyo Bureau Chief, writing about Japan and the two Koreas for four years, with a concentration on North Korea.

Andray Abrahamian, 2018-19 Koret Fellow in the Korea Program at Stanford’s Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC). Abrahamian has been Executive Director and Director of Research for Choson Exchange, a nonprofit that has trained over 2000 North Koreans in entrepreneurship and economic policy since 2010. His work for Choson Exchange and other projects has taken him to North Korea 30 times.

Barbara Demick, New York correspondent of the Los Angeles Times, formerly head of the bureaus in Beijing and Seoul. She is the author of Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea and Logavina Street: Life and Death in a Sarajevo Neighborhood.   

Panel Chair:

Yong Suk Lee, SK Center Fellow at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and Deputy Director of the Korea Program at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018
12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
Fisher Conference Center, Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center, 326 Galvez St, Stanford, CA Map

Open to the public.

RSVP required by Monday, Nov 12, 2018


International Diversity Conference / Symposium Humanities 

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(650) 723-8387, abrown22@stanford.edu
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