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© 2020 Jeffrey Robertson

North Korea Watchers at Australian National University

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

During 2017-18, the risk of conflict on the Korean peninsula increased. Between Kim Jong-un, Moon Jae-in, and Donald Trump, a perfect storm of populism and strategic change saw a frantic rhythm of events. This led to an explosion in the growth of ‘North Korea watchers’ – the community of scholars, analysts, government officers, NGO advocates, and journalists who for one reason or another, commit a portion of their lives to watching North Korea.


They are online, at conferences, workshops, and at impromptu events addressing emerging crises. They share a very real cultural identity – a sense of common understanding; recognition of familiar language, symbols, and narratives; and in broad terms, even a shared sense of mission. They play a vital role in public debate on a critical strategic issue. They inform both the public and government on issues that could lead to cataclysmic conflict - but who are the North Korea watchers?


This seminar will explore the distinctiveness of English language policy discourse on North Korea; the widely used narratives and implications for policy discourse on North Korea; and will touch upon the progress to date in the ultimate aim of the research: to conduct an ethnographic study of an expert community – the North Korea watchers.

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