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© 2020 Jeffrey Robertson

The North Korea Watchers

Friday, June 1, 2018

 For around twenty years, in both government and academia, I worked with ‘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. North Korea watchers always intrigued me. They are an incredibly disparate group.


Yet, when they come together at conferences, workshops, or impromptu events addressing emerging crises, there are certain characteristics, which highlight a very real cultural identity – a sense of common understanding; recognition of familiar language, symbols, and oral narrative; and in broad terms, even a shared sense mission.


The aim of the current study is to explore a microcosm of an expert community and its analysis. To do this, I first undertake an introductory survey to get a broad picture of the community. I then narrow the study down to distinct communities of scholars and their analysis. I then undertake an ethnographic study of one core community and explore how the nature of expertise in North Korean affairs contributes to public debate.


The project is being undertaken at Yonsei University and the Australian National University (ANU). The project will result in two key outputs - an academic paper and dependent on data and materials collected, an academic monograph.


For a further introduction to the study, read "Watching the North Korea Watchers" at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI).

For further information or to participate further in this research project, please contact me.

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