Beyond the Propaganda: What does Kim Jong Un want — and why?

Event details

SDSC Public Lecture

Date & time

Friday 26 October 2018


APCD Lecture Theatre, Ground floor, Hedley Bull Building #130, corner of Garran Road and Liversidge Street, ANU


Jean H. Lee


Mitch Clyne

For the first six years of his rule, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un defied and terrorized the world by building and testing ever-more threatening nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. Then, in late 2017, he declared North Korea’s nuclear program a success — and in 2018, embarked on a charm offensive that so far has included summits with the leaders of China, South Korea and the United States. But is he truly willing to give up his nuclear weapons, as US President Donald Trump claims, or has he snookered the world’s leaders into what could be a dangerous deceit? Looking beyond the propaganda, what do we need to know about the role that the Korean War plays in North Korea’s ideology as well as daily life in enigmatic, cloistered North Korea in order to understand what Kim Jong Un is aiming to accomplish?

In this presentation, the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Jean H. Lee shares exclusive photos and video from a decade of covering North Korea as the first Western reporter accredited to join Pyongyang’s foreign press corps, with images taken in places off limits to most outsiders, including homes, shops, farms, factories and military academies.

Jean H. Lee is an award-winning, Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer, commentator and expert on North Korea who serves as Director of the Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean History and Public Policy at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. A longtime journalist, Lee led the Associated Press news agency’s coverage of the Korean Peninsula as bureau chief from 2008 to 2013. In 2011, she became the first American reporter granted extensive access on the ground in North Korea, and in January 2012, she opened AP’s Pyongyang bureau. As a journalist, Lee made dozens of extended reporting trips to North Korea, visiting farms, factories, schools, military academies and homes in the course of her exclusive coverage across the country. During Lee’s tenure, AP’s coverage of Kim Jong Il’s 2011 death earned an honorable mention in the deadline reporting category of the 2012 Associated Press Media Editors awards for journalism in the United States and Canada. Lee also won an Online Journalism Award in 2013 for her role in using photography, video and social media in North Korea, and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in feature reporting in 2013.

Lee is a native of Minneapolis. She has a bachelor’s degree in East Asian Studies and English literature from Columbia University, and a master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She worked as a reporter for the Korea Herald in Seoul, South Korea, before being posted with AP to the news agency’s bureaus in Baltimore; Fresno, Calif.; San Francisco; New York; London; Seoul, South Korea, and Pyongyang, North Korea.

Ms. Lee’s visit is supported by the U.S. Embassy however her views are her own and reflect on the broad range of responsible and informed opinion in the United States, she does not speak for, or on behalf of, the U.S. Government.

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