Edward Howell

Edward Howell is a politics lecturer at Oxford. He was involved in launching the BBC World Service in North Korea.

North Korea’s dirty protest

North Korea has long been known for its rhetorical braggadocio. Most of the time, the regime’s bluster needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. But on occasion, we should be less quick to dismiss the threats emanating from it and its state-controlled media mouthpieces.  Earlier this week, North Korea launched over 250 balloons

Kim Jong Un’s catchy propaganda revamp

Think of North Korean propaganda and you might think of old-fashioned revolutionary marches praising the Supreme Leader, denouncing the United States, and intercontinental ballistic missiles ready to be launched. The sight of cheering military officials using computers, donning a pair of Sony headphones, may not immediately come to mind. Even more unimaginable, however, is the

How North Korea uses cartoons to evade sanctions

Recently, it was reported that North Korean animators may have been working on cartoon projects for western firms, including Amazon and HBO. Data found on a North Korean computer server suggests they worked on programmes such as Amazon’s Invincible, without western studios knowing. To those more used to North Korea’s frequent warnings about crushing the

Is North Korea developing biological weapons?

The threat North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme poses to the world is well known. But as the hermit kingdom actively expands its weapons arsenal, and international institutions struggle to contain it, we shouldn’t ignore its development of chemical and biological weapons either. A recent report from the United States State Department asserts that North Korea has a

Why North Korea hates Alan Titchmarsh’s jeans

Alan Titchmarsh presumably did not expect to see his programme Garden Secrets, filmed in 2010, air on North Korean state television this week. He would perhaps have been even more surprised to see the network blur out his blue jeans for viewers. In the mid-to-late 1990s, under the rule of Kim Jong Il the anti-jeans rhetoric heightened

North Korea won’t build bridges with Japan any time soon

Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korea’s Supreme Leader, is back. This time, though, Kim Jong Un’s sister doesn’t seem her usual vitriolic self – at least at first glance. Earlier this week, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida offered an olive branch to the North Korean leader, outlining his willingness to engage in talks

Kim Jong-un is in no mood to calm down

South Korean voters will be among the more than four billion people going to the polls this year. With a huge potential range of outcomes, North Korea will be watching closely. The annual new year fireworks and pop concert in Pyongyang’s Kim Il-sung Square concluded five days of high-level meetings of Kim Jong-un’s Workers’ Party

Why Kim Jong-un keeps crying

Crying in public is something we tend to associate with the North Korean people rather than their rulers ­– who are often described as having a near god-like status. Who can forget, following the death of Kim Jong-il in 2011, how the streets of Pyongyang were lined with weeping mourners? So perhaps it was surprising to

Is opposition to Kim Jong Un growing in North Korea?

North Korea is hardly the first country that comes to mind when you think of elections. Yet since the inception of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in 1948, parliamentary and local polls have, in fact, taken place. The former occur every four to five years and elect members of the Supreme People’s Assembly, the

How North Korea is supporting Hamas

First, it was Russia’s war with Ukraine. Then, it was Hamas’s terrorist attacks against Israel. Both of these events, in gross violation of international law, have certainly not escaped the watchful eyes of that infamous state sponsor of terrorism, North Korea. Earlier this week, a Hamas official said North Korea is ‘part of [Hamas’s] alliance’,

Don’t read too much into North Korea releasing a US soldier

Perhaps he was not so useful after all. Yesterday, North Korea’s decision to expel Private Travis King, just over two months after the US soldier bolted across the inter-Korean border, quashed speculation that he would be held captive for years. A month after admitting that King had been detained, Pyongyang decided to ‘expel’ the man

The unholy alliance between Kim Jong-un and Putin

On 27 July, while commemorating the 70th anniversary of what North Korea perversely terms its ‘victory’ in the Korean war, Kim Jong-un proudly gave a guided tour of his intercontinental ballistic missiles, drones and missile engines. The lucky visitor was none other than Russian defence minister, Sergei Shoigu. Later that day, Shoigu stood next to the

Why North Korea is accusing the US of racism

After nearly a month of silence, North Korea has finally spoken out about Travis King – the US soldier who dashed across the border while on a guided tour from South Korea.  To the dismay of observers, however, the press release by the state-controlled media outlet, the Korean Central News Agency, offered no details as to his current

What has North Korea done with Travis King?

Silence is not a common feature in the North Korean regime’s playbook, and this year is no exception. Only this past week, North Korea’s flurry of ballistic missile launches has been complemented by a cornucopia of threats from senior officials – including Kim Yo-jong, the sharp-tongued sister of Kim Jong-un – who have upped the

Kim Yo-jong is fast becoming North Korea’s propaganda puppeteer

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Such is the axiom underpinning North Korea’s (DPRK) approach towards its nuclear and missile development. The hermit kingdom’s acceleration in its nuclear and missile capabilities demonstrates how Kim Jong-un is working down his wish list of expanding his country’s conventional and unconventional weapons, which he declared

Is North Korea about to test another nuke?

North Korea’s spring has started with a bang. The United States and South Korea have staged their largest joint military exercises in five years, and Pyongyang’s rhetoric is becoming more aggressive. Kim Jong Un has warned that the US and South Korea would ‘plunge into despair’ for holding the drills, as he fired two missiles into the sea between the

Is Kim Jong Un’s daughter being lined up to lead?

The photograph shows a happy family. After a 35-day public absence, the corpulent Kim Jong Un has been pictured this week with his wife Ri Sol Ju, and sitting between them their daughter, Kim Ju Ae, as they dine in the presence of North Korean military officers weighed down with medals.  Is Kim Jong Un’s

North Korea’s nuclear ambitions are growing faster than ever

While some people start the day with a bowl of cereal, North Korea chose to greet Thursday with the launch of a ballistic missile. The missile, believed to have intercontinental capabilities, failed mid-flight, but it was nonetheless significant. North Korea fired it on the second consecutive day of weapons testing held by the country this

Why did North Korea fire a missile over Japan?

It was a new dawn, a new day, and a new North Korean missile test. The land of the morning calm – as South Korea is affectionately-nicknamed – awoke to the launch of the fifth North Korean ballistic missile in ten days. Over the past ten months, the international community has become accustomed to a

Kim Jong-un declares victory over Covid

Kim Jong-un’s notorious sister is back in the limelight. Not only is Kim Yo Jong reiterating her hostile words against South Korea and the United States, but she is also seeking to reinforce the loyalty of the North Korean people to her brother. How better to combine the two than to infer that the Supreme