North Korea

Restaurant diners watch a broadcast of the 7th Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea on local television, where North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is seen delivering a speech on Friday, May 6, 2016, in Pyongyang, North Korea.
Wong Maye-E / Associated Press

North Korea, past and present, is at the top of the international consciousness this week.

The reclusive country convened the Seventh Workers’ Party Congress in Pyongyang on Friday. It’s the highest political gathering the country holds, and the country hasn’t held one in 36 years, before the current leader Kim Jong-un was born. During the Sixth Party Congress in 1980, then-leader Kim Il-sung announced his son Kim Jong-il would succeed him. The second-generation Kim led the country from 1994 until his death in 2011.

North Korean flags
fljckr / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

It’s been a tumultuous week in North Korea.

Last weekend North Korea launched its second-ever satellite and conducted a new nuclear test. There are growing concerns in South Korea and the U.S. that the secretive country could develop more significant nuclear capabilities and the technology to turn that into a powerful weapon.

Rebecca Cruise and Suzette Grillot discuss the announcement this week by President Obama that the United States would work to normalize relations with Cuba, and North Korea's hacking of Sony in response to the film The Interview.

Then Suzette talks with Charles Kimball, the director of the religious studies program at the University of Oklahoma. He's the author of the books When Religion Becomes Evil and When Religion Becomes Lethal.

Updated at 4:45 a.m. ET Sunday

Americans Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller, held for months in North Korea, received a joyful homecoming Saturday as their plane set down at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, south of Seattle.

Bae, 45, a Korean-American missionary and tour guide from Lynnwood, Wash., thanked family and supporters for not forgetting about him during his detention.

North Korea flag with building in background
(stephen) / Flickr Creative Commons

Reemerging from his six-week absence, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered the release of American Jeffrey Fowle on Wednesday.

Fowle, 56, was arrested in May for leaving a Bible at a club for foreign sailors in the northern city of Chongjin. He was awaiting trial for anti-state crimes when he was released.

Rebecca Cruise and Suzette Grillot talk about the first woman to win math’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize, and North Korea’s missile test this week as Pope Francis visits South Korea.

Later, a conversation with classical Persian scholar Austin O’Malley. He says the language’s stability drew him to study centuries-old Near Eastern poetry.

Park Jun-soo / South Korea Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism

South Korea's Defense Ministry says North Korea has fired three short-range projectiles into the sea.

Suzette Grillot and Rebecca Cruise discuss the North Korean response to the Seth Rogen and James Franco film The Interview, and the report released this week  reviewing the increased use of drones by the United States.

And a conversation with University of Oklahoma Latin America historian Alan McPherson. His new book The Invaded explores early 20th century conflicts in Nicaragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic.

Pictures really do tell the story about how far behind economically North Korea is compared with its neighbors.

In 2002, as Eyder has said, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld used a satellite photo to illustrate how in-the-dark the communist nation was.

Joshua Landis provides an update on the ongoing removal of chemical weapons in Syria, and Rebecca Cruise examines the recent executions of high-level government officials in North Korea, and what they could mean. 

Later, a conversation with a trio of scientists and engineers about how three very different developing countries share many of the same sanitation and hygiene concerns.

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