North Korea

Suzette Grillot checks in with Erika Larkins. She just returned from a year-long assignment in Brazil, and she'll offer her takeaways from the 2016 Summer Olympic games, which wrapped up Sunday.

But first, Rebecca Cruise and Joshua Landis join the program to discuss Turkey's recent military moves in Syria, and North Korea's testing of a submarine-launched missile.

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.

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

North Korea marked the second anniversary of the death of Kim Jong Il Tuesday with vows to unite behind his son, Kim Jong Un, and a series of events to show the world that the regime has returned to business as usual despite the execution last week of Kim's once-powerful uncle.

“Both his father and his grandfather were known to have these purges as well as a means of gathering power and showing their might,” says Rebecca Cruise, the Assistant Dean of the University of Oklahoma’s College of International Studies. “It was very public. It's a family member, and what message does that send but that no one is safe from this individual?”

North Korea has announced that Jang Song Thaek, the uncle of leader Kim Jong Un and formerly the second most powerful man in the country, has been executed after being found guilty of treason by a military tribunal.

"The accused Jang brought together undesirable forces and formed a faction as the boss of a modern day factional group for a long time and thus committed such hideous crime as attempting to overthrow the state," North Korea's official KCNA news agency said.

Suzette Grillot and Rebecca Cruise discuss the cargo ship stopped in Panama on its way to North Korea with missiles and fighter jets on board, and Pakistani women’s education activist Malala Yousafzai’s speech before the United Nations.

Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini, the co-founder of the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN), joins Grillot and Cruise for a conversation about gender and security in the 13 years since the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325.

Lyn Gately / Flickr Creative Commons

Last week Panamanian authorities stopped a North Korean ship carrying cargo from Cuba that violates UN sanctions against the reclusive Asian country.

Rebecca Cruise, the Assistant Dean of the University of Oklahoma’s College of International Studies, says Panama has exercised its legitimacy by trying to uphold the sanctions as the ship passed through its territory.

“Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon came out and praised Panama for taking this action, and claimed that it really is the responsibility of all members of the United Nations to uphold these types of sanctions,” Cruise says. “They have legitimacy as the Panama Canal goes through their territory.”