Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Nonresident Fellow

38 North

Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein is a Nonresident Fellow with the Stimson Center, where he works primarily with the 38 North project, and serves as editor for its affiliate website North Korean Economy Watch. He is also an Associate Scholar at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, and a Doctoral Candidate at the Department of History at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is writing his dissertation about the history of social control in North Korea. He holds an MA in International Relations and International Economics from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, a BA in Political Science from Stockholm University, and has graduated from the Korean language program at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul.

 

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Commentary
The North Korean Economy, October 2019: Are Sanctions Causing a More Volatile Exchange Rate?

Introduction The stability of North Korean exchange rates has been a longstanding puzzle for economic experts on the DPRK. Even with harsh sanctions and “maximum pressure” in place, market exchange rates of the North Korean won with US dollars (USD) an…

Commentary
The North Korean Economy, August 2019: Why China Will Continue to Dominate

Throughout the diplomatic process between South and North Korea and the Trump administration’s nuclear diplomacy with Pyongyang, there has been an expectation that should sanctions be relaxed or removed, North Korea would begin to attract investments f…

Commentary
The North Korean Economy—June 2019: Kim Jong Un’s Reforestation Plans: The Dilemma of Forests Versus Food and Fuel

North Korea’s environmental problems have not garnered nearly as much attention as its nuclear and missile programs, signature construction projects or vague commitments to improving the economy, but it is an area that has seen the most interesting dev…

Commentary
CHINA’S XI JINPING WILL REPORTEDLY GIVE KIM JONG UN 100,000 TONS OF FOOD TO FEED HUNGRY NORTH KOREANS

Chinese President Xi Jinping may be offering up to 100,000 tons of food in humanitarian aid to North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un ahead of a historic visit later this week. Both Chinese and North Korea state-run media announced Xi’s state visit—th…

Policy Paper
North Korea’s Food Situation: Bad but not Catastrophic

North Korea’s food situation is confusing. The World Food Program (WFP) and the North Korean government have effectively conveyed the message to the world that major food shortages and, some say, perhaps even a famine, are at hand. Pyongyang as we…

Commentary
The North Korean Economy in April 2019: Sanctions Are Pinching—But Where and How Much?

Wonsan-Kalma and the North Korean Economy What does one single resort construction project on North Korea’s east coast say about the state of the country’s economy?[1] Quite a bit, perhaps: it’s not just North Korea’s low exports that are causing…

Stimson in the News
After U.S.-North Korea nuclear summit fails, all sides scramble to salvage the talks despite major differences

HANOI — Within hours of an abruptly canceled lunch and a failed summit, desperate efforts were launched to rebuild a dialogue between the United States and North Korea.  But as the dust settled, it was increasingly clear that a huge gap remai…

Stimson in the News
How US-led sanctions have impacted North Korean economy

HANOI • The breakdown of US President Donald Trump’s talks in Hanoi with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un raises an old question again: How much are US-led sanctions hurting the North Korean economy? Due to a paucity of information, it is hard to say for…

Stimson in the News
Why Kim Jong Un wants relief from ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions

President Trump’s talks in Hanoi with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un were expected to produce at least symbolic results. There was talk of a declaration to finally end the Korean War almost seven decades later, the potential for opening liaison office…

Stimson in the News
Can North Korea copy Vietnam’s economic miracle?

When Vo Van Dai started working at Vietnam’s Van Phan Dien Chau fish sauce company in the late 1980s, the state-run firm comprised five departments overseen by 18 managers. By the time he rose up the ranks to take charge of the company after its p…

Stimson in the News
U.S.-North Korea nuclear talks: What 300 milk cans tell us about the human cost of sanctions

The stainless-steel milk cans are built to carry 20 litres of liquids, which in North Korea are sometimes moved by car, sometimes by bicycle. For First Steps, they are a valuable way of getting soy milk to the daycares, kindergartens and orphanages the…

Stimson in the News
Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein Comments on Trump-Kim Summit

Trump says North Korea has “awesome” potential Hanoi, Vietnam — President Donald Trump’s message to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has been simple and clear: Give up your nuclear weapons and a flood of wealth will soon be yours for the taking. Bu…

Stimson in the News
Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein Quoted in AP Article About US-NK Relations

Trump touts prosperity, but is that what North Korea wants?   HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — President Donald Trump’s message to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been simple and clear: give up your nuclear weapons and a flood of wealth will soon be your…

Stimson in the News
Trump touts prosperity, but is that what North Korea wants?

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — President Donald Trump’s message to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been simple and clear: give up your nuclear weapons and a flood of wealth will soon be yours for the taking. But here’s a nagging question: Is that really wha…

Stimson in the News
Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein Comments on US’ desire for NK to follow Vietnam’s Path

The U.S. wants North Korea to follow the ‘miracle’ of Vietnam’s path. It might be disappointed. VAN TAN, Vietnam — In a grove of trees outside this village north of Hanoi, a small memorial serves as a reminder of the era when North Korea and North…

Stimson in the News
The U.S. wants North Korea to follow the ‘miracle’ of Vietnam’s path. It might be disappointed.

VAN TAN, Vietnam — In a grove of trees outside this village north of Hanoi, a small memorial serves as a reminder of the era when North Korea and North Vietnam stood together against “American aggression,” as the war was known here. Fourteen headstones…

Stimson in the News
North Korea warns of food crisis, slashes rations before next leaders’ summit

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – North Korea has warned that it is facing a food shortfall of some 1.4 million tons in 2019 and has been forced to almost halve rations, blaming high temperatures, drought, floods and United Nations sanctions in a memo seen by…

Stimson in the News
Are sanctions against North Korea working? The Trump-Kim summit may depend on it

The blacklisted 1970s-era North Korean oil tanker floated in waters a couple of hundred miles south of Shanghai, tethered to a ship half its size by a hose, as if hooked up to an intravenous line. The offshore coupling, spotted by the Japanese navy las…

Commentary
China’s Sanctions Enforcement and Fuel Prices in North Korea: What the Data Tells Us

China is by far North Korea’s largest trading partner, accounting for up to 90 percent of its trade flows. Therefore, how much the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign affects North Korea’s most crucial export and imports is primarily a f…

Stimson in the News
North Korea Turns Coal Into Gas to Weather Sanctions

BEIJING—North Korea has accelerated a little-known program to use its abundant coal supply to produce synthetic gas, helping the isolated nation reduce its dependence on foreign oil and withstand sanctions aimed at curbing its nuclear program. Pyongyan…

Stimson in the News
N. Korea using gasified coal to withstand sanctions: report

WASHINGTON – North Korea has accelerated the use of its abundant coal reserves to produce synthetic gas as part of efforts to reduce its dependence on foreign oil and withstand international sanctions, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday. China has…

Commentary
The Problem With Aid to North Korea is Bigger Than Diversion

On October 23, Kee B. Park and Eliana E. Kim made a convincing case for funding the UN’s request for humanitarian assistance to North Korea. The authors argue that even if it tried, the regime could, at most, divert only negligible sums of ai…

Commentary
Is the North Korean Won Pegged to the RMB? Probably, but the Numbers Don’t Show It

The market exchange rate between the North Korean won, the Chinese renminbi (RMB), and the US dollar (USD) has looked remarkably stable over the past few years. Particularly striking is its stability during the 18 months of sharp US-DPRK tens…

Commentary
How the North Korean Economy Should—and Shouldn’t—be Used in Negotiations

To date, assistance for North Korea’s economy has not factored into negotiations between the United States, South Korea and North Korea in any real or meaningful way. South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in handed Kim Jong Un a USB stick with gra…