As Charles Armstrong notes in beginning his review essay that follows, deliberately or not North Korea has been in the headlines. Over the past two decades, and notwithstanding the publication timelines that affect our business, it has rarely been a risk for an academic author to start any piece by stating just that. While the articles that comprise this Journal of Asian Studies “mini-forum” on North Korea had already been commissioned, it will surprise no reader to learn that their framing and urgency shifted in response to recent events. As this issue goes to press, such events have included the November 2010 artillery skirmish centered on Yŏnp'yŏng Island, the choreographed revelation in the same month of Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) uranium enrichment facilities to visiting nuclear scientist Siegfried Hecker, and the March 2010 sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan. All of these incidents—in combination with actions and inactions by South Korea, the United States, and other regional powers—arguably moved the peninsula closer to “the brink” at the end of 2010 than it had been for some time.

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