North Korean studies is an established subfield within Korean studies. The current article reviews methodological trends in North Korean studies, mainly in social sciences, over the past two decades. It aims to demonstrate the evolution of data and methodologies employed by scholars in the field by focusing on three methods—statistical analyses, interviews, and theory testing—as well as to examine benefits and challenges associated with each methodology. The study finds that data and methodologies have become significantly diversified and sophisticated with increased accessibility to digitized North Korean materials, multidisciplinary eclectic methods, and computational analytical tools used by a new generation of scholars. At the core, it is the validity of data that can genuinely contribute to evidence-based scientific investigation. It also highlights that researchers’ epistemological barriers can seriously undermine the transparency in data and research design. Self-reflection, cross-examination, and rigorous peer review can further advance the quality of North Korean studies.

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