How Kim Jong-Un Sees a Biden Administration—and How Kim Will Respond


Election day has come and gone, and now North Korean leader Kim Jong-un knows he will have to deal with Joe Biden in the White House. Kim has gone through a lot over the last four years. He faced off through a period of high tensions with President Donald Trump before meeting in a historic summit at Singapore. Since then, diplomatic progress regarding Kim’s nuclear weapons disarmament and sanctions relief has stalled. And yet all the while, Kim Jong-un’s regime has kept itself in power despite multiple serious challenges, including maximum pressure from the United States. In addition, North Korea has been hit hard by three typhoons, crop failures, and the coronavirus.

How does Kim see the incoming Biden administration? Does Kim see a diplomatic path forward that builds on the initial, partial success with Trump? Will North Korea keep itself on steady footing or might destabilizing stressors cause Kim to lash out? Would Kim seek to up the ante with a new missile or nuclear test, or will he continue a “wait and see” posture?

To discuss these vital topics, the Center for the National Interest hosted a discussion on December 8, 2020 featuring a panel of the following experts:

  • Ken Gause, is the Director of the Adversary Analytics Program at CNA. He is also CNA’s senior foreign leadership analyst and has spent the last twenty years developing methodologies for examining leadership dynamics of hard-target, authoritarian regimes. In particular, he is an internationally respected expert on North Korea who has written three books on North Korean leadership. His latest book is “North Korean House of Cards: Leadership Dynamics Under Kim Jong-un.”
  • Soo Kim, is a policy analyst at the RAND Corporation and an adjunct instructor at American University. Her research interests include the Korean Peninsula, Russia, Indo-Pacific strategy, near-peer competition, decisionmaking, propaganda, and the intelligence community. She served as an analyst in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and also worked at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
  • John Dale Grover, is the Korean Studies Fellow at the Center for the National Interest. Through an Atomic Reporters fellowship, he published an original series, “How South Korea’s Politics and Military Impacts Strategic Stability With North Korea,” based on in-person interviews during a trip to Seoul in November 2019.
  • Harry J. Kazianis, Senior Director of Korean Studies at the Center for the National Interest, will moderate the discussion.