26 May 2023

Neither Friend nor Enemy: Sweden-North Korea Relations

Welcome to the fourth NIAS-Korea episode. We invite Dr. Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein to discuss Sweden-North Korea relations. It may seem odd that among the Western countries, Sweden is the one that has maintained friendlier relations with North Korea. For example, Sweden was the first Western country that opened an embassy in Pyongyang, and the embassy still operates. This is notable given that only a few Western countries currently have an embassy in North Korea. How could we make sense of this relationship? What makes Sweden maintain relatively friendlier relations with North Korea? What was Sweden’s role in the Trump-Kim Jong-un negotiations? What would happen if Sweden joined NATO? Dr. Silberstein shares his expertise and answers these questions.

About the speaker

Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein received his PhD in History from the University of Pennsylvania, with a dissertation examining the historical evolution of surveillance and social control in post-1948 North Korea. His research agenda focuses broadly on North Korean society in the past and present. At the Safra Center, he is conducting a research project on ties between North Korean market actors and local government officials, exploring tensions and ties between the state and society in the North Korean market economy. He is also preparing a monograph proposal on surveillance in North Korea. Dr Katzeff Silberstein also works with think-tanks in both the United States and Europe on Korean affairs. He is a non-resident fellow at the Stimson Center and a fellow at the Swedish Institute for International Affairs, where he directs a research project on Sweden's relationship with North Korea. He is currently working on a fascinating research project on the past and present of Sweden-North Korea relations at the Swedish Institute for Foreign Affairs, with four researchers using both printed material sources from archives and oral history interviews.

The Nordic Asia Podcast is a collaboration sharing expertise on Asia across the Nordic region, brought to you by the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS) based at the University of Copenhagen, along with our academic partners: the Centre for East Asian Studies at the University of Turku, and Asianettverket at the University of Oslo.

We aim to produce timely, topical and well-edited discussions of new research and developments about Asia.