Sue Mi Terry

Su Mi Terry

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Much of our knowledge about North Korea comes from a limited number of sources: documents made public by foreign governments, defector testimonies, correspondents in neighboring countries, and ultimately North Korea’s official news agency.

But what about intelligence agencies? How do they manage to gather intelligence – and how much do they actually know about North Korea? For this interview, we had the privilege to host Dr. Sue Mi Terry who provided us with a unique look into the U.S. intelligence community and its attempts to deal with North Korea.

Dr. Terry is a Senior Research Scholar at the Columbia University Weatherhead East Asia Institute and founder of Peninsula Strategies Inc., an advisory firm specializing in Korean issues. She has also served as the National Intelligence Fellow in the David Rockefeller Studies Program at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Prior to her academic and consulting career, Dr. Terry served as Deputy National Intelligence Officer for East Asia at the National Intelligence Council, and also served as Director for Korea, Japan and Oceanic Affairs at the National Security Council during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations. Earlier in her career, she served as Senior Analyst on Korean issues at the CIA Directorate of Intelligence, where she was a top-rated Korean linguist.

Dr. Terry earned her PhD in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. She holds a Master’s in International Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from NYU.

How do you get human intelligence out of North Korea? It’s not like CIA guys […], a bunch of white guys are running around in North Korea. It’s just not possible […] Then what you’re recruiting are North Korean officials outside of North Korea. But that’s also very difficult because the North Koreans are the most highly trained people in the world. The kind of people they send out overseas are people who have deep ties with the regime or are indoctrinated, and they’re trained […] It’s impossible to separate them. People move in groups. North Korean officials don’t go to the bathroom by themselves overseas.

The interview was recorded on July 30th in Seoul.