Frank Aum is the senior expert on North Korea at the U.S. Institute of Peace. He oversees the Institute’s work on North Korea and focuses on ways to strengthen diplomacy to reduce tensions and enhance peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. From 2010 to 2017, he worked at the Department of Defense, including as special counsel to the Army General Counsel, special assistant to the assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, and senior advisor on North Korea in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. During this time, he advised four secretaries of defense on issues related to Northeast Asia and the Korean Peninsula. Aum also served as head of delegation for working level negotiations with the Republic of Korea on U.S.-ROK Alliance matters, and received the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service.

Aum previously worked as a corporate attorney, and also has extensive experience in the public and non-profit sectors. He completed a Fulbright Scholarship in Jeju Island, South Korea and worked as a speechwriter in the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. In addition, he worked to strengthen the Koreatown community in Los Angeles at the city’s Department of Neighborhood Empowerment and the Korean American Coalition (KAC).

Aum received his B.A. from Dartmouth College, his M.P.P. from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, and his J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

Publications By Frank

Four Ideas for a More Practical Approach to North Korea

Four Ideas for a More Practical Approach to North Korea

Thursday, October 1, 2020

By: Ambassador Joseph Yun; Frank Aum

A significant impediment for the United States is that it continues to narrowly limit its policy options while North Korean capabilities expand unabated. Washington’s window of discourse on North Korea policy largely consists of: Pressure the Kim regime through sanctions; don’t legitimize or reward it until preconditions are met; and don’t make any concessions until the North takes significant denuclearization measures first. To achieve any sustained results, these policy boundaries must be substantially widened to include more realistic and practical measures. We, along with our colleagues at USIP, explored many of these issues in a recent report, “A Peace Regime for the Korean Peninsula.”

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

North Korea Blew Up Its Liaison Office with the South. What Now?

North Korea Blew Up Its Liaison Office with the South. What Now?

Thursday, June 18, 2020

By: Frank Aum; Patricia M. Kim

North Korea’s demolition this week of an inter-Korean liaison office that symbolized North-South cooperation marks a new spike in tensions between the countries, and in North Korean frustration with the United States. It was the latest in a string of inflammatory rhetoric and actions directed at Seoul and Washington since the failure of the February 2019 summit in Hanoi between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The building’s demolition renews strains over North Korea’s ongoing development of a nuclear weapons arsenal, the corresponding global sanctions against Pyongyang’s illicit behavior and the 67-year failure to formalize a peace treaty following the Korean War. USIP analysts Patricia Kim and Frank Aum discuss the latest downturn.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

Could U.S.-North Korea Talks Resume in 2020?

Could U.S.-North Korea Talks Resume in 2020?

Monday, May 18, 2020

By: Frank Aum

The coronavirus pandemic has put many U.S. foreign policy priorities on the back burner, including the North Korea dilemma. But this longstanding problem continues to deepen regardless of COVID-19’s trajectory. In March, Pyongyang conducted five short-range ballistic missile and rocket launches. In addition, North Korea is expanding existing rocket launch facilities and building new ones. The unexplained disappearance of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in April led to much speculation about the future of the North Korean regime. Meanwhile, the U.S. presidential elections looms large over North Korea’s calculations. What’s in store for the rest of the year?

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

North Korea: Coronavirus, Missiles and Diplomacy

North Korea: Coronavirus, Missiles and Diplomacy

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

By: Ambassador Joseph Yun; Frank Aum; Paul Kyumin Lee

Despite reporting no cases of COVID-19, North Korea’s poor health infrastructure and proximity to coronavirus hotspots make it especially vulnerable to the deadly pandemic. Increasing the risks, humanitarian workers and medical supplies in the North Korea are limited by travel restrictions and sanctions even as the U.N. sanctions committee provided some exemptions to help deal with the virus. An outbreak of the disease in North Korea could have crippling political and socioeconomic consequences, even threatening its internal stability.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Global Health

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