Columbia Scholars Offer Critical Context on North Korea

Columbia Scholars Offer Critical Context on North Korea

territory. or its allies. As Trump began a trip to Asia in November, he said that “the era of strategic patience with North Korea is over.”

At Columbia, experts on Korea say that finding a diplomatic solution to the current standoff is critical. “It’s urgent to move toward a dialogue,” said Charles K. Armstrong, the Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Studies in the Social Sciences. “The military option is not realistic or acceptable. It’s just too dangerous.”

While in Seoul, Trump seemed to moderate his rhetoric, suggesting that he is open to negotiations. “It makes sense for North Korea to come to the table and make a deal,” he said. and North Korea have nuclear weapons, and in September North Korea carried out its sixth nuclear test. that is concerned: Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is only 25 miles from the border with the North. would inevitably be brought in. The countries have been bound together by a mutual defense treaty since 1954, the year after the Korean War ended.

Theodore Hughes, the Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Studies in the Humanities, who lived in South Korea for seven years and visited in June, said that for the first time people in Seoul told him they were worried about the safety of their families. “The risk is there,” he said. Secretary of Defense James Mattis emphasized the need for a diplomatic solution during an October visit to the demilitarized zone that separates the North and the South, while Rear Admiral Michael J. Dumont indicated in a recent Pentagon report that the only way to destroy North Korea’s nuclear arsenal would be through a ground invasion. “Taking these two statements together, I believe the Department of Defense is signaling that war in Korea would be disastrous for all parties involved and diplomacy remains our best option,” Hughes said.

Korea was a single country with a history going back thousands of years, but in the early 20th century it became a Japanese colony. and the Soviet Union.

“The regime in North Korea has been around for 70 years and isn’t going away,” said Armstrong, who has visited the nation five times. “It’s a regime that functions. It works.”

Although information from outside the country is tightly controlled and there’s little or no public criticism of the regime, “it would be dangerous to presume people hate their leadership,” he said. People revere the Kim family, especially Kim Il sung, grandfather of the current leader, Kim Jong un. Kim, who came to power in 2011, wants to demonstrate his strength as a leader and preserve the regime, notes Armstrong. territory would lead to retaliation that could destroy his country.

“Trump’s more moderate tone is definitely good news and a great relief to many people in South Korea,” said Armstrong. “Although he didn’t give any specifics, the offer of a ‘brighter path’ for North Korea suggested a peaceful, diplomatic alternative to economic and military pressure for resolving the current standoff.”
Columbia Scholars Offer Critical Context on North Korea