Panel Explores North Korea's Future

Discussion attempts to add depth to public perceptions following country's nuclear test

The United States considers North Korea ... to be an evil in itself. I think that is false.

This article was first published in The Daily Bruin.

By Jennifer Gottesfeld, Daily Bruin contributor

SPARKED BY the reality of a nuclear North Korea, UCLA hosted a panel discussion Thursday to address how the international community perceives and interacts with the Communist nation.

The panel, which was organized by UCLA's Center for Korean Studies, centered around the implications of North Korea's recent nuclear test. It consisted of four North Korea specialists, each analyzing the country from a different perspective.

Dae-Sook Suh, a professor emeritus from the University of Hawaii who other panelists called one of the leading specialists on North Korea in the Western world, said the United States tends to portray North Korea as an "evil country."

"(The United States) considers North Korea ... to be an evil in itself. I think that is false," Suh said. "Most of our remarks on North Korea come from ignorance. People in the United States do not know the conditions of people in North Korea."

Suh described North Korea as struggling for survival and acceptance.

He added that he believes North Korea had two objectives when establishing its nuclear program: to respond to the United State's diplomatic rejection of the communist North Korea after the collapse of the Soviet Union and to deter any potential invasions by other nations.

Sunjae Kwon, a second-year business-economics student, said he has noticed the same association of North Korea with the concept of being evil.

"There is a tendency to look at North Korea as an evil country," Kwon said. "Regardless of whether (North Korea's leader) Kim Jon Il is right or wrong, it is meaningful to look at this with a diplomatic point of view."

Chaibong Hahm, professor of international relations and political science and director of the Korean Studies Institute at USC, presented from the South Korean perspective.

He said South Koreans are in the process of re-evaluating whether their loyalties should continue to lie with the United States or whether they should support North Korea.

"South Korea (has found) itself in a situation where it wants to view North Korea as a fellow state and not much of a threat," Hahm said.

He added that mutual distrust between the United States and South Korea affects Korean Americans.

"Korean Americans are being put in a very difficult position because the United States and South Korea have been such important allies and South Korean-Americans have benefited from this tie. But now with the increasing fraying of the alliance ... Korean Americans are the first to feel this," Hahm said.

Patrick Sharma, a graduate student in history, said panels such as this one contribute to a more comprehensive discussion of current events.

"This type of environment provides a deeper level of discussion than you'd see in newspapers," Sharma said.

Published: Friday, November 03, 2006