Debate about North Korea reaches students, faculty

By Brian Mellen

The U.N. Security Council has put into motion sanctions aimed at bringing North Korea back to the table of nuclear disarmament talks after a series of missiles test fired by the communist nation.

But Kenny Kim, a graduate with relatives in South Korea, said he is more worried about the United States.

“To be honest, I’m not as worried about North Korea,” Kim said.

Kim has aunts and uncles living in South Korea. He said it seems like North and South Korea are working successfully toward continued peace, but that the United States may be hindering the situation rather than helping.

Emanuel Pastreich, a former assistant professor in the department of East Asian languages and cultures at the University, said the current administration has tried to ignore North Korea and treat them as an implacable foe long enough. He currently teaches at George Washington University and works on diplomatic issues with the Korean Embassy in Washington.

“Many professional diplomats and analysts know full well that by trying to cut off North Korea from the international community, we are actually driving it further and further into the world of organized crime and illegal activities,” Pastreich said. “Engagement is the only solution.”

Pastreich said that if it were up to him, he would meet with North Korea as often as they want. He said there are plenty of carefully thought-out plans where North Korea gives up nuclear capability in exchange for benefits. But he said that these plans are collecting dust right now.

“Until they have been offered up with sincerity and a chance for quick implementation, North Korea and other countries will think we are just hostile,” Pastreich said.

Though Pastreich said that the way in which the Bush Administration handles diplomacy with North Korea could be construed as potentially hostile, he said North Korea poses a very real danger to Asia and the rest of the world.

“First, it is increasingly imbedded in a netherworld of organized crime that spans East Asia,” Pastreich said. “That invisible economy is not really understood by anyone, but it is a threat and it is growing.”

According to Pastreich, Japan’s extremists could use the current crisis to become a major military power again, perhaps even gaining nuclear capability. If that were to happen, he said then all of Asia could become nuclear.

“That would make a far, far more dangerous world, and tear the living guts out of the non-proliferation order we have had,” Pastreich said.

Kim said the tension between Korea and Japan goes back to the time of Japanese occupation in Korea in the early 1900s.

“There’s still a lot of bitterness between the Koreans and the Japanese,” Kim said. “They don’t trust each other.”