Talking to North Korea

By David English. David is an Oregonian who has lived in Korea for the past three years.

I realize most people who read BlueOregon are focused on the upcoming elections. But I want to take a minute to talk about why the recent events on the Korean peninsula have had me a little nervous lately. There seems to be no shortage of drama over here. North Korea's recent nuclear test has caused the country to step up drills in the event they were to invade the South. A few days ago we heard one such drill where I live here in Incheon.

You may be asking yourself, "Why does it matter what happens in Korea to those who are in Oregon?" First of all, thousands of American lives (including many Oregonians) were lost defending the South Korea. Second, South Korea is a Pacific Rim trading partner. In my three years in Korea, I've found many Oregon products from food to clothing, Korea imports quite a few things made in our state. Recently I was lucky enough to find Tillamook Cheese.

I believe we need to remain committed to peace on the Korean peninsula, but at the same time I have to question the methods we are using. Some have recently called on the United States to try to hold bilateral talks with North Korea. Among those is Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska who said, "Great powers engage."

The sanctions recently enacted by the United Nations will do little to detour North Korea and at best will probably push them to be even more defiant. Kim Jong Il's regime is desperate to keep his iron fisted grip over the country. David C. Kang, a Korean expert at Dartmouth College was recently quoted as saying, "The sanctions are at best kabuki theater. They're not going to have much effect on North Korea's behavior."

It is time we send a message to our Oregon Congressional Delegation that we must challenge the Bush administration's status quo on North Korea. There is much more we can do to prevent the situation from getting worse. Engaging the North in a discussion and resolving the disputes between the two countries should be our goal not to further escalate things. Furthermore, we should be working toward normalizing relations with the North Korea and formally ending the conflict between the two Koreas (you might recall the two countries are technically still at war due to the fact that only an armistice was signed, not a peace treaty).

Our nation has been sidetracked by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and tensions between the United States and Iran. We cannot have a schizophrenic foreign policy. Are we really up to the task of being a superpower? It's for time for us to step up to the challenge of being a world leader.

  • (Show?)


    What do the South Koreans say over there about six-party talks vs. two-party talks? Most stuff I hear and read say China is the real key and needs to be at the table.

  • Steve (unverified)

    We really need to get Portland City Council to pass a resolution telling the N Koreans to stop.

    Seriously, I understand your concern.

    I think the N Koreans realize they have no pull outside of nuclear weapons. So when they run out of money or a bug gets up their a-- or Kim Jong Ill is feeling neglected - Do an a-bomb test. With them, I think the only way is to get to N Korea is to get PRC to lean on him.

    Now when Iran gets nuclear that is a whole diff can of worms. Maybe having friends in Iraq will help - who knows?

  • (Show?)


    People dont seem to say much about the six party talks directly. There have been articles printed in the paper about it, but it's not talked about much. Koreans don't seem overly worried about N. Korea's test, they just went about their business, which I found strange.

    There was a poll though done and if I get a chance I'll post the article. Something like 63% of South Koreans blame the US for North Korea's test of a nuclear bomb.


  • Steve (unverified)

    "we should be working toward normalizing relations with the North Korea"

    Addendum - I wish that was possible, but Kim Jong Il is a liar. Madeline Albright already told him we'll give a light water reactor if you promise not to develop an A-bomb. He lied - Why would this time be any different? Blaming Bush diverts us from seeing Mr Il is the problem.

  • (Show?)

    Some addendums to my post:

    First, I actually have developed a curiosity about North Korea since being here. If you really believe all that you read in the media in the US, then you need to be turning to other sources. North Korea is a brutal dictatorship, but I don't feel they are evil or dangerous. I have read quite a bit online and in newspapers in keeping up with what is happening. Most people don't know that 2 million North Koreans starved to death in the late 90's.

    Second, (a kind of disclosure) my father-in-law was born in Kaesong North Korea and fought with the South Korean and US Forces duing the Korean War. He has not seen some of his relatives in over 50 years. Hearing things like that sure put things in to perspective for me.

    Third, it's the North Korean government NOT the people we should hate. I really hope people remember that.

    Fourth, as promised I'm providing a link to some articles. I hope Kari doesn't mind. They are good reading in terms of learning more about the North.

    Deterring Kim Jong Il, Washington Post

    When North Korea Falls, The Atlantic (EXCELLENT ARTICLE!)

    Four articles from The Economist

    Seeking a consensus on Kim Jong Il

    The Nightmare Comes to Pass

    A regime as rickety as his own

    Freindship and Trade

    My advice is do your own research aside from the stuff that is in the mainstream media. I have even (I can't believe I'm admitting this) visited the North Korea government's homepage.

  • (Show?)

    To address Steve's comment:

    For the last five years Bush has done practically nothing outside pushing the six party talks other then calling the North names. The US has been so fragmented dealing with two wars (yes they are still wars) as well as Iraq and North Korea. We can't deal with one, without the other one getting out of hand. That should tell you something.

    My take on this is that we have to do something before things flare up again. If we simply sit back and offer the six party talks as the only solution, nothing will happen. You've noticed Bush has begun to start to soften his stance on in terms of doing some kind of talks in addition to the six party platform.

    His policy since his State Of The Union speech in 2002 has failed. That's why I believe it's time to urge Congress and Bush to come up with a new way at looking at the situation.

    Ps-One final note because I forgot to mention it above, I am actually married to a Korean.

  • BTK (unverified)

    I think we should just kill Kim. That would help.

guest column

connect with blueoregon