The Tower Center hosted a panel discussion on the politics of the Korean peninsula and U.S. – Korean relations. Han Park and Victor Cha are Korean scholars who discussed their opinions on the possibility of the unification of the Koreas. Although unification is desirable, there is a low level of practicality. Some unstable scenarios between the Koreas are not only on nuclear and military fortified spots, but also on the tension of legitimacy war and the inability to have both regimes. In addition, North Korea is listed as the #1 most homogenous country in the world; the country’s ability to even consider the act of unification is undermined by the government’s lack of openness to the world. Under these circumstances, unification may seem impractical, but in the words of Victor Cha, “it’s the right thing to do.”
Nevertheless, Professor Park reminded us of the gradual change that is happening in recent times through stories of long lost families reuniting after years and years of no contact. He also pointed out an interesting aspect of North Korean politics, which involved the worship of Kim Il Sung, who passed in 1994. Rather than a significant ruler who runs the country, the ghost of Kim Il Sung is in fact running the country. For this reason, no matter how many rising leaders North Korea has, the government remains the same. As Professor Cha discusses, the unification of North and South Korea may result in either a nightmare or an opportunity.
As for the thoughts of other regions on this issue, Professor Victor Cha tells the perspective of other countries, such as Russia, Japan, and China; they would not oppose in the unification because of the risk of threatening the preservation of international relations. Furthermore, he believes in the support of America’s interest in the unification of North and South Korea.
Dr. Victor Cha is the university director of Asian Studies and holds the D.S. Song Chair in the Department of Government and School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He has authored several books on Foreign Affairs between U.S. Korea, Japan and North Korea. Cha has also served in the White House as Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council. Dr. Han Park is the university professor of Public and International Affairs and Director of the Center for the Study of Global Issues at the University of Georgia. He is currently an ABC News Consultant/Analyst and has appeared on major global media outlets, including CNN, ABC News, BBC, and KBS.
– Grace Lee, SMU Student and Tower Center Intern
Grace Lee is a Tower Center intern at the Tower Center of Political Studies department at SMU. She is a senior pursuing a degree in International Studies with a specialization in East Asia. After graduation, Grace hopes to attend graduate school in Washington D.C. and be involved in International Affairs.