Temple University hosted a panel discussion entitled “Tensions on the Korean Peninsula” on Tuesday, October 3rd.
The forum panelists discussed the current situation between North Korea and the United States, and explained their insight into the North Korean mentality regarding potential conflict with the United States and South Korea.
Evan Osnos, one of the panelists and a journalist for The New Yorker, spoke about his recent visit to the secluded country. He recalled an encounter with one of the North Korean diplomats where he stated, “You realize that your country would be annihilated in a nuclear exchange with the United States.” The diplomat, Mr. Pak, countered that his country had faced destruction twice before during the Korean War and the famine of the 1990’s. He stated that most would die but a few thousand would survive. Mr. Osnos continued by stating that “the North Koreans see themselves as survivors.”
Lt. General In-bum Chun focused on the contrast between the ideologies of North Korea and the United States. The General proposed that the rift between the two countries was influenced by the lack of compatibility between two very different world views. According to him, “they know that the very values of America, freedom, human rights. All of these good things that you represent is a threat to them.” General Chun would go on to discuss important ways the United States could pursue a peaceful solution to the current situation. In particular he emphasized the importance of maintaining a tightly knit bond between the Republic of Korea and the United States.
If tensions were to worsen with North Korea and war does break out, millions will be affected, including students at Temple University. Two Temple University graduate students gave their thoughts about how worsening relations in the region may affect them.
Hocheol Yang is a PhD Student at the Klein College of Media and Communication. Though he does not think fighting will break out, he is concerned that if it does, he will be recalled to active duty in the South Korean Military.
Grace Lee, also a Klein PhD student, had concerns about friends and family in Seoul. The capitol of South Korea lies close to the demilitarized zone separating the two countries. The city of over 20 million people sits well within range of North Korean artillery. If fighting broke out, civilian casualties would be high.
Although tensions remain high, Evan Osnos says it is important to realize that, in his words, “North Korea is not a suicidal regime.” He believes the game of nuclear brinkmanship isn’t won by igniting a war.