A panel of distinguished North Korean specialists gathered at the 2013 World Knowledge Forum to discuss the issues facing the often controversial state due to its young new leader and a fledgling nuclear policy. These experts discussed the state of a country caught in the crossfire of frequent international contention. At the forefront of the discussion were the issues of nuclear armament, economic sanctions, and refugee acceptance.
On hand to discuss the communist state were Christopher Hill, Dean of Josef Korbel School of International Relations at the University of Denver; Meir Dagan, Former Director of Mossad; Jia Qingguo, Associate Dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University; and Chun Yung-Woo, Former Senior Presidential Secretary for Security and Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea.
Mr. Hill, the former US ambassador to South Korea, was critical of the leadership within the North Korean government. "It's pretty clear that we now have a third generation leadership, sort of a Kim 3.0, and they seem pretty much committed to continuing their nuclear program," he said. As part of the six-party talks to end nuclear proliferation in the North, Mr. Hill also called for an increased influence from China. He was critical of China‟s job in doing so thus far. "China has had one thing to do--to keep North Korea from going nuclear, and China has not done a good job of that," he said. Mr Hill noted that China is in the unique position to act as the "pivot" that would bring peace between North and South Korea.
On China's involvement in North Korean affairs, Dr. Jia was most concerned about the economic sanctions facing North Korea. His main concern was the fine line between what would hurt the regime and what would hurt the citizens of North Korea. "We don't want to create a humanitarian disaster out of our efforts to push North Korea out of their weapons," he said.
Mr. Dagan looked at the affairs of the country in terms of a greater world conflict. His trepidation on the issue of North Korea's continued nuclear proliferation tied into concern for his own region of the world, the Middle East. He expressed, "Failure means a nuclear arms race in the area. Unfortunately, it will have implications not only in the area, but also in the Middle East."
Ambassador Chun spoke about North Korea‟s new leadership situation. Kim Jong-Eun‟s leadership of the country is quite a strong concern in many international circles, according to Ambassador Chun. He stated, "I think [Eun] is in firm control of North Korea now...I think he has the political [and] technical skills to rule the country and to be more popular in North Korea. I wouldn't just write him off as an incompetent North Korean ruler. He has been very skillful in imposing stronger civilian control and stronger party and stronger military control." He was also concerned about North Korea‟s over-investment in nuclear arms. He added, "There is no future in North Korea as long as they have to devote their resources to build up capital to destroy peace and harm their neighbors. That will not guarantee survival."
The real issue of the debate came to a head when the topic of refugees was discussed. Dr. Jia was worried about the number of refugees that were entering China. He stated, "If you call them refugees, then somehow you have to manage the situation. Will South Korea take up the tab? If we do this, we may encourage more North Koreans to come to China." Others cited that China had not done enough. "I don't think that China has the right to send these people back to North Korea. I think China has to be held to an international standard," Mr. Hill said. Ambassador Chun was also concerned about the state of the North Korean refugees. "If you send them back to North Korea, they are in trouble," he said. As to South Korea‟s refugee policy, Ambassador Chun added, "We adopted a „one Korea‟ policy...all North Korean refugees are welcome, whether they are millions, hundreds, or thousands."
Overall, the future of North Korea is as up for debate as it was at the beginning of the forum. Mr. Hill expressed his trepidation for its future. He stated, "North Korea will not last forever...and when it does collapse we will not have predicted when, and we will not have predicted how." The other experts present were also reluctant to cast a clear forecast of what would happen to this country with such a young leader at the helm and so many questions to face in its future.
From the World Knowledge Forum at http://www.wkforum.org/WKF/sessionDoc/1382319622.pdf