Ending the Korean War: conference report by Peggy McInerny

[CanKor editor Erich Weingartner spoke at a recent UCLA Center for Korean Studies conference, which brought together a wide range of speakers to reconsider how to end a war that never technically ended. Peggy McInerny, the author of the article which follows, is Director of Communications at the UCLA International Institute. A full conference summary may be read here: The Heartbreak of a Divided Nation by Peggy McInerny. –CanKor]

Podium and first row, left to right: Paul Liem, Korea Policy Institute; Dorothy Ogle, former Methodist missionary to South Korea; Pilju Kim Joo, Agglobe Services International; Indong Oh, M.D.; Jeong Young-Hee, farmer and peace activist from Gangjeong, Jeju Island; Christine Ahn (back turned), Global Fund for Women and Oakland Institute, and daughter. Top row, left to right: Moon Jae Pak, M.D., U.S.-North Korea Medical Science Exchange Committee; historian Bruce Cumings, University of Chicago; Erich Weingartener, CanKor; Rev. Syngman Rhee; James Chun, One Korea Movement; Hosu Kim, City University of New York. (Photo by Peggy McInerny)

Podium and first row, left to right: Paul Liem, Korea Policy Institute; Dorothy Ogle, former Methodist missionary to South Korea; Pilju Kim Joo, Agglobe Services International; Indong Oh, M.D.; Jeong Young-Hee, farmer and peace activist from Gangjeong, Jeju Island; Christine Ahn (back turned), Global Fund for Women and Oakland Institute, and daughter. Top row, left to right: Moon Jae Pak, M.D., U.S.-North Korea Medical Science Exchange Committee; historian Bruce Cumings, University of Chicago; Erich Weingartner, CanKor; Rev. Syngman Rhee; James Chun, One Korea Movement; Hosu Kim, City University of New York. (Photo by Peggy McInerny)

The UCLA Center for Korean Studies hosted a conference entitled “Ending the Korean War” on May 9, 2013. The meeting brought together a wide range of speakers — historians, sociologists, former missionaries, peace activists, Korean War survivors, and people currently engaged in humanitarian projects in North Korea — to reconsider how to end a war that never technically ended. Instead of a peace agreement, the United States and North Korea signed an armistice agreement in 1953 on behalf of their allies on each side.

Sixty years later, the Korean Peninsula remains heavily militarized, the United States has still not recognized North Korea, and acute tensions between the two states earlier in 2013 threatened to lead to military conflict.

Historian Bruce Cumings of the University of Chicago, where he is Gustavus F. and Ann M. Swift Distinguished Service Professor and chair of the history department, served as keynote speaker. In his view, U.S. policy toward North Korea over the past 60 years, which has consisted mostly of nuclear threats, has been a complete failure. Not only does North Korea now have nuclear weapons, as well as long- and medium-range missiles, the two nations are no nearer to a peace agreement than they were in 1953. Read the rest of this entry »

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Nightlife in Pyongyang, by Justin Rohrlich

[CanKor Editor Erich Weingartner and Brain Trust member Kathi Zellweger were among former residents and frequent visitors to North Korea that were interviewed by a New York City based journalist Justin Rohrlich about nightlife in North Korea. The resulting article was published on 19 April 2013 in NKNews.org. The full text, with NKNews photo, follows. –CanKor]

North Korea’s Nightlife Scene: The Pyongyang Perspective

Justin Rohrlich speaks to former residents and regular visitors to learn more about nightlife in North Korea

Pyongyang-NightlifeThough it sounds like the start of a bad joke, North Korea does, indeed, have a nightlife.

“It’s not just going to rallies,” says Simon Cockerell of Koryo Tours, a Beijing-based travel outfitter specializing in North Korea. “There is such a thing as leisure time, at least for people in Pyongyang and in certain other parts of the country. North Koreans are not the Taliban; they do things that most westerners can relate to: having too many drinks, having a singsong, having a night out — these types of things do occur.”

A night on the town wasn’t always so easy for Pyongyangites — or the 200 or so resident foreigners living there; diplomats, aid workers, and the odd European or Asian investor. Read the rest of this entry »

North Korea’s dynastic succession by Bruce Cumings

[When North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Il, died, there was widespread concern about the consequences, especially in North America. A long-time friend of CanKor, Bruce Cumings is not surprised that the succession to the son, Kim Jong Un has proceeded smoothly. He does not expect the country to collapse, implode or explode. The succession, he notes, appears to be safe, and may last a long time. Bruce Cumings is chairman of the History Department at the University of Chicago and the author, most recently, of The Korean War: a History (Random House Modern Library, 2010). His analysis of the DPRK leadership succession was published in Le Monde Diplomatique on 7 February 2012. –CanKor]

Framed pictures as they appear on North Korean walls (photo by Erich Weingartner)

I was in Singapore when Kim Jong-il died on 17 December, so I was reading from a salutary distance what passed for expert American commentary. “North Korea as we know it is over,” according to a piece in The New York Times written by a specialist who had served in the George W Bush administration; the country would come apart within weeks or months. Another asked how could the callow son grapple with octogenarian leaders in the army — wouldn’t there be a coup? Might Kim Jong-un “lash out” to prove his toughness to the military? Others worried that a collapse might require US Marines on Okinawa to swoop in to corral loose nukes (a key mission for several years).

The Obama administration fretted about a power struggle, something Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had spoken of after Kim’s stroke three years earlier. The model seemed to be the USSR after Stalin died, or China after Mao. They ignored what happened when Kim Il-sung died in 1994 — which was nothing. Read the rest of this entry »

Conversation #7


In which Erich Weingartner challenges Pak Kim Li about the apparent contradiction between the DPRK’s request for technical and development assistance and the Juche ideology of self-reliance. (First published in CanKor Report 307-308, 12 May 2008.)


Erich Heinz Weingartner: So you welcome the transfer of knowledge from foreign partners to your country?

Pak Kim Li: Yes, we put great value on such cooperation.

EHW: Like language instruction?

PKL: Yes. And other topics as well.

EHW: What about technical assistance? Read the rest of this entry »

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