National Summit on U.S. Role in Korea Reunification

CLAREMONT, Calif. (October 7, 2008) — Thomas Kim, Scripps College professor of politics and international relations and executive director of the Korea Policy Institute, will attend a national summit with implications for future U.S. policy toward Korea, at UC Berkeley, just weeks before the presidential election.

The summit will bring together U.S.-based policy experts, major community advocates, and leading scholars. The Korea Policy Institute is an independent research and educational institute whose mission is to provide timely analysis of United States policies toward Korea and developments on the Korean peninsula.

The Korea Policy Institute, in partnership with UC Berkeley’s International and Area Studies, the Institute of East Asian Studies and the Center for Korean Studies, will hold the summit, “Reunification: Building Permanent Peace in Korea,” on October 10 to discuss the reunification of Korea and the key role of the United States in the peace process.

Such a conference is imperative at this particular time, according to Dr. Kim. “We’re nearing 60 years of military hostility between North Korea and the U.S. Enough is enough. The U.S. has normalized relations with China. It’s normalized with Vietnam. This conference is aimed at helping the next U.S. government move us forward to a long overdue peace rather than keeping us stuck in an obsolete Cold War past.”

In its overview of reunification efforts for the Korean peninsula, the conference will incorporate critical analysis of past strengths and weaknesses of U.S. foreign policy. Major topics addressed by speakers will include the denuclearization of the peninsula, the advancement of human rights and the resolution of the economic crisis in North Korea.

“This conference comes at a particularly critical juncture in U.S.-North Korean relations. As in 2000, we’re heading into a presidential election with a deal on the table. Eight years ago, the incoming presidential administration made a poorly informed decision when it turned away from engaging North Korea. Conferences like these will produce the kind of policy recommendations that will help us avoid the mistakes of 2000,” said conference participant, John Feffer, co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus and author of North Korea/South Korea: U.S. Policy and the Korean Peninsula, published in 2003.

Christine Ahn, a Korea Policy Institute Fellow, similarly emphasized the urgency of fresh U.S. policy recommendations in light of past failures: “At a moment when there’s a very real possibility that North Korea stands to be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, we cannot afford to revert to a cynical hardline posture. Too much is at stake for renuclearization of North Korea to be counted among the many failed policies of the Bush administration.”

This historic conference will take place at the Berkeley Alumni House and features an impressive roster of foremost Korea scholars and policy specialists. Speakers will include Bruce Cumings of the University of Chicago, Selig Harrison of the Center for International Policy and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Martin Hart-Landsberg of Lewis and Clark College, Karin Lee of the National Committee on North Korea, John Lie of UC Berkeley, Ramsay Liem of Boston College, Gi-Wook Shin of Stanford University, Jae-Jung Suh of Johns Hopkins University and Philip Yun of the Asia Foundation.

While observing the considerable challenges facing U.S. policymakers, Seung Hye Suh, Scripps College professor and a member of the Alliance of Scholars Concerned about Korea steering committee, noted the climate of optimism made possible by the changing of political leadership. “The incoming administration and Congress have their work cut out for them. The change in administration signals an important opportunity to craft a bold new North Korea policy based in reality and integrity, in the interest of peace and genuine security for the U.S. and all countries.”

Dr. Suh concludes, “I expect the KPI and UC Berkeley conference will generate valuable information and original insights about U.S. relations with North and South Korea for the public, policymakers, analysts and the media.”