“U.S.-DPRK Relations and the American Heartland”
For many years, ordinary Americans’ faith in their public institutions – the government, political parties, the media, the universities, even the Supreme Court – has been eroding in ways perhaps never seen before in American history. This seems to run across political ideologies. The polarization of American society so often spoken of seems to be less a matter of left versus right and more a matter of coastal elites versus the people in the heartland who feel dispossessed, invisible, and taken advantage of. The huge numbers of crowds turning out for both Donald Trump’s and Bernie Sanders’ campaign rallies in 2016 – in the tens of thousands – bear witness to the strength of this phenomenon.
In foreign policy, this increasing divide has begun to produce reassessments of America’s role in the world. Liberal internationalism and neo-conservatism both have come under attack, as Americans increasingly question both the ideal of remaking the world in the American image and the effort to impose its will on the world through military means.
President Trump’s approach to North Korea, a case in point, is not of his own making. He is merely giving voice to Americans who have grown tired of overseas entanglements, who want a strong military but one that is primarily defensive in nature, who seek to deal with other nations on bilateral terms as sovereign equals, and who understand more than do the elites that the Cold War has been over for thirty years.
Not much space has been given to exploring the implications of this kind of heartland thinking for the future of U.S.-ROK relations, the alliance structure, the presence of U.S. troops in South Korea, inter-Korean relations, and the prospects for unification.
This lecture hopes to begin such a discussion.
Dr. K.A. (“Tony”) Namkung, a longtime student of Korean affairs, has worked for many years, often behind-the-scenes, to build bridges to the DPRK on behalf of individuals and organizations in the United States, ROK, and Japan. In doing so, he has facilitated both unofficial (Track II) and official dialogues, assisted humanitarian and other not-for-profit organizations working in the DPRK, and enabled media organizations to improve their reporting on the DPRK.
Dr. Namkung is an American of Korean descent who was born in Shanghai, raised in Tokyo, and educated in American schools abroad. He received his Ph.D. in Asian history from the University of California at Berkeley, served as deputy director of its Institute of East Asian Studies, and conducted research in various universities and think tanks. He is the recipient of major grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the MacArthur Foundation. He was also a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, Fulbright Fellow, and Danforth Foundation Fellow.