Modal close

Dear Democracy Now! Visitor: You turn to Democracy Now! for independent, ad-free daily news covering the issues you care about the most. We can only produce our daily news hour with your support. Right now, every donation to Democracy Now! will be doubled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $8 today, Democracy Now! will get $16 to support our daily news hour. If you've been waiting to make your contribution to Democracy Now!, today is your day. It takes just a couple of minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else.

Non-commercial news needs your support.

We rely on contributions from you, our viewers and listeners to do our work. If you visit us daily or weekly or even just once a month, now is a great time to make your monthly contribution.

Please do your part today.

Donate

Trump Pursues Denuclearization in North Korea & Nobel Peace Prize, While Ramping Up US Weapons Sales

Web ExclusiveMay 17, 2018
Listen
Media Options
Listen

We continue our look at how North Korea is threatening to cancel the June 12 U.S.-North Korea summit, after President Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said on Sunday the U.S. should use the so-called Libyan model for denuclearization. In Part 2 of our interview with Christine Hong, executive board member of the Korea Policy Institute and an associate professor at University of California, Santa Cruz, she discusses the response to Bolton’s comments, the role of South Korea’s president and workers in negotiations that could lead to reunification, and her own family’s experience after the division of Korea between North and South Korea.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Part 2 of our discussion today about North Korea, which is threatening to cancel the June 12th U.S.-North Korean summit. This comes after President Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, said on Sunday the U.S. should use the Libyan model for denuclearization.

JOHN BOLTON: That’s right. I think we’re looking at the Libya model of 2003, 2004. … In the case of Libya, for example—and it’s a different situation, in some respects. Those negotiations were carried out in private; they were not known publicly. But one thing that Libya did that led us to overcome our skepticism was that they allowed American and British observers into all their nuclear-related sites. So it wasn’t a question of relying on international mechanisms. We saw them in ways we had never seen before.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That sounds like you want inspections before any kind of sanctions relief.

JOHN BOLTON: Well, I think it would be a manifestation of the strategic decision to give up nuclear weapons. Doesn’t have to be the same as Libya, but it’s got to be something concrete and tangible.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s John Bolton on Face the Nation. In 2003, Libya negotiated sanctions relief from the United States in exchange for renouncing its nuclear program and welcoming international inspectors to verify the dismantlement. Eight years later, the U.S. and other nations attacked Libya, toppling the regime. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed.

We’re continuing our conversation with Christine Hong. She is an associate professor here at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where we’re broadcasting from, and an executive board member of the Korea Policy Institute, has visited North Korea a number of times. Her family is from both North and South Korea.

Professor Hong, it’s great to have you with us in Part 2 of this conversation. So, talk more about what John Bolton—again, got a recess appointment because George W. Bush didn’t think he could get approved by the Senate at the time when he was U.S. ambassador to the U.N., and then, now, national security adviser, chosen by President Trump, doesn’t have to get approved by the Senate. And talk about what he’s done in this last month, the message he sent out, and if you think it differs at all from the Trump administration actually overall.

CHRISTINE HONG: Well, I think it’s really a sure-fire way of announcing to North Korea that it remains in the crosshairs of the U.S. war machine, you know, that John Bolton is making—you know, he’s done the rounds, stating that the Libya model is the one that should be implemented with regard to North Korea. North Korea understands fully what that means. The Libya model is a model of regime change. You know, everyone saw the international footage of Muammar Gaddafi basically being lynched, you know, before media cameras.

And the other thing that—you know, when John Bolton is speaking about this, he’s implying that it’s only North Korea that has the obligation to take measures toward denuclearization. You know, he mentions not at all the fact that the United States must take commensurate steps. If you look at the historic Panmunjom Declaration that was announced recently by the two leaders of the Koreas, basically what they stated was that there has to be denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. What that implies, you know, given the fact that the southern part of the Korean Peninsula has been militarily occupied by the United States for several decades, it implies a commensurate obligation on the part of the United States.

The other thing, too, that the Panmunjom Declaration made very clear was that there should be, between the two Koreas, no hostile actions taken towards each other, in terms of land, air or sea. Right now, the United States and South Korea are engaged in massive joint air war exercises. And keep in mind that North Korea, in the middle part of the 20th century, endured a bombing holocaust, to use the historian Bruce Cumings’ term, at the hands of the United States. The United States was absolutely unrestrained in its use of air power. And it actually—North Korea lost an estimate—the high estimate is upwards of 30 percent of its entire population. The number of Korean War dead itself is instructive. An estimated 4 million Koreans were killed, 70 percent of whom were civilians. So that gives you some sense of the nature of the asymmetrical war.

AMY GOODMAN: Now—

CHRISTINE HONG: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —can you clarify, though, didn’t Kim Jong-un say, or at least through various emissaries—

CHRISTINE HONG: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —that he was moving forward with this summit even if the U.S. engaged in these military exercises with South Korea? So, is that the case? And is it only what Bolton has said since then that has infuriated the North Korean regime?

CHRISTINE HONG: It’s two things. It’s what Bolton has stated, which is very provocative. And it’s also the nature of these war exercised. North Korea stated to South Korea, and so we only have these words through a South Korean emissary, that it was willing to tolerate normal exercises. And what that meant was that there shouldn’t be any kind of nuclear-capable strategic assets put into play. It was absolutely—I mean, you can look at the Panmunjom Declaration. It’s absolutely clear about that.

AMY GOODMAN: And Panmunjom, for people who don’t know, explain what it is.

CHRISTINE HONG: So, the Panmunjom—you mean the declaration?

AMY GOODMAN: And Panmunjom itself.

CHRISTINE HONG: Panmunjom is an area, you know, between the two Koreas, and it was potentially one of the host sites, in addition to Singapore, because—

AMY GOODMAN: The DMZ? It’s right at—

CHRISTINE HONG: It’s at the DMZ—because of its historic significance. This is where the armistice agreement was signed many years ago. And I think that it’s noteworthy—

AMY GOODMAN: In 1953.

CHRISTINE HONG: In 1953. On July 27th of 1953, it was North Korea, China and the United States—not South Korea—that came to the table, and they basically signed this armistice agreement. And what it stipulated was that within three months’ time, those three powers were supposed to return to the negotiating table and hammer out a permanent peace agreement. It also stipulated that all foreign forces were supposed to be withdrawn within a reasonable amount of time. China withdrew all of its forces from North Korea within approximately half a decade’s time. The United States, to this day, stations approximately 30,000 military forces on Korean territory and operates approximately 80 military installations. On top of that, the United States retains command control over South Korea’s military in times of heightened war crisis. South Korea is, for all intents and purposes, semi-sovereign.

And so, what you saw, in part, in terms of the two Koreas coming together in this live-streamed summit, was the Koreas stating that, at last, Korea actually is moving toward its own sovereignty. And in the case of the South Korean president, he has been deputized.

You know, Donald Trump doesn’t care; I mean, he touts his policy as an “America first” policy. Let’s be real. His policy is more of a “military first” policy than North Korea’s current policy. North Korea’s current policy is the Byungjin policy. It has two defining features. One is defense of the nation through military means. But the other part is actually economics that—it’s the economic track that is aimed at improving the livelihood of the Korean people. Could we say the same thing about Donald Trump’s “America first” policy, that basically gives billions and trillions of dollars to nuclear arsenal renovation, that gives so much to the war industry, but then takes away from social spending?

And what I was saying about the South Korean president is, unlike Donald Trump, who doesn’t really feel accountable to the American people, the South Korean president was actually elected in a snap election, on the heels of his neoconservative, neoliberal predecessor being ousted from office. Millions of South Koreans took to the streets in candlelight vigils calling for her removal. This is just—this is not just because of her corruption. It’s also because of her neoliberal policies that placed the majority of people at risk. She wielded this draconian national security law to basically repress anyone who criticized her policies. And she also refused to negotiate with North Korea at all, but instead, in lockstep with the Obama administration, who had a very militarized, very hostile policy toward North Korea, actually refused to engage with North Korea. And so, Moon Jae-in, the president of South Korea, knows he is deputized by the South Korean people to push for peace.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, it’s quite amazing. As he rose to power and became South Korea’s president, his number one issue has been peace with North Korea. Is it reunification, where you would see one Korea?

CHRISTINE HONG: You know, I mean, there are different models to be discussed, you know, and people have talked about many variations. And one possible model is one of confederation. I think that the specter that looms before us—you can hear Pompeo and others stating that North Korea has a bright and prosperous future, if only it will denuclearize. The question that we have to ask right now is: What does North Korea mean, not only by denuclearization—it’s not just a question of whether or not the United States and North Korea have the same definition of denuclearization. The key question is: Do North Korea and the United States have the same definition of peace?

And I want to actually—so, I’ll say a couple of things about that. One is that this isn’t the first time, in terms of the triangulated relationship between the two Koreas and the United States, that there has been discussion of reunification between the two Koreas, rapprochement and the possibility of peace. This has happened before. But, unfortunately, it happened during the George W. Bush era, when he designated North Korea as part of the “axis of evil.” The United States has historically played an obstructionist role with regard to the possibility of intra-Korean peace.

And in the past, those South Korean presidents who were liberals, who were pushing for engagement with North Korea, their vision of North Korea’s future was profoundly neoliberal. And the vision was of South Korea economically absorbing North Korea, you know, into some sort of neoliberal future. That is actually, I think, something that South Korean labor unions in this moment have been agitating against. The South Korean labor unions actually were instrumental to the ousting of the previous president and the election of the current president. And what they have stated is that workers have to be central to any vision of peace and reunification. And this is the other thing, too. The Korean people’s struggle has not only been one against the U.S.-imposed division of the Korean Peninsula. It’s actually been a people’s—it’s actually been a class struggle.

And I want to say another thing, too, that sort of militates against peace, and it’s actually—you know, Donald Trump has assembled basically a war Cabinet. I mean, you know, everyone—many people have commented upon that. At the same time that he’s speaking rhetorically about the possibility of peace with North Korea, look at what he’s doing in terms of his Iran policy.

AMY GOODMAN: And let me just ask you something about that—

CHRISTINE HONG: Go ahead, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —as you go on with that thought. With Iran, he’s pulled out of the nuclear deal, Iran not a nuclear state as of yet. And it looks like the message to the world is: We will deal with you if you get nuclear weapons, which is what North Korea has done, and we will not negotiate with you if you don’t.

CHRISTINE HONG: Right, right. That actually reveals a terrible truth. It’s not actually Donald Trump’s maximum-pressure policy that has succeeded with regard to North Korea. North Korea has always been between a rock and a hard place. It’s been in the crosshairs of the U.S. war machine going back several decades.

So what created this sort of possibility? One, it’s that Park Geun-hye was ousted from the South Korean presidency. She’s out of the Blue House. She’s, in fact, in prison in South Korea.

AMY GOODMAN: Your Blue House is the White House in Washington, the equivalent of.

CHRISTINE HONG: Right, right, White House. Right, right, right, in South Korea.

But the key factor here is that North Korea took—North Korea has been threatened with nuclear annihilation from the United States on multiple occasions throughout its existence, going back several decades. And the fact of the matter is that ever since George W. Bush entered office and, in the 2002 Nuclear Posture Review, indicated that North Korea was a site that the United States conceived of as a target for a nuclear first strike, North Korea has seen fit to take to the nuclear road. And it’s only by taking to the nuclear road and developing a deterrent, and, during the Trump administration, actually demonstrating, in theory, the capability of striking the mainland United States, that North Korea, in this very tight and impossible situation, has created some room for maneuver.

And so, you know, this is one of the reasons why, you know, I’m sad to say—I mean, North Korea, at the beginning of this year, Kim Jong-un stated that North Korea is that paradox of paradoxes. It’s a peace-loving nuclear nation. And that may seem like a contradiction in terms, but it actually isn’t. North Korea, prior to this moment—I mean, this moment, it’s talking about the possibility of regional denuclearization. Prior to this, its discussions of denuclearization have been global in concept. It has demanded that it’s not—shouldn’t just be the small nuclear states that have been historically subjected to imperialist war violence that have to denuclearize, but it’s actually—there is a reciprocal obligation on the part of countries like the United States, France, etc.

But this is what North Korea stated even in late March. What happened was the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute released its study.

AMY GOODMAN: The group called SIPRI.

CHRISTINE HONG: Yes. And unsurprisingly, the United States accounts for 34 percent of the world’s weapons sales, and this percentage actually increased from the Barack Obama administration to the Trump administration by 25 percent. And so, this is what North Korea’s international media organ, the KCNA, stated. It described the United States—at the same time when there’s this historic prospect of peace negotiations, it stated that the United States is the world’s “top class war merchant that spawns war and massacre in different parts of the world through large-scale arms sales, going against the desire of humankind for peace and stability.” And the KCNA concluded, “The warmonger is not in a position to talk about peace.”

And so, this is really a moment when the American public needs to understand really what’s been at play here. The unending Korean War has been an unending policy of regime change toward North Korea. You know, the Korean War was described in the middle part of the 20th century as a police action. And instead of just poo-pooing that term, which is just a sort of euphemism for informal, asymmetrical war, we should think about the fact that since the middle part of the 20th century, North Korea has basically been under country arrest. It’s been subjected to unprecedented sanctions by the United States and the U.S.-led international order. It really hasn’t had a chance to come out of the cold. And I think, at this moment, more than any other, the people in this country, the United States, really have to understand that, really, North Korea is a country—to use a phrase from Arundhati Roy, it’s a country that was sculpted from the spare rib of America’s aggressive foreign policy. And this is a time, more than any other, that Americans really have to understand what North Korea means by peace.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I wanted to talk about what’s happening in North Korea.

CHRISTINE HONG: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, there’s massive poverty, hunger.

CHRISTINE HONG: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: The Washington Post reported in April that the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, suggested President Trump should win the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in North Korea. Last week, reporters asked Trump about the prize.

REPORTER: Do you deserve the Nobel Prize, do you think?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Everyone thinks so, but I would never say it. You know what I want to do? I want to get it finished. The prize I want is victory for the world.

AMY GOODMAN: In April, Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, was asked what would be required of North Korea for any concessions during the upcoming talks, and he referred to the Libya model. And we know what the Libya model is now, as you’ve explained it. I also wanted to turn to David Beasley. And this is a piece in Foreign Policy. David Beasley is the executive director of the World Food Program, “seeking to exploit a diplomatic thaw between Pyongyang and Washington to potentially secure hundreds of millions of dollars from donor countries to dramatically expand U.N. relief operations in North Korea. But the former Republican governor from South Carolina”—Beasley—”has encountered resistance from the White House, even as President Donald Trump prepares to meet [with] Kim Jong-un in Singapore next month. According to two diplomatic sources, White House officials rebuffed Governor Beasley’s appeal for funds in a meeting in late April”—again, now head of the World Food Program. Your response, Professor Hong?

CHRISTINE HONG: You know, I just think that you have to think about this refusal to contribute anything to the WFP’s program, humanitarian program, toward North Korea as a misguided, maximum-pressure policy, that has to be understood in line with Donald Trump’s espousal of sanctions.

So what’s interesting about Donald Trump is, with regard to both Iran and North Korea, he has adopted what superficially appears to be an all-but-Obama stance. So he rolls back the Iran deal, and then, interestingly enough, because Obama maintained such a hard line with regard to North Korea—in fact, used North Korea as a kind of pretext for what amounted to a military encirclement in terms of his pivot policy of China. What’s interesting about Donald Trump is that, in actually reversing or superficially appearing to reverse the Obama policy, he has rhetorically espoused the prospect of peace.

But in terms of Donald Trump’s approach to the military-industrial complex, he’s got a businessman’s approach to that. And with regard to sanctions, with regard to, you know, the military-industrial complex, his policy is not, in many respects, different from Obama. And let’s recall that during Obama’s administration, he refused to give food aid to North Korea. This is actually in contrast to George W. Bush, who, near the very end of his second term, despite having labeled North Korea as part of the “axis of evil,” ended up giving more food aid during the last part of his second term—and this is historically when post-Cold War U.S. presidents get vision, belatedly, on North Korea—he gave more food aid to North Korea than Obama did during his entire presidency. So, in this regard, Trump is really walking the Obama line.

And one thing that I have to say about this, too, is that what the Trump administration has said—you know, of course, Pompeo has spoken about this bright, prosperous future for North Korea. They have stated that it’s not appropriate to sort of give, in this charitable way, North Korea food aid, and that the proper avenues for food aid have to come through private donations. And so, everything about the model of peace that’s being envisioned by this administration is profoundly neoliberal.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, on Wednesday, The New York Times published an article headlined “As U.S. Demands Nuclear Disarmament, It Moves to Expand Its Own Arsenal.” According to The New York Times, quote, “On Thursday evening, hours after Mr. Trump announced that his meeting with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, would take place on June 12 in Singapore, the Pentagon and the Energy Department announced plans to begin building critical components for next-generation nuclear weapons at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The idea is to repurpose a half-built, problem-ridden complex that was originally intended to turn old nuclear weapons into reactor fuel to light American cities. Now the facility will be used to revitalize America’s aging nuclear weapons, and to create the capacity to make many hundreds more.” That’s a piece in The New York Times about the next generation of America’s nuclear weapons. And speaking of Obama, I remember being here—

CHRISTINE HONG: Exactly.

AMY GOODMAN: —in California—at Stanford University, we were doing a broadcast of Democracy Now!—when we did this whole piece on, not President Trump’s—he’s continuing it—but President Obama’s trillion-dollar plan.

CHRISTINE HONG: Trillion-dollar, mm-hmm. Yes, absolutely. So, I mean, exactly what you just said. You know, in this regard, too, even though Trump superficially touts his policy as all-but-Obama, the fact of the matter is, when it comes to the trillion-dollar renovation of America’s nuclear arsenal, Trump is walking in lockstep with his predecessor.

AMY GOODMAN: But how do you explain what is happening in North Korea, the horror experienced by the North Korean people when it comes to famine, hunger?

CHRISTINE HONG: You know, I think, in a previous moment—I think we’re in an interesting moment, because even though Trump has, on occasion, taken a page out of his predecessor’s playbooks, including, you know, at his State of the Union address, he actually brought a North Korean defector, you know, and sort of did a sort of shout-out to him—and this is sort of vintage George W. Bush. But this is not actually an administration that has embraced the moral rhetoric of human rights. And I think that it’s interesting to realize that, whereas George W. Bush used, in very disingenuous ways, a moralized rhetoric of human rights as a pretext for intervening in different places around the world and creating humanitarian catastrophes and human rights crises on global scales, Trump doesn’t actually even make any kind of recourse to that type of moralized human rights discourse. But, you know—

AMY GOODMAN: But simply engages in the same actions.

CHRISTINE HONG: Right. So one thing that I would say is that, in an earlier historical moment, the way that human—you know, these human rights activists, who were basically sort of renovated cold warriors, the way that they would speak about the poverty in North Korea was they would attribute the blame almost entirely to the North Korean government. And they would state that the North Korean government was sort of culpable of crimes against humanity and genocide.

I think that in this moment, we can understand—you know, few Americans understood, until recently, perhaps like when Trump stated in a tweet, “Korean War to be over,” right? I think that few people understood that the Korean War is, in point of fact, not over. And what that has meant is that the United States has basically attempted to render North Korea—it has attempted, through hard and soft means, to make it so that North Korea has no sort of viability whatsoever—economic, you know, social, in any sort of way.

And when you look at the poverty of North Korea, you have to understand this is a country that has never not been under U.S. sanctions. This is a country that has never not been under the threat of U.S. war intervention. And this is a country that had to reconstruct itself in the wake of profound war damage, where North Korea was left a kind of ashen crisp. I mean, one of North Korea’s national symbols is the phoenix. And I think that it’s, you know, instructive to note that in the middle part of the 20th century, the United States dropped 420,000 bombs—this is, you know, conventional warfare—on Pyongyang. That city, at the time, had an estimated 400,000 residents. That was more than one bomb per person. That is the very definition of overkill. So we’re talking about a country that has been under a kind of existential threat by what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” And that has had serious structural consequences.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Professor Christine Hong, I asked you when you came in here about where your own family was from. Normally, people from Korea will say North Korea or South Korea, but you said, “From Korea.”

CHRISTINE HONG: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about that. Talk about your family background.

CHRISTINE HONG: You know, I would just say that we have to understand that it was the United States, three days after the bombing of Nagasaki, that divided the Korean Peninsula. So, basically, what Truman did after bombing a city, a civilian city, was he deputized Charles Bonesteel and Dean Rusk, you know, two junior Army officers, to adjourn into a room. What did they have? They had a National Geographic map. They didn’t bother to consult with any Korean whatsoever. And they were deputized to draw a line through the Korean Peninsula and to divide Korea into occupation zones. And they did—

AMY GOODMAN: This was in 1945.

CHRISTINE HONG: It was in 1945. And so, what happened was, with that action—and as anyone knows who’s studied any form of partition, the drawing of that line amounts to a—I mean, the way that that gets realized on the ground is through profound bloodshed. And as the historian Bruce Cumings has stated, the drawing of that line basically precipitated a war of national reunification. And the fact that the United States propped up a right-wing dictator in the South, South Korea, in the first instance, was a right-wing dictatorship, backed by Syngman Rhee, someone who had no popular support whatsoever. In fact, he was an—he had been in exile in the United States for a huge portion of his life and was sort of flown in. And, you know, the South Korean people’s democratic struggle happened not because of U.S. intervention, but actually despite it.

And so, when I say that—you know, if you ask any Korean, especially Koreans of an older generation, which Korea they’re from, rather than naturalize what happened in that moment, you have to understand that for the vast of majority of Korea’s history it’s actually been a unified culture. And in terms of my own family background, although most of my family does come from the South, I have family who married into the family, who came from the northern part of the peninsula. And that’s another story. Basically, 100,000 Korean Americans come from divided families. They come from—they have family in the North, and they have not been able to easily see them. And so, this is one of the unstated tragedies of the ongoing Korean War.

In the case of one of my family members, on my maternal side, an uncle-in-law, you know, he comes from the North and has struggled to see his family over the years. And I have—I don’t know that I have the right to share this story, but I will. He is someone who has a tremendous amount of gratitude toward the United States. He is a Korean American who immigrated here. But he is someone who also—you know, with Korean immigrant families, he actually lived with my nuclear family when I was a child. And one time, his wife, my maternal aunt, asked me if I had ever heard him in the middle of the night cry out, in nightmares. And I stated that I hadn’t. And she said, “Oh.” She said, “Have you, by any chance, seen the hole in Uncle’s chest?” And I said I hadn’t. And she stated that he was one of the North Koreans who self-purged when the North Korean revolution happened.

So, there are three different types of people who actually self-purged in the sort of refugee flow from North Korea. One were those people who collaborated with the Japanese. The other were landowners. And these were oftentimes the same people. And the third were Christians. And my uncle was amongst that latter group. And he and a group of other Christian students went down South. And they were stopped by South Koreans, and South Koreans were backed by the United States. And they were taken to be North Koreans who were infiltrating into the South. And they were lined up against a ditch, and they were shot. And he survived. And so, this is another one of many, many hidden stories that—

AMY GOODMAN: So that’s the hole in his chest.

CHRISTINE HONG: That is the hole in his chest. And, you know, I think that for people like that and—I’d also say this—for those people who actually fought in the Korean War on the U.S. side, they didn’t expect that the result of what they did would result in an unending war.

In fact, you know, it’s a sobering and sort of mournful thing to realize that the people who fought in the Korean War, oftentimes they were teenagers. And what the U.S. military distributed to them was a pamphlet. And this was the golden age of comics. And it was a pamphlet done in comic style that was titled What We Are Doing Here. This is a very different kind of title. It speaks to the bewilderment of a young American GI who has no idea why he’s being deployed to this site that he can’t even locate on a map. This is very different from Frank Capra’s film that he made during World War II, Why We Fight. “What are we doing here?”

And, you know, I think what happened was, in 2013, on the anniversary, the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Korean War armistice agreement, Barack Obama, in front of the Korean War Memorial on the National Mall, he stated that the enduring lesson—he tried to state that the Korean War was a civil rights watershed and that this very illiberal war, because it represented the site in which Truman’s military desegregation order was in part implemented—he tried to state that what we learned over there, we brought back as lessons for the home front.

But the other thing that Barack Obama stated—and this was part of his pivot policy—he stated that the lesson of the Korean War was that the United States had to “maintain the strongest military”—this is a direct quotation—”bar none, always.” And he was speaking to an audience of dignitaries from the conservative South Korean government, as well as American veterans of that war. But I don’t actually think—and, you know, I am presuming to speak for this group—that what they desired was unending war. I think that what they desired was peace. And I think that this is a time that’s more ripe than ever, especially since that generation is rapidly passing away, that peace should be concluded.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Christine Hong, I want to thank you so much for being with us, associate professor here at University of California, Santa Cruz, and an executive board member of the Korea Policy Institute. She has spent time in North Korea, including a visit to the country as part of a North American peace delegation.

To see Part 1 of our discussion with Professor Hong, go to democracynow.org.

I’m Amy Goodman. I’ll be speaking tonight here at the University of California, Santa Cruz, along with the nation’s perhaps most famous whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg. We’ll be speaking at the Colleges Nine and Ten Multipurpose Room at 7:30 on this day, May 17th. Thanks so much for joining us.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

Up Next

Planned U.S.-North Korea Peace Talks in Jeopardy as Trump Adviser Bolton Pushes for Regime Change

Non-commercial news needs your support

We rely on contributions from our viewers and listeners to do our work.
Please do your part today.
Make a donation
Up arrowTop