The Daily Northwestern

Students discuss North Korean history, politics

Prof. Ji-Yeon Yuh explained the history and political climate of North and South Korea on Wednesday night. About 25 students attended the discussion.

Cat Zakrzewski/Daily Senior Staffer

Prof. Ji-Yeon Yuh explained the history and political climate of North and South Korea on Wednesday night. About 25 students attended the discussion.

Cat Zakrzewski, Campus Editor

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Weeks after North Korea threatened to attack South Korea and the United States, Prof. Ji-Yeon Yuh discussed Wednesday evening the isolated country’s history and current political climate.

Student attendees said the discussion presented a more nuanced perspective on the issue that is not available through American media. About 25 people ate pizza and posed questions at the event sponsored by Politics & Policy at the Roberta Buffett Center.

Yuh primarily focused on the history of Korea because she said the political climate goes back decades. She argued peace could not be achieved through isolation. She also took questions from students on a variety of topics, ranging from human rights violations to potential Korean reunification.

“(North Korea) wants to engage with the rest of the world as a sovereign nation,” Yuh said. “It’s fairly accurate the only countries in this world taken seriously are nuclear.”

Throughout the discussion, Yuh continually attempted to dispel common American misconceptions about both North and South Korea. She argued that South Korea was not a sovereign nation due to the amount of military control the United States maintains in the country.

“If North Korea is a puppet state, then South Korea has to be a colony of the United States,” she said.

Weinberg senior Brian Lee said he found the discussion  interesting, particularly as a Korean American. After the talk, he told Yuh he had attended school in South Korea for seven years, but he had never learned about the history of North Korea.

Lee told The Daily he found some of Yuh’s opinions to be more idealistic than his own. However, he said discussions similar to Wednesday’s do not come around often.

“It’s hard to find places to discuss foreign policy on campus,” Lee said. “It’s especially hard to find something interactive for undergraduate students. It was good that this opportunity happened.”

Sam Houskeeper, a Weinberg sophomore, was more apathetic about the presentation. He said he has been following coverage from the Korean peninsula closely, and although he heard new opinions Wednesday, he disagreed with many of them.

“It’s always interesting to hear a variety of perspectives,” Houskeeper said.

Communication junior Matt Baron, a Politics & Policy editor, facilitated the discussion and said he thought the event was a success.

“Our goal is to engage the campus more on political or international issues,” he said. “We set this up a few weeks ago when North Korea was more in the news. It’s still important.”

Yuh said she found the discussion to be engaging and interesting, and that the students asked good questions.

“It was a lot of fun,” Yuh said. “They were all questions a lot of Americans have about North Korea and Korean history.”

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About the Writer
Cat Zakrzewski, In Focus Editor

Cat Zakrzewski is the In Focus editor of The Daily and a Medill junior. Her past positions include assistant summer editor, Campus editor, Holiday Guide...