Nuancing North Korea’s Image: A Precondition for Peace on the Peninsula

CEU Community + Invited Guests
Nador u. 9, Faculty Tower
Wednesday, February 3, 2016 - 5:15pm
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Wednesday, February 3, 2016 - 5:15pm

Abstract: North Korea is not a”normal” country. Since the war (1950-53) ended unsettled with an armistice, North Korea has been represented by the USA and its ally South Korea as an enemy of the West. Neither a part of the Soviet-led camp nor a part of the Sino-communist group, North Korea is still considered a communist dictatorship with all the negative consequences related to this kind of system and is often portrayed as the last Stalinist dictatorship.

Since the G.W. Bush era in the USA, North Korea cannot escape the image of being a part of the Axis of Evil, and an Outpost of Tyranny. Whether such descriptions are justified or not can be debated. What I want to discuss, however, is the observable consequences of the usage of such concepts in this particular international relation, and whether or not such language is conducive to the intended results of the communication. (What the intentions might be will also be touched upon.)    

Although the talk will focus on a concrete issue: North Korea and “the West”, it might be possible to use the North Korea – USA relationship as an extreme case with some relevance to other comparable relations between antagonizing international forces in a conflict or a pre-conflict relationship. The conflict centered around IS in the Middle East; the Europe/US – Russia relationship; and even the incipient animosities within a united Europe comes to mind. 

Bio: Geir Helgesen is director of the Fudan-European Centre for China Studies located at Nordic Institute of Asian Studies. Helgesen was trained as a cultural sociologist and has focused on Korean affairs since the early 1980s, with a special emphasis on the political cultures of the two systems on the Korean Peninsula. His main work on Korea is “Democracy and Authority in Korea: The Cultural Dimension in Korean Politics”. Curzon Press, Richmond and St. Martin’s Press New York 1998, and “Politics, Culture and Self: East Asian and North European Attitudes”, NIAS Press, 2006, co-edited with S.R. Thomsen. He has further drafted reports for the Danish and the Norwegian Foreign Ministries on the situation in North Korea; co-organized training courses on doing business in South Korea with the Confederation of Danish Industries; and organized Track-2 events with North Korean counterparts sponsored by the Nordic ministries of foreign affairs. He is a regular commentator on Korean affairs in the Nordic media, and acts as an advisor to public and private organizations on relations with the two Koreas.