North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs have hovered over successive U.S. administrations since the mid-1990s, becoming a palpable “threat” during the Obama administration and the first crisis of nuclear proportions to greet President Trump. In all these years, however, few have sought to understand the prospects of war, invasion, and nuclear annihilation from the viewpoint of that country and its leaders. The Korea Policy Institute was fortunate to have the guidance and support of perhaps the most insightful and engaged of the few – journalist, scholar, citizen diplomat, and KPI Advisor, Selig Harrison. Informed by empathy for his subject Mr. Harrison’s research uncovered common ground in places altogether unseen by most. Where others postulated an intractable enmity between the U.S. and North Korea, Harrison viewed hostility between the two as historical with the potential for peaceful resolution.
Harrison was a featured speaker at KPI’s first conference, Reunification: Building Permanent Peace in Korea, at UC Berkeley, 2008, and he also shared his views on North Korea’s position on denuclearization as it was evolving in the aftermath of the failed six party talks in a KPI interview the following year. At this time when a new chapter is about to be written in the saga of what amounts to an ongoing Korean War, let us turn back a few chapters to read how we have arrived at today’s dangerous impasse and find, perhaps, in Harrison’s insights, a way out.