David Kang on North Korea

David Kang (right) and Dan Schnur discuss North Korea on January 16, 2019.

“Complete denuclearization of North Korea is a fantasy,” said David Kang, Director of the USC Korean Studies Institute, at an evening talk on January 16th. While he acquiesces that it is possible for North Korea to destroy all of their weapons, testing sites, and plans, the knowledge will still remain with the nuclear scientists and they could rebuild the program. Beyond that, Kang said, the US would never truly believe that North Korea had denuclearized. “For the US, North Korea is not a country, it’s a nuclear issue. North Korea is not a problem to be solved, it’s a country to live with.”

Kang was joined in conversation by Dan Schnur, former political strategist and professor at USC Annenberg School of Communication. Schnur commented that “when the US messes up geopolitically it’s because we’ve assumed the others work the same way that we do.” Kang agreed, saying that the US makes incorrect assumptions that North Korea is fundamentally different from South Korea. “North Koreans are Koreans. Culturally and politically. Korea is a tribal, clan-based society. It’s not strange that we’re on the third generation of a leader.”

When asked about China, Kang said that China will never solve the issue with North Korea. “The Chinese view the problem as ours. China has more influence on North Korea than any other country but much less than we think.”

In the end, Kang said, “No one will ever accuse you of being wrong if you’re pessimistic.” Kang was optimistic that a solution could be found because of the key players’ willingness to participate. Kim Jong-un is willing to attend a new strategy, Moon Jae-in “has spent ten years thinking about this strategy”, and President Trump is willing to upset the status quo. “No other American president would have done this. This is a once in a generation chance.”