A first-hand source is often the best source of accurate information.
Hyun Kim, a visiting South Korean scholar, gave a presentation last Wednesday about the divided Korean situation and how it affects South Korean life.
“Many scholars are skeptical of the intentions of North Korea,” Kim said.
South Korea has been a democracy since the 20th century with exception of an authoritarian regime that held power from 1961 to 1987.
During the same time, North Korea has been ruled by a series of authoritarian regimes operating as a self-described Juche State, the political thesis of Kim Il-Sung.
Sung founded the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which says that the Korean masses are the masters of the country’s development.
The name comes from juche, meaning “main body” or “mainstream,” and is sometimes translated in North Korean sources as “independent stand” or “spirit of self-reliance.”
According to Kim Il-Sung, the Juche idea is based on the belief that man is the master of everything and decides everything.
It has also been interpreted as always putting Korean things first.
From the 1950s to the 1970s, Il-Sung elaborated Juche into a set of principles that the government uses to justify its policy decisions.
Among these are independence from great powers, a strong military posture, and reliance on Korean national resources.
South Korea has become part of the broader world economy, while North Korea became isolated from the rest of the world.
“Conditions in North Korea are extremely desperate, we shouldn’t stand by and watch a failed country, it’s gone on too long,” said Lucas VanAtta, political science senior.
The economic divide of Korea is shown through the population, its exports and economic systems.
While North Korea remained economically socialist, South Korea took the approach of becoming a capitalist market economy.
South Korea compares favorably to Japan and Germany when it comes to health, education and standard of living, North Korea was ranked under Iraq.
“To stabilize their leadership and their country, work must be done,” Kim said.
South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak has highlighted the significance of the country’s free-trade agreement with the United States and his commitment to end North Korea’s nuclear programs.
However, the denuclearizing initiative has not been implemented because of North Korea’s proactive behaviors, such as its long range rocket launch in 2009 and the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel.
As a result of the North Korean government, there has a steady flow of refugees.
The number of North Korean refugees in South Korea has risen steadily since 1993. Approximately 300,000 or more North Koreans have defected from the country to live in neighboring China.
There are families split between the two Koreas who hope for a reduction in tensions and easier travel across the border.
“A clear response is not being received in the aspect of family reunions,” Kim said.
South Koreans who venture to North Korea find it hard to find a job and receive lower levels of income.
“Those who defected from North Korea deserve a chance at a real life,” said Elizabeth Calloway, theater junior. “It is best if we put them in the countries that they will be safe.”
Many women and children have been the victims of human trafficking.
“Issues brought up of human rights, human trafficking needs to be resolved,” said Lorin Davis, international studies junior.
A culture war driven from the statistical data as if the two Korean societies should unite reflects that half think they should and half think it is too soon.
There are several ways in which South Korea and the U.S. have tried to engage North Korea.
They plan to send food and fertilizer to North Korea to ease the food shortages that the country routinely faces.
South Korea has also expressed a willingness to invite Kim Jong-Un to the nuclear security summit.
This is significant because “there has not been clear evidence about his instability in leadership,” said Kim.
The United States is currently looking to engage Jong-Un by restarting the six-party peace talks that have been used as a way to decrease tensions in the region.
“There will be a long process with negotiating with North Korea to see where the country stands,” Kim said.