The Office of International Affairs hosted its first lecture series event called “Tension on the Korean Peninsula” Tuesday evening in the Student Center, with about 300 people in attendance.
The event included guests like New Yorker staff writer Evan Osnos, who has interviewed high-level officials in Korea, and former Korean Lt. Gen. In-Bum Chun.
The guests discussed North Korean propaganda, United States-Korean relations with China, recent nuclear capabilities of North Korea and U.S. President Donald Trump’s response.
North Korea has continued its nuclear program against international reprehension for it, CBS reported. Since it continues its nuclear tests, the tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have increased.
Tension between the U.S. and North Korea heightened in recent months when Trump posted a string of tweets challenging Kim Jong-Un, particularly several referring to the leader of North Korea as “Rocket Man.” Foreign minister of North Korea, Ri Yong Ho, put out a statement saying that North Korea believes the United States has declared war on the country, The Guardian reported.
Both Osnos and Chun agreed that while North Korea does take Trump’s tweets seriously, there is little threat of nuclear war anytime soon.
Chun said North Korea will only use nuclear warfare as defense.
“We don’t think [North Korea] will use [nuclear war] as a first strike capability,” Chun said. “They’re not going to shoot first, because they don’t have the thousands of missiles they need to destroy the United States. It’s more regime survival.”
The U.S. may be considering a “preventive war,” in which the country asserts dominance to prevent future use of nuclear weapons, Osnos said. However, he believes it is not likely Trump will act.
“Every previous president who has been involved with this North Korean predicament has looked at the possibility of preventive war and concluded that it is impossible because the loss of life, civilian and military would be unbearable,” he said. “The idea of preventive war needs to be treated as the most abhorrent possibility. Any idea of introducing this into a conventional basket of strategic options is a fantasy.”
Chun and Osnos also said that increasing diplomatic relations with North Korea is the most clear-cut way to solve this issue.
“The policy the White House is doing now is continuing to up pressure on Pyongyang,” Osnos told the crowd. “Strangle Pyongyang not to the point of regime collapse, but to the point that the leaders themselves conclude that there is no other option than for them to sit down at the negotiation table.”
Jane Vaynman, an assistant professor of political science, moderated the Q&A portion of the lecture. Attendees were able to ask questions to the representatives about the North Korean conflict.
Philadelphia resident Chris Hefner attended the lecture and spoke to the crowd during the Q&A session.
“I think it’s very important to have these discussions,” Hefner said. “When I was in high school, the professors refused to teach us about Vietnam. We had to learn it ourselves.”
“I liked getting the Korean perspective on things, rather than what we get from our government currently,” said junior communications studies major Avery Souders.
Osnos also sees importance in talking about foreign policy with college students.
“It’s intimately interwoven with [students’] futures,” Osnos told The Temple News after the event. “It affects how you vote. If there’s anything we’ve all absorbed over the past months is that the decisions we make as voters whether we’re 18 or 40 matter.”
“We have a massive amount of power as individuals to shape policy fundamentally,” he added.
Chun ended the event with a call to action.
“You Americans have great power, and with that you have great responsibility,” Chun told The Temple News. “If you are in a position where you are making a decision that affects not only the United States, but affects smaller countries, please, make it with moral courage.”
“I am begging you to learn more about the situation, and make knowledgeable decisions,” he added.
The Office of International Affairs’ lecture series is part of Vice President Hai-Lung Dai’s initiatives to improve the office since he returned to the university in July. The next lecture will take place in the late fall semester or early spring and will focus on antisemitism.