Sammis Lecture Series Presents “North Korea: State, Society, and Geopolitics”

Sammis Lecture:
North Korean and East Asia politics attract record crowd at Sammis Lecture Series.

On Wednesday, September 27, 2017, four UB professors with extensive East Asian experience presented the very timely topic, “North Korea: State, Society, and Geopolitics,” in the duPont Tower Room of the Arnold Bernhard Center (ABC Building). Sponsored by the Sammis Lecture Series, the event drew in over 150 undergraduate and graduate students, professors, and interested individuals.

Panelists included:

  • Dr. Steve Jackowicz, Assistant Clinical Professor at the Acupuncture Institute
  • Dr. Chunjuan Nancy Wei, Chair of the East Asian and Pacific Rim Studies Graduate Program
  • Dr. Linda Hasunuma, Visiting Professor of Political Science
  • Dr. Thomas Ward, Dean of the College of Public and International Affairs.

The panelists presented on a wide range of topics covering the structure of the state, society, and geopolitics of North Korea. Dr. Jackowicz, who has lived and studied in both Korea and China, reasoned that North Korea should be understood by the United States not as a communist dictatorship but rather as a racial theocracy that deifies its leaders and emphasizes the purity and thus the preeminence of Korean people as being therefore of a privileged background.

Dr. Wei argued that North Korea’s position as a geopolitical buffer zone between China and the United States and an arena of competition between the United States, China, and Russia are the underlying forces contributing to China’s isolation of North Korea, despite being its closest ally. Dr. Hasunuma contended that shifting dynamics in the relationships as well as historical and emerging conflicts among the United States, Japan, and South Korea potentially compromise their ability to have a strong and united stance on the North Korean issue. Dr. Ward, who visited North Korea in 1992 as part of a Track II diplomatic mission, asserted that the age of the United States guaranteeing nuclear non-proliferation has clearly passed, and that, as a hedge against the acquisition of nuclear weapons by potentially hostile and irrational actors, the United States must develop cyber, land, and space-based defensive capabilities.

The last half-hour of the event was set aside for questions, and audience members were visibly engaged and eager to deepen their understandings. Questions were fielded from various perspectives, including:

  • Assessing the possibility of war resulting from increased tensions
  • The effect of Korean popular ideologies regarding the role of Korea in relation to the world
  • The impact of disrespectful rhetoric on North Korean leadership
  • The similarities and differences between North Korea and Israel as small nuclear states
  • The development of North Korean nuclear capabilities representing a  further challenge to the Pax Americana in the Pacific

Panelists collaborated with one another to leverage their individual and collective expertise and provided the audience with a variety of insights to questions asked, stimulating further thought and opening avenues of inquiry. Following the successful conclusion of the event, panelists and audience members mingled and further discussed the North Korean issue and possible American responses.