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00707012
2012.06
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‘The Korea-U.S. Partnership in a Time of hallenge’Wilson Center Head Harman Addresses the 42nd KF Forum

Jane Harman, president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, delivered a lecture on “The Korea-U.S. Partnership in a Time of Challenge” at the 42nd KF Forum held in Seoul on April 23. The first female head of the Washington-based U.S. think tank, Harman impressed a capacity audience of domestic opinion leaders with her lucid and insightful presentation. The forum was jointly organized by the Korea Foundation and Kyungnam University.

Enhancing the Prestige of the Center

Woodrow Wilson was the first U.S. president who held a doctorate degree. Established to honor his career as a scholar-cum-politician, the Woodrow Wilson International Center has remarkably improved its status as a live, proactive think tank instead of remaining a fossilized presidential museum since Harman took the helm as its leader in February 2011. This has been possible due to policy development that placed a clear focus on comprehensive research. As a result, the Wilson Center is undertaking research projects that can be differentiated from those of the Brookings Institution or the Heritage Foundation.

Especially noteworthy in this regard is the center’s North Korea International Documentation Project (NKIDP). The NKIDP, coordinated by Kyungnam University and funded by the Korea Foundation, offers a fresh perspective for understanding North Korea and provides a basis for assessing North Korea’s current thinking, through a process of investigating the declassified diplomatic documents of those countries which maintained permanent missions in Pyongyang, such as East Germany, Romania and the Czech Republic. There can be few research processes that are more objective and reasonable than examining unexcavated material to help broaden the scope of new research and understanding of North Korea.

The unique experience and background of President Wilson himself as a political scientist and historian probably served as a foundation for this project of gathering and analyzing North Korea-related documents. The significance of academic cooperation and exchange between Korea and the Woodrow Wilson Center in regard to modern Korean history, from the tremendous influence of the principle of self-determination, declared by President Wilson at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, on Korean independence movement to research on North Korea, will continue to be consolidated with the passage of time.

Political Insight from Long Legislative Experience

The Korea-U.S. Partnership in a Time of hallenge’Wilson Center Head Harman Addresses the 42nd KF ForumJane Harman, a former U.S. House representative (Los Angeles, California) for nine terms, served on the House’s Armed Services, Intelligence, and Homeland Security committees for 18 years. As such, she is considered a valuable source of information on international relations for the Obama administration. In particular, she played a key role in the passage of the “Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act” in 2004, under which the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) was installed to direct, oversee, and coordinate 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Defense Intelligence Agency. Now, as the leader of the Woodrow Wilson International Center which exerts considerable influence on real politics through its 150 or so senior-level researchers and 22 projects/programs, Harman can possibly come up with a precise and thoughtful view to address North Korean issues by applying her political insight cultivated through her long legislative career and combining policy measures and research findings.

Harman repeatedly emphasized this point in her presentation on “The Korea-U.S. Partnership in a Time of Challenge.” Her lecture apparently assessed the outcomes of the Obama administration’s East Asia policies, including those related to the North Korean nuclear issue, and discussed Korea-U.S. cooperation to manage various regional issues in a stable manner while moving forward. However, her talk was actually focused on North Korea, a despotic garrison state isolated from the rest of the world, in view of the growing possibility of a regime collapse due to a democratic revolution by the North Korean people.

Particularly, Harman expressed skepticism as to how long North Korea would be able to intercept information amidst the development of information and communication technology and the widespread distribution of social network services (SNS). As witnessed in the “Arab Spring,” things could quickly spin out of control when the North Korean people recognize the unfairness and irrationality of their situation. Therefore, she foresaw that the wind of change would reach North Korea in the not so distant future.

In this regard, Harman asserted that a consolidation of the Korea-U.S. alliance is needed more than anything else to prepare for possible change in the regional circumstances. Pointing out that Korea is one of the countries President Obama has visited most, she called for Korea to make more efforts along with the United States to open the doors of North Korean society. She commended Korea’s role as a “major player” in the global community, which has been proven by its successful hosting of the second Nuclear Security Summit.

Choi Deok-kyu, Researcher
Northeast Asian History Foundation

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