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North Korea: Challenges and Opportunities Conference

On March 1, 2017 St. Mary’s University hosted the North Korea: Challenges and Opportunities conference featuring experts from around the globe. The program delved into timely issues about North Korea’s military, international community, engagement and diplomacy.

This program was made possible thanks to the support Megan Mustain, Interim Dean of Graduate Studies; Larry Hufford, Ph.D., St. Mary’s Chair of the Department of International Relations and Professor of Political Science; Kathleen Worthington, Administrative Assistant; and our sponsors.

A Message About the Conference

by Larry Hufford, Ph.D.

North Korea and Northeast Asia represent the greatest security threat in the world today. North Korea is a nuclear power and has recently developed the capability of delivering a “second strike” nuclear delivery. North Korea has a million man army with an estimated 200,000 highly-trained special operations soldiers. With the recent assassination of Kim Jong Un’s stepbrother in Malaysia, the world now has definitive proof that North Korea has chemical and nuclear weapons. North Korea is also the world’s most repressive regime, yet there are university students being sent abroad to study business and entrepreneurialism. Over 160 nations diplomatically recognize North Korea. The United States does not have diplomatic relations, but has an agreement to work through the Swedish Embassy when issues arise. The Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the United States have a close relationship, strong economic ties, and a defense agreement linking the two countries in case of aggression. Foreign policy options are limited. For the U.S. and South Korea to threaten the use of military force is an option fraught with danger. Rapid regime change is not a policy option supported by South Korea, Japan, China, Russia, or the United States. If rapid regime change were to occur, the Republic of Korea and the United States would want to immediately move to control the situation. However, China would also move to control the situation and this could lead to armed conflict on the Northeast Asian peninsula. China does not want to see a united Korea that is democratic and hostile to China. If rapid change were to occur, what would be the plan to contain North Korea’s military might? With the poverty in North Korea, rapid change would lead to the greatest humanitarian crisis the world has experienced. South Korea and the United States has a contingency plan to try to gain control of North Korea’s nuclear force in the case of rapid regime change, but China would also want to gain control. Finally, if rapid regime change occurred, there is no assurance that a new government would move toward western-style democracy. It is likely that a new regime would remain authoritarian and be pro-Chinese.

The Graduate International Relations Department’s Conference on North Korea brought together leading scholars and researchers from across the United States. This was the first conference on North Korea’s security threat in South Central Texas. With the importance of the U.S. military in San Antonio and strengthening of economic ties with Japan and South Korea, this was a very timely conference. This illustrates the fact that St. Mary’s University is preparing students to serve the United States and/or multinational corporations globally. One of the key organizers of the conference was William Newcomb who received his M.A. in Economics from St. Mary’s. He has specialized in analyzing North Korea for 30 years and has chaired an interagency governmental committee analyzing North Korea’s nuclear program, its organized syndicates, the counterfeiting of U.S. currency, and the global laundering of money and drugs. When he left the U.S. government, Mr. Newcomb served on the United Nations Security Council Panel of Experts on North Korea. Another participant was Ambassador Thomas Hart Armbruster who received his M.A. in International Relations from St. Mary’s University.

Missed the conference?

We invite you to listen to three of our panelists featured on Texas Public Radio. In a way, it was a preview of our conference.

Click here to listen.

Schedule of Events

 Here’s an overview of the topics discussed at this special event.

Panel 1: North Korea’s Military

Panel Introduction by Moderator
Mark Tokola
Vice President, Korea Economic Institute of America

Presentation: The North Korean Military Threat
General John Tilelli
Former Commander, United States Forces Korea

Presentation: North Korean Proliferation
Bruce E. Bechtol, Jr., Ph.D.
Professor of Political Science, Angelo State University

Discussants:
Thomas J. Bellows, Ph.D.
Full Professor, University of Texas at San Antonio

William Taylor, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Security Studies, Angelo State University

Keynote Presentation

Keynote Introduction by Moderator
Seongbae Lim, Ph.D.
Full Professor of Information Systems and Chair of the Department of Finance and Quantitative Management, St. Mary’s University

Keynote Presentation: Alternate Strategies for Peaceful Regime Evolution in North Korea
Min Cho, Ph.D.
President of Peace Academy, Peace Foundation

Keynote Q&A Session

Panel 2: North Korea and the International Community

Panel Introduction by Moderator
Ambassador Thomas Hart Armbruster (M.A. ’03)
Former Ambassador to the Republic of the Marshall Islands, U.S. Department of State

Presentation: The North Korean Human Rights Conundrum
Greg Scarlatoiu
Executive Director, The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea

Presentation: Sanctions Regimes and North Korea
William Newcomb (M.A. ’67)
Former United Nations Official, United Nations Security Council

Discussants:
Troy Stangarone
Senior Director of Congressional Affairs and Trade, Korea Economic Institute

Anthony Bartl, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Political Science, Angelo State University

Panel 3: Engagement and Diplomacy

Panel Introduction by Moderator
Seongbae Lim, Ph.D.

Presentation: The American North Korea Engagement Strategy
Keith Luse
Executive Director, National Committee on North Korea

Presentation: Engagement, Diplomacy, and North Korea’s Neighbors
Chris Griffin
Executive Director, Foreign Policy Initiative

Discussants:
Rosa Park
Director of Programs and Editor, Committee for Human Rights in North Korea

Stephen Noerper, Ph.D.
Senior Director, Korea Society
Adjunct Associate Professor, Columbia University
Fellow, Pacific Forum CSIS and Weatherhead East Asia Institute


This event was sponsored by St. Mary’s University, Institute for the Study of Asian Development; Angelo State University; Korea Economic Institute; and The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.

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