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Korea Economic Institute presents

Inter-Korean reconciliation and the role of the U.S.: Facilitator or Spoiler?

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Event Date

April 21st 9:00am - 10:00am EST

Event Location

Livestreamed via YouTube

Gabriela Bernal
PhD candidate
University of North Korean Studies
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Kyle Ferrier
Fellow and Director of Academic Affairs
Korea Economic Institute of America
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Event Video
Key Points
  • Since the Korean War, North Korea’s primary objective has been deterring the United States: “[U.S. interventions abroad] plays a big role in North Korea’s psychology, and [it] reconfirms North Korea’s original fears of US being evil regime that wants to overthrow weaker state.”
  • South Korea has attempted to restore inter-Korean relations through dialogue since the 1990s. But, the United States always held the key to playing either facilitator or spoiler in inter-Korean relations and nuclear crisis: “There is a huge need, practically a requirement for U.S. cooperation to be present… because without any U.S. cooperation, South Korea is very limited in what it can do, especially nowadays with sanctions… The United States can be both a facilitator and spoiler. What role it plays depends on its own relations with North Korea at any given moment.”
  • Therefore, both the U.S. and South Korea should coordinate on diplomatic solution based on reciprocity and trust-building: “Both Seoul and Washington need to be willing to engage and pursue diplomacy with North Korea… Then it is important that for the United States to adopt a more holistic policy towards North Korea centered around trust-building and reciprocity.”
Event Description

Despite the efforts of several South Korean administrations in recent decades, the two Koreas have been unable to make lasting progress towards reconciliation. While many factors influence inter-Korean diplomacy, one of the most significant outside of the peninsula is the view from the United States. Washington’s approach towards North Korea between and even within administrations has varied widely, often affecting Seoul’s attempts to reach a diplomatic breakthrough with Pyongyang.

As South Korean President Moon Jae-in prepares to leave office, please join KEI and emerging North Korea expert Gabriela Bernal for a discussion covering under what conditions Washington has facilitated or slowed Seoul’s initiatives towards Pyongyang in the past and what this suggests for ultimately reaching the successful long-term reconciliation of the two Koreas.