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Introduction | National Identities and the Future of North Korea
Published February 29, 2016
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North Korea is a country easy to approach emotionally. For anyone with even a little twinge of conscience toward human rights, it evokes disgust. For many in South Korea, who recognize that there but for an accident of history they would be, it evokes pity. Finally, for others who viscerally despise U.S. self-righteousness amid efforts to judge good and bad in other societies, it evokes defensive forgiveness. To manage North Korea’s growing danger to the region and the world as well as the complex diplomatic jockeying of states toward North Korea demands sober analysis. It also requires clear awareness of how thinking has been evolving in South Korea—where national identity greatly influences how people want to treat defectors from the North; in North Korea—where family ties and national identity influence the way mobile phones and money transfers link defectors to those they left behind; and in Japan, where national identity complicates realist thinking toward North Korea and toward Russia as a force in Northeast Asia. Whereas defectors stand at the center of our coverage in two papers concerning contacts across the peninsula and attitudes in South Korea, Japan is approached differently as a country wrestling with the challenge of a realist foreign policy under the shadow of revisionist hopes.

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