3/28 Beyond the Nuclear Issue in North Korea

Wednesday, March 28th, 8:00 am-5:30 pm

The Elliott School of International Affairs, Lindner Commons, Room 602.

This conference is co-sponsored by The National Committee on North Korea and the GW Institute for Korean Studies.  

This series is made possible thanks to generous funding by the Henry Luce Foundation.


8:00-9:00 – Doors Open & Registration Coffee and light refreshments served

9:00-9:20 – Welcome and Introduction

Linda Yarr, PISA, “Why look beyond the nuclear issue in trying to understand NK?”

James Person, NCNK, “The National Committee on North Korea: Its Goals and Principles”

9:20-10:40 – Exploring North Korean History and Literature, Maggie Nelsen, Moderator

Meredith Shaw, University of Southern California. “Springtime, Youth, Modernity and Family:  Evolving Propaganda Narratives in New DPRK State Fiction”

André Schmid, University of Toronto. “The North Korean State – Our Shared Myths”

Immanuel Kim, University of Binghamton, “Interruptive Laughter in Comedy Film My Family’s Problem”

James Person, Johns Hopkins University, “De-constructing Myths in North Korea’s Political, Diplomatic, and Ideological History”

10:40-11:00 – Coffee Break

11:00-12:20 – The Arts, Sports, and Media in North Korea, Daniel Wertz, NCNK, Moderator

B.G. Muhn, Georgetown University, “The Contemporaneity in North Korean Art, Chosonhwa”

George Vitale, International Taekwondo Federation,“Taekwon-Do – Opening Doors In & Out Of NK Since 1980”

Darcie Draudt, Johns Hopkins University, “Media Representations of Women in the DPRK”

12:20-1:40 – Lunch and Keynote Address: Jon Brause, World Food Programme

Gregg Brazinsky, GWIKS, Moderator

1:40-3:20 – Humanitarian Engagement with the DPRK, Esther Im, NCNK, Moderator

Randall Spadoni, World Vision, “The Humanitarian Imperative and North Korea.”

Andrew Yeo, Catholic University, “The Limits and Possibilities of People-to-People Engagement”

Daniel Jasper, American Friends Service Committee, “Engaging North Korea: Breaking the Conflict Cycle”

Jessica Lee, Council of Korean Americans, “Korean American Community’s Perspective on US-North Korea relations”

3:20-3:40 – Break

3:40-5:00 – Academic & Science Engagement with the DPRK, Linda J Yarr, Moderator

Frederick Carrière, Syracuse University, “Syracuse University’s Academic Exchanges with the DPRK: Premature or Preempted?”

Kyung-Ae Park, University of British Columbia, “Soft Power and Academic Engagement with North Korea”

Norma Nichols, Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, “PUST as an Agent of Peace.”

5:00-5:30 – Wrap Up and Next Steps: Daniel Wertz, NCNK


On Wednesday, March 28th Partnerships for International Strategies in Asia (PISA), and the Institute for Korean Studies (IKS), both at the Elliott School of International Affairs at GW University, hosted a unique conference in co-sponsorship with the National Committee on North Korea (NCNK), entitled, ‘Beyond Nuclear Issues in North Korea’. The day’s four different panels took a deep dive into Korean history, art, literature, educational exchange, and humanitarian assistance, unveiling the important and enlightening nuances of Korean culture often lost on security stakeholders. In a town saturated with geopolitical analysts, ‘Beyond Nuclear’ conference offered many in Washington an opportunity to learn from the academic experts and practitioners with direct experience in North Korea and with North Koreans, to better understand the Korean peninsula and its people.


The first panel focused on history of Korea through various sources of information–DPRK state-sponsored literature, modern North Korean cinematic comedy, and declassified archives between North Korea and its former allies. The rich introductory panel brought together experts from Washington and across the country, including Meredith Shaw, James Person, Immanuel Kim, and Andre Schmid, who laid a strong framework for the rest of the day’s discussions. The morning continued with the arts and sports diplomacy session. A diverse group of scholars and practitioners presented, including George Vitale, international leader of Taekwondo exchanges between the U.S. and North Korea, Darcie Draudt, doctoral researcher studying government sponsored K-pop, and Washington artist and professor, B.G. Muhn, presenting on Chosonhwa art as DPRK propaganda tool.


PISA, IKS, and NCNK welcomed Jon Brause from the Washington Office of the World Food Programme to offer the keynote speech. Brause provided an overview of WFP’s vital food aid programs in North Korea, emphasizing throughout his remarks the importance of isolating aid from security negotiations or agreements. In Brause’s remarks, he insisted food aid pledges and terms of delivery, with proper monitoring, must be made absolute and unconditional of external political tensions. The keynote address from WFP served as a smooth transition to our first afternoon panel on humanitarian engagement in the DPRK. Randall Spadoni spoke on behalf of World Vision’s operations in the DPRK and Dan Jasper presented on American Friends Service Committee’s long-standing food aid presence in North Korea. Andrew Yeo of Catholic University of America shared is research and findings on people-to-people humanitarian engagement in North Korea. All speakers emphasized the importance of long-term on-the-ground presence humanitarian engagement in laying the groundwork for both relationship and physical infrastructure for future diplomacy and eventual opening of North Korea.


The Beyond Nuclear Issues in North Korea conference culminated with a panel on academic exchange between US, Canada and North Korea. Frederick Carriere of Syracuse University discussed his program of academic exchange with the DPRK; similarly, Kyung-Ae Park of University of British Columbia presented an overview of her faculty exchange program between Canada and North Korea. Finally, Norma Nichols of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) discussed the transformation of North Korean students who attend PUST–comprised of Western faculty and teaching. Daniel Wertz of NCNK offered closing remarks to synthesize the day’s insights and discussion of understanding North Korea beyond the nuclear issue. The conference was a great success in bringing together a diverse group of scholars and practitioners with special knowledge and understanding of a people and regime very perplexing to the West.

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