My Arirang TV and eFM radio interviews on the September 2018 Inter-Korean summit

Arirang TV, Sept. 18, 2018 (Seoul time; Sept. 17, New York time):

Arirang TV, Sept. 20, 2018 (Seoul time; Sept. 19 New York time):

Arirang TV, Sept. 25, 2018 (Seoul time; Sept. 24 New York time):

And here is my Sept. 20, 2018 (Seoul time; Sept. 19 New York time) radio interview with Alex Jensen of tbs’s eFM (Seoul) program, “This Morning” (my segment begins at the 7:30 minute mark):

My thanks to both Arirang TV News and eFM radio for the opportunity to share my views before an audience that seriously considers Korean affairs.


My Arirang TV interview on Panmunjom as a site for Trump-Kim summit; BBC World Service interview; Mike Lee iTunes podcast

My Arirang TV interview was broadcast on April 29, 2018 ET (April 30, 2018 Seoul time):

This was recorded before President Trump announced that his summit with Kim Jong Un would be held in Singapore on June 12.

Also, here is my March 27, 2018 BBC World Service “Newsday” program interview on Kim Jong Un’s meeting in Beijing with Xi Jinping (aired March 28 GMT):

And listen to my comments in the first episode of Mike Lee’s excellent iTunes podcast series, “Korea Stories You Never Heard,” dealing with the early history of U.S.-Korea contact and relations:

Partial list of Americans who met Kim Il Sung

DPRK President Kim Il Sung (1912-94) is said to have met thousands of foreigners, but few Americans. Those Americans include:

Affiliation at time of meeting; year(s) met; (d) = deceased

• Harrison Salisbury, New York Times (interview with Kim), (article), 1972 (d)
• John M. Lee, New York Times, 1972 (d)
• Selig Harrison, Washington Post (article and interview with Kim), 1972, Carnegie Endowment, 1994 (d)
• Rep. Stephen Solarz, 1980, 1991 (d)
• Ralph Clough, SAIS, 1980, 1991 (d)
• Stanley O. Roth, House Foreign Affairs Committee, 1991 [likely met Kim as he accompanied Solarz; Roth as Assistant Secretary of State for EAP also met Kim Jong Il in 2000]
• Rev. Billy Graham (with Dr. Stephen Linton and other members of the Graham delegations) 1992, 1994 (for Graham’s accounts of meeting Kim, see Ch. 34 in Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham) (d)
• Former Rep. Richard Ichord, American Freedom Coalition (AFC), 1992 (d)
• Former Rep. Bob Mathias, AFC, 1992 (d)
• Amb. Douglas MacArthur II (the General’s nephew and namesake), AFC, 1992 (d)
• Max Hugel, former Deputy Director, CIA; AFC, 1992 (d)
• [The AFC delegation that met Kim in May-June 1992 included 40 participants, among them former U.S. congressmen, governors and other senior officials]
• Dr. Robert Grant, AFC, 1992
• Gary Jarmin, AFC, 1992
• Dr. Thomas J. Ward, AFC, 1992
• Larry R. Moffitt, AFC, 1992
• Dr. William J. Taylor, Jr., CSIS, 1992, 1994 (d)
Josette Sheerhan, Washington Times, 1992 (article and interview with Kim), 1994 (written interview with Kim)
• Vicki Yokota, Washington Times, 1992
• Rep. Gary Ackerman, 1993
• [Ackerman was accompanied by two congressional staffers, and State’s Kenneth Quinones (see his report)]
• Dr. C. Kenneth Quinones, State Dept., 1993
• Eason Jordan, VP, CNN International, 1994 (twice in April & June)
• Mike Chinoy, CNN, 1992, 1994 (see Ch. 11 of China Live: People Power and the Television Revolution)
• Lt. Col. James G. Zumwalt (USMC, Ret.), 1994
• Dr. Antonio Betancourt, Summit Council, 1992, 1994 (5 times total)*
• Dr. William Selig, Summit Council, 1992 [also met Kim Jong Il]
Dr. Mark P. Barry, Summit Council, 1994
• Former President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter, 1994
• Richard A. Christenson, State Dept., 1994
• Nancy Konigsmark, Carter Center, 1994 (d)
• Amb. Marion Creekmore, Carter Center, 1994

*=also attended Kim Il Sung’s funeral in July 1994, and twice met Kim Jong Il

Does not include the names of any U.S. citizens who were part of CNN’s crews in its 1992 and 1994 visits in which they met Kim Il Sung, nor the names of any Communist Party USA (AKFIC) members who may have met Kim (AKFIC at least got a written response to interview questions); CPUSA head Gus Hall once received a box of presents from Kim. For names of several Korean-Americans who met Kim, likely among at least dozens, please confer Dr. Myers’ comments below.  

On Trump – or any sitting president – meeting Kim Jong Un: The importance of senior-level engagement

This week, Donald Trump has been criticized for saying if elected president he would be willing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. While this is ample fodder for social media and soundbite newscasts, it is foolhardy to disparage the value of direct contact and negotiation with the top leader of North Korea. Unlike other countries, in North Korea if the top leader makes a strategic decision in a public manner, then the echelons of leadership must fall into line.

We should remember that former President Jimmy Carter met Kim Il Sung in 1994 in the conviction it would be a mistake for the U.S. not to negotiate with the main leader of an adversarial and despised nation who alone could resolve a serious issue. Although Carter went as a private citizen, Kim Il Sung received him almost as if he were the sitting president. Also, President Clinton wanted to go to Pyongyang before the end of his term in January 2001 (and after meeting Vice Marshal Jo Myong-rok, the North’s #2, in the White House in October 2000) but was unable to do so mainly because of 36 days of uncertainty as to who won the 2000 presidential election and because the United States had not concluded negotiations on a missile agreement with the North.


KPA Vice Marshal Jo Myong-rok met President Bill Clinton at the White House in October 2000.

President Barack Obama meets with former President Bill Clinton in the Situation Room of the White House, including (from left ) NSC Senior Director for Asian Affairs Ambassador Jeff Bader, Deputy National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, NSC Advisor General Jim Jones and Vice President Joe Biden, August 18, 2009 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This official White House photograph is being made available for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way or used in materials, advertisements, products, or promotions that in any way suggest approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met with former President Bill Clinton, after his return from North Korea, in the Situation Room of the White House, August 18, 2009 (official White House photo).

As a former President, Bill Clinton did meet Kim Jong Il in August 2009 in the process of retrieving two American journalists detained by the North. When he then reported to President Obama about his recent trip to the North in the Situation Room in the White House (see photo above), it was about as close as the Obama administration got to senior-level negotiation with the North. Otherwise, we’ve had nearly eight years of “strategic patience.” There have been some Track II dialogues; a few well-known North Korea experts spent extended time in Pyongyang; and yes, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper went to Pyongyang in November 2014 to retrieve two more American detainees — but nothing like from mid-2005 when Assistant Secretary Christopher Hill and others at least had ongoing dialogue with their counterparts from the North.

Of course, government-to-government contact on the bureaucratic level is always important and necessary. But probably more than any other country, North Korea’s regime dynamics don’t work like the rest of the world. North Korea is a country run as a family dynasty. When Kim Jong Un publicly makes a major decision, there can be no outward dissent among the elite. Bureaucratic politics always play a part in North Korea, but a strategic decision made by the top leader is not subject to challenge by his subordinates.

Frankly, after the Workers Party Congress held earlier this month, Kim Jong Un is more secure than ever in his leadership. This is a very good argument for senior-level engagement by the Obama administration or the next administration, whether Trump or Hillary Clinton.

Back in 2005, after the September 19th Joint Statement, my colleagues in Washington articulated three main principles that should undergird American efforts to engage and negotiate with North Korea. These principles were based on significant contact with senior North Korean officials since the early 1990s. While that was 11 years ago, and it can be argued much has changed since then, these principles seem to me no less relevant today as a decade ago. I have adapted them below:

1. North Korea insists that for its society’s political culture, senior-level engagement is first needed to resolve the nuclear issue. Through meetings between the top DPRK leader and a senior U.S. leader (i.e., the President or his/her authorized senior representative like the Secretary of State), a relationship can be made and general agreement reached. Detailed talks at lower levels can then proceed based on the framework established at the top. When the necessary trust is established with the top leader himself and he publicly gives his word, then, in DPRK political culture, he must fulfill what he promised because his word signifies the utmost commitment to his people, which he cannot break. The U.S., to be successful, must obtain his personal assurance.

North Korean denuclearization requires a firm guarantee of DPRK security. Without such a guarantee, the DPRK feels it is being asked to strip naked and be defenseless. To them, nuclear weapons are a means of guaranteeing the nation’s security. But an alternative, minimal security guarantee also can come, they believe, through converting an enemy into a friend. Friendship, or normal relations, between the two countries, can be secured through engagement of the senior leadership. U.S. diplomats, in international relations, represent the authority of the nation’s senior leadership, but this is not well-accepted in North Korea’s unique political culture.

The U.S. should not unwarrantedly reward North Korea. But due to its regime structure, North Korea’s ability to comply in strategic matters is paralyzed without prior senior-level engagement. Because of differences in political culture and dynamics, future progress with the DPRK is likely to be impeded, where North Korea may either boycott future talks or its negotiators will over-demonstrate regime loyalty by making endless demands, appealing to hardline military elements in their leadership.

Engaging the North on a senior level also separates the DPRK top leader from objecting hardliners, providing him maneuvering room to undertake a more practical direction rather than prolong ideological confrontation. While no senior representative of the United States should journey to Pyongyang to be exploited by the North, there are innovative ways senior-level engagement can be accomplished without risk.

2. The U.S. should adopt a policy of embracing equally both Koreas. China has relations with each Korea. The U.S. should also have normal relations and influence with both Koreas. South Korea, our alliance partner since 1954, already somewhat distanced itself from the U.S. in recent years; it can happen again. Normalizing American relations with North Korea will in fact help prevent the North from achieving its ambition of overrunning or causing upheaval in the South. U.S. help in the improvement of North Korea’s overall position can also serve to improve North Korean human rights. It is in the U.S. interest to recognize an outstretched hand, if and when offered, and grasp it while holding onto the ROK’s as well.

The U.S. should promote change through participation and engagement, rather than confrontation and punishment, for the survival of the Korean peninsula. Otherwise, the U.S. can lose influence in the entire Korean peninsula.

3. To deal effectively with North Korea, the United States must prioritize its issues in addressing them to the North. We should not at the same time pressure North Korea on denuclearization, its illegal activities and human rights violations — even though they are separate matters — because simultaneous demands cause them to overreact and perceive these as signals of possible steps toward war. By making multiple demands at the same time, they panic that the overwhelming pressures are intended to cause their system to collapse. The DPRK then digs in its heels and becomes belligerent. Instead, the U.S. should first resolve the nuclear issue. Then it can more effectively and naturally deal with the vital issues of human rights and criminal activities.

North Korea requires an approach of firmness and discipline, coupled with fairness, rather than disengagement and confrontation. No matter how rightly motivated, a policy of confrontation risks pushing North Korea to the brink, with potential destruction to the entire Korean peninsula as the unintended consequence.♦

This article will appear in updated form as a commentary in the September 2016 issue of the International Journal of World Peace.

Dr. Barry first guest on the “North Korea Podcast by Jack Hands”


sbtEhyx6_400x400Dr. Mark P. Barry was the first guest on the new weekly “North Korea Podcast by Jack Hands,” speaking on North Korean sanctions and meeting Kim Il Sung with a Summit Council delegation. It is available on iTunes or you can listen to it at the embedded link above.

Follow Jack’s podcast on Twitter here. His podcast is now hosted by the esteemed The Diplomat site.

From War to Peace: A Permanent Solution to the Korean Question

“From War to Peace: A Permanent Solution to the Korean Question,” by the late Amb. Woonsang Choi of Kyunghee University. Reposted from the International Journal of World Peace, March 2007, of which Dr. Barry is Associate Editor.

‘Gorbify,’ ‘Cubify’ and Wi-Fi: An alternative road map to Korean reunification

Raul Castro-Obama

Cuban President Raul Castro meeting President Obama in 2015.

[Worth re-reading Mansourov’s article from last fall at this time of heightened tensions in Korea, while Obama has announced his trip to Cuba in March. Reposted from The Washington Times, October 15, 2015]

By Alexandre Mansourov

Independence, military-first, and socialism — these were the slogans under which, on Oct. 10, North Korea lavishly marked the 70th founding anniversary of its ruling party — the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) that ruled the northern half of the Korean peninsula with an iron fist for almost seven decades. Just a single word was uttered about the prospect of unification of the Korean nation along the lines of if we go or they come — the single-hearted unity and force of arms will be our only allies.

Independence, military-first, and socialism — these were the slogans under which, on Oct. 10, North Korea lavishly marked the 70th founding anniversary of its ruling party — the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) that ruled the northern half of the Korean peninsula with an iron fist for almost seven decades. Just a single word was uttered about the prospect of unification of the Korean nation along the lines of if we go or they come — the single-hearted unity and force of arms will be our only allies.

The current North Korean regime does not want Korean unification. We should make no mistake about that. Pyongyang has too many problems of its own: the backward and stagnant economy, the hollowing out military, growing international censure and diplomatic isolation. The recognition of this harsh reality forced its leadership to put on the back burner its long-cherished dream of “communizing” or “turning red” South Korea through the expansion of the Juch’e revolution by war to the southern half: the Kim regime is simply not able or willing to unify the peninsula even on the terms acceptable to the North.

Hence, the aging one party dictatorship wants to stay independent and be left alone so that it can continue to run its garrison state as it wishes and to rule the people of North Korea without any foreign interference. And if the sovereign government of the DPRK which officially represents the North Korean people as recognized by the United Nations and the international community publicly says no to the unification call, then any South Korean attempts to unify the peninsula without its consent may be interpreted as a raw land grab by an aggressive neighbor, no matter what moral, historical and national security justifications its territorial claims may be based on.

The DPRK is not a problem that will solve itself. The Republic of Korea and the United States must show leadership and be more creative than just to deter, neglect or intervene in North Korea. To deter and contain is tantamount to simply business as usual with no prospect for shaping change inside the North at this crucial time of transition. To neglect or disengage is equal to doing nothing, yielding the playing field to others at the expense of the allied interests on the peninsula. To intervene is potentially extremely costly, painful, and unnecessary, whatever the rationale for and/or method of intervention. The only right choice is to follow the Reagan model, vigorously engage and press hard the enemy across all lines of contact because proactive multifaceted engagement offers the most potential for effecting a fundamental change in the North’s behavior, although it may be politically difficult to advocate in Washington.

Opponents of engagement assert that all deals Washington has ever made with Pyongyang have been broken, nothing sticks, be it the last century’s Geneva Agreed Framework or the latest “Leap Day agreement.” But, this is almost natural, given the complete lack of mutual trust and deeply-seated insecurity on both sides. It does take a village and a leap of faith to bridge the existing divides between our countries. Disengagement and preaching to the choir have failed so far and will bear no fruit in the future.

In contrast, President Park’s hallmark “trustpolitik” envisioning constant probing, direct negotiation and bargaining without any preconditions is the right approach to facilitate a new beginning in the long-stalled South-North Korea relationship, because it is designed to develop mutual trust and respect, extend the shadow of the future and increase potential gains from cooperation while raising the price of provocations. The “trustpolitik” is aimed at encouraging responsible behavior and frustrating threatening behavior in the strategic field, which is a good enough reason in its own right to justify engagement with Pyongyang.

North Korea is a learning, thinking, and increasingly open, receptive, and diverse system. We, too, need to learn to leverage the growing transparency, responsiveness, and multi-mindedness of the North Korean system by directly reaching out to Kim Jong Un and other important actors and communities a la President Obama’s new Cuba policy, enlarging a constituency for change inside the DPRK, accelerating our message distribution, and seeking to influence the new socio-economic forces and agents of change, especially the supreme leader. Even despite their cyber threats, we need to open the Internet doors widely to the North Koreans, not to block their access to the World Wide Web.

Seoul should encourage the emergence and growth of those agents of political change in the DPRK who are proud pan-Korean patriots, not xenophobic North Korean nationalists, and who are interested in reunification, not independence. The ROK government needs to offer a new “Northern Partnership” to the North Korean elites by combining its “trustpolitik” diplomacy with the peninsular version of its traditional “Nordpolitik” approach. The “Northern Partnership” is an alternative model of the common pan-Korean future to be achieved via inter-Korean reconciliation and integration (a la the EU “Eastern Partnership” project), which should replace its current approach based on the avalanche-style unification by absorption.

The West embraced Gorbachev, and now the Soviet Union is no more. The West embraced Deng Xiaoping, and now China is a lot more capitalist and a lot less communist. We need to “Cubify” (apply our new Cuba model to) North Korea and “Gorbify” Kim Jong Un, not blockade it and vilify him. It is in the interest of the ROK and United States to relieve the pressure off Pyongyang and energetically engage its new leadership in order to take away any justification for their siege mentality. We need to find a way to shape Mr. Kim’s new thinking and guide his behavior toward better ends. Seoul and Washington should seek to exploit the new opportunities presented by Kim Jong Un’s thaw while mitigating the associated geopolitical risks and uncertainties. It is springtime in Pyongyang, albeit not of the Arab flavor, and it will be a shame if the allied blockade and disengagement from North Korea at this crucial juncture were to delay reunification, freeze inter-Korean relations, and result in a return of cold winter in the North.

Whether it is “principled” or “tailored” or “proportionate” engagement (i.e., current buzzwords in town) is not that important as long as we engage the North’s supreme leader directly, enticing him to more responsive and responsible behavior. Kim Jong Un keeps surprising us. He keeps raising the bar and public expectations. We need to stun, outsmart, and “do Cuba” on Mr. Kim, embracing him, not just standing there with an open fist or poking him in the eye. And, if we are able to Gorbify Kim Jong Un, to offer the North Korean elites something more than just kangaroo trials and re-education camps in the post-unification Korea, to give the North Korean “core class” a meaningful stake in reconciliation and association with the South, then only time will tell whether there will be an independent and sovereign North Korea or not at the end of the engagement road.

It is in the national interest of the Republic of Korea and the United States to vigorously engage the DPRK now in order to eliminate the growing threat posed by its nuclear weapons, missiles, and cyber arms and to expedite the fulfillment of the long-cherished dream of the South and North Korean peoples and America’s ultimate strategic objective in Korea — peaceful unification of the Korean peninsula on the terms acceptable to the entire Korean people.♦

Alexandre Mansourov is a visiting scholar at the U.S.-Korea Institute in The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. He is also CEO of Great Falls Solutions International, LLC.