South Korea-North Korea talks: U-M experts can discuss
South Korean leader Moon Jae-In will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the demilitarized zone this Friday. If the summit goes well, it may set the tone and guide how the United States interacts with North Korea. It may even raise the possibility of some type of de-escalation. University of Michigan experts are ready to comment.
Jiun Bang is a postdoctoral fellow at the Nam Center for Korean Studies. Her research focuses on the idea of nationalism as a kind of commodity rather than a consciousness and traces it in interstate tensions in Northeast Asia, specifically within the realm of territorial disputes.
“South Korea has managed to successfully gain some voice or ‘agency’ in the matter involving the North. As others have mentioned, it would be strange to give all the spotlight to the Trump-Kim (U.S.-DPRK) meeting,” she said. “Also evident is that there have been concerns even of ‘Japan passing’—that Japan and its interests have been somewhat sidelined due to the negotiations among South Korea, the U.S. and the North.
“In short, Seoul has gained a central seat at the table, and rightly so. In fact, Seoul is often embroiled in/taken hostage by larger power politics involving major powers (i.e., the U.S. and China) so this is, indeed, somewhat of a welcome position that it finds itself in. Now, how Seoul can effectively channel this increased legitimacy at the regional level remains to be seen, but I think it’s important that it has at least managed to get back in the driver’s seat, so to speak, this time not as a chauffeur.”
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E. Han Kim is a professor of finance and international business at the Ross School of Business and director of the East Asia Management Development Center. He served as an adviser to the Korean government during the 1998 financial crisis. His research is concentrated on corporate governance.
“If the talk leads to a reopening of trade between the two, both economies have lots to gain. And the wider the border is opened, the greater will be the gain,” he said. “The North, however, might be reluctant to allow a large, open trade with the South, because such an openness can lead to political turmoil and serious challenges to its ruling regime.”
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John Ciorciari is an associate professor of public policy and director of the International Policy Center at the Ford School of Public Policy. His research focuses on Southeast Asia and examines foreign policy strategies, human rights and the reform of international economic institutions.
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Linda Lim is a professor emerita of corporate strategy and international business at the Ross School of Business. She is interested in U.S.-China trade relations, political economy of multinational and local business in Southeast Asia, including the changing international trade and investment environment, and the influence of domestic politics, economic policy and culture on business structure, strategy and operations.
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