Moral mus­ings on North Korea

Global Asia - - BOOK REVIEWS - Re­viewed by John Delury, As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor at Yon­sei Univer­sity Grad­u­ate School of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies and book re­views co-ed­i­tor of Global Asia

Wal­ter Cle­mens was a Cold War­rior for peace. One of the first Amer­i­can grad stu­dents to do re­search in the USSR (back in 1958), he spent decades study­ing the Sovi­ets and Chi­nese, look­ing for ways to re­duce ten­sions and se­cure peace. Af­ter the Soviet Union’s fall, he turned in­creas­ingly to the last ar­che­typal

Cold War state, North Korea. His lat­est book fo­cuses here, but it is bet­ter thought of as a med­i­ta­tion by a wise elder who has spent his life grap­pling with the prob­lems of peace and jus­tice.

He starts by delv­ing into the his­tory of the Korean Penin­sula all the way back to its myth­i­cal found­ing. If you are se­ri­ous about de­nu­cle­ariza­tion and hu­man rights, Cle­mens is say­ing, you had bet­ter start a cou­ple of mil­len­nia back to un­der­stand the coun­try and peo­ple with whom you are deal­ing. From his­tory, he moves on to pol­icy. Be­fore plung­ing into the diplo­matic ins and outs, how­ever, he grap­ples with the un­der­ly­ing moral dilemma of whether it is right to “ne­go­ti­ate with evil” in try­ing to im­prove hu­man rights and re­duce the risk of nu­clear war. Former US Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney fa­mously re­jected that pos­si­bil­ity, but Cle­mens takes the­olo­gian Rein­hold Niebuhr for his moral com­pass, ar­gu­ing that it is pos­si­ble to con­front the evil of hu­man rights abuse while also en­gag­ing the North Korean regime in peace talks.

North Korea and the World con­cludes with “strate­gies for ne­go­ti­a­tion,” and could not be more timely.

North Korea and the World: Hu­man Rights, Arms Con­trol, and Strate­gies for Ne­go­ti­a­tionBy Wal­ter C.Cle­mens Jr.Univer­sity Press of Ken­tucky, 2016, 464 pages, $39.95 (Hard­cover)

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