Astounded by the overwhelmingly enthusiastic responses to a lecture on North Korea by Joel Wit, co-founder of 38 North, from teachers participating in the “Emerging Asia” conference hosted last April by the Korean War Legacy Foundation (KWLF) in Washington, DC – and noting how these responses reflected stereotypes from the current coverage of North Korea’s nuclear and ICBM tests – we came up with a plan to establish a reliable and objective curricular resource on North Korean issues for educators and future generations.
On the spot, the domain name teachingaboutnorthkorea.org was purchased and I commissioned Mr. Beiter, creator of the internationally known Web-based teaching tool “I Am Syria”. With full support from Jenny Town, Managing Editor and Producer of 38 North, and sponsored by the Korea Foundation, KWLF is now launching this website to provide lesson plans, curriculum, and resources for educating students and addressing one of the most critical problems in contemporary global security – North Korea’s attempts to possess nuclear warheads and transport ICBMs. If successful, North Korea will significantly shake the current power balance around the Korean Peninsula and East Asia.
More specifically, the security environment in the Korean Peninsula has been radically reshaped by a shift in the balance of East Asia with China’s rising economic power and rapid re-armament, Japan’s efforts to loosen the limits placed on its military operations through amendments to its postwar pacifist constitution, and Russia’s regression to traditional expansionism. Stalled inter-Korean dialogue and heightened US-DPRK tension, in conjunction with North Korea’s augmented provocations of nuclear and long-range missile tests, have jeopardized prospects of reunification and increased the likelihood of war. The Pyeongchang Winter Olympics have temporarily paved the way for inter-Korean and US-DPRK dialogue with much anticipated gestures of mutual interest in navigating this rocky terrain and possibly making substantial breakthroughs.
In this context, it is high time to equip our educators and students with knowledge and tools for teaching and learning about the historical origins and contemporary ramifications of this daunting challenge. However, due to the ideologically incendiary nature of these problems, it is crucial to emphasize one point in particular – that this curricular resource will not harbor bias towards any country and thus welcomes comments and suggestions to ensure impartiality. Its main purpose is to provide classroom-ready materials on four US policy options for handling the problem.
I want to conclude with my sincerest appreciation of two leading educators, Mr. Joseph Karb, Executive Director of all projects at my foundation, and Mr. Andrew Beiter, who has created the overall structure and contents of these resources. Also, Jenny Town of 38 North, the authority on North Korea’s nuclear missile project, has been critical in her assistance with the overall direction and rigorous corroboration of materials. With similar attention to detail, Brian Hoke assembled these materials into an elegant interface for educators and students. Lastly, I would like to recognize the unwavering financial support of the Korea Foundation.
With hope that this critical step enhances our understanding of this most serious challenge to global peace and security,