Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Table of Nations: North Korea

By Catherine Feerick
Last night the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum hosted the final quarterly Table of Nations program of 2007. Patrons gathered in the intimate ambiance of Jin Ju, enjoying hors d’ouvres and a traditional, family-style meal before listening to the speakers. The evening’s presentation took the form of a dialogue, with Jerome McDonnell of Chicago Public Radio’s Worldview posing questions on relevant topics to facilitate understanding of North Korea in terms of history and recent events.

Dr. Bruce Cumings of the University of Chicago answered McDonnell’s questions with his years of study and experience. The overall tone of the dialogue was one of measured optimism. Too often in history has communication within the United States and in North and South Korea carved a diametric opposition between the two political and economic systems, but this tension has eased somewhat with the opening of limited, international trade in southwest North Korea. Cummings expounded repeatedly upon the benefit of trade as the safest catalyst to a neutralized North Korean threat.

Another theme in the night’s discussion was the improvement of U.S. relations with North Korea in the past few years. Not only has the recent Second Summit facilitated more benevolent feelings between the two Korean nations, but the United States has moved closer towards normal diplomatic relations with the regime. From October of 2006, when North Korea tested its first nuclear weapon, the United States has made a concerted effort in diplomacy (unfortunately, as Dr. Cummings pointed out, “rewarding bad behavior”) and the results are tangible. North Korea has promised to freeze its nuclear factories, allowing the international community to supervise the disarming and dismantling of the facilities.

Despite the attempts of Kim Jong-Il to isolate the effects of partially free borders, the results of international trade are beginning to be felt by the North Korean population. Although the sophisticated army of North Korea is still admittedly quite threatening, the state no longer constitutes as great a menace as it did even last year.

The food was excellent, the atmosphere inviting, and the speakers riveting. Overall, Table of Nations provided an excellent opportunity for patrons to experience the cuisine of a culture while learning about very real issues facing the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the world at large. The next Table of Nations program will take place early next year and feature a South Asian menu as well as a frank discussion on current events in Pakistan.


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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

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