Table of Nations: North Korea
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.