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Davis, California

Monday, May 20, 2024

Deputy consul to Republic of Korea speaks at UC Davis


Jimin Kim discussed Korean history, U.S.-Korean diplomacy, North Korean provocations

On Dec. 6, Jimin Kim, the deputy consul to the Republic of Korea in San Francisco, gave a presentation to students in the Multipurpose Room of the SCC. Kim’s goal was to educate attendees about Korean culture, discuss the Korean alliance with the United States and address recent tensions with North Korean nuclear testing.

“Our foremost mission is to protect our citizens who travel here, who study here and who come here,” Kim said. “Also, [our mission is] to promote the Korea-U.S. alliance relationship through exchanges, through public diplomacy where we come out and introduce our policies and also interexchange between the two countries on a grassroots level.”

Soo Kyeom Lee, the event’s host and a fourth-year mathematics major, introduced Kim and explained the motivation to accept Kim’s offer to visit UC Davis.

“This event began with a simple ‘yes,’” Lee said. “As soon as I received a call from the consulate general, I knew this was an opportunity that could not be missed. One of the remarkable things at UC Davis is that student involvement is valued. Though student involvement is important, I felt that we lacked an event that truly educated students about Korea and furthermore the relationship between Korea and the U.S.”

After Lee’s introduction, Professor Fadi Fathallah, the associate vice provost for global education and services at UC Davis Global Affairs, provided background information about the relationship between Korea and UC Davis, specifically.

“If you look at just the number of international students from Korea at Davis, we have over 300 — […] that’s almost 5 percent of all the international students,” Fathallah said. “We have 120 to 130 international scholars, visiting professors, visiting undergraduate students [and] visiting graduate students. In the past 10 years, we had almost 2,000 publications with Korean scholars — you see the depth of the record with Korean scholars at the cultural level and the academic level.”

Kim then began a 40-minute presentation, which included a PowerPoint presentation and a series of short videos. He started by discussing Korea’s 5,000-year history. Kim said that the U.S. alliance with the Republic of Korea (ROK) began in 1883. Following the end of WWII in 1945, Korea was separated into the communist North and the democratic South. The Korean War began in 1950, but the peninsula continues to be divided at the 38th parallel. Kim explained that, even after the devastation of the Korean War, which ended in 1953, South Korea has become “one of the most vibrant democracies and advanced economies in the world today.”

Kim then talked about the current state of the Korea-U.S. alliance and the joint effort to address North Korean nuclear threats.

“President Donald Trump recently visited Korea on an official visit,” Kim said. “[Moon Jae-in and President Trump] had very candid discussions about the steadfastness of the ROK-U.S. alliance. Moreover, they agreed to work toward resolving the North Korean nuclear issue in a very peaceful manner. Both leaders reaffirmed the principle that we must maintain a strong stance toward North Korean threats based on an overwhelming superiority power. They also reaffirmed the current strategy, which is to maximize the pressure and sanctions on North Korea until it gives up its nuclear weapons and comes to the table for dialogue on its own.”

In terms of South Korea’s individual efforts to manage North Korean threats, Kim said that his government is relying on continued sanctions that will eventually force North Korea to open a discussion with outside nations. He also said that South Korea wants to promote peace with North Korea, specifically with regard to the upcoming Olympics, and avoid another war on the peninsula.

“My government is also exerting great efforts to make the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympic games in February 2018 […] games of peace, which will ease the tensions on the Korean peninsula and create a favorable environment for inter-Korean dialogue, exchange and cooperation,” Kim said.

Kim then used a satellite image of the Korean peninsula at night to show the stark contrast between the North and the South. In the image, the southern area was vibrantly lit, while the northern area was completely dark, save for a small dot of light in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.

Human rights issues in North Korea were also brought up, and Kim gave a recent example to highlight the struggles of North Korean citizens.

“Recently, a North Korean defected across the joint security area,” Kim said. “He had six bullets shot at him by the North Korean military, which is very illegal — according to the armistice agreement you are not supposed to shoot across the border. We had to take him quickly to the hospital for a surgery, and in the surgery they found twenty or so parasites; it shows the current dire situation of the North Korean people living.”

North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests since 2003, when it withdrew from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. It is the only nation that is no longer part of the agreement and is also the only nation to have conducted nuclear tests in the 21st century. Since 2011, when Kim Jong-un took power, there have been a total of 61 ballistic missile launches.

“North Korea argues that its possession of nuclear weapons is a righteous self-defense measure in order to defend its sovereignty against the U.S.’ hostile policy and nuclear threats,” Kim said. “It seems they are convinced that only nuclear weapons can provide the regime’s survival, enabling them to avoid the fate of other dictators like Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein.”

Kim said that since the most recent nuclear test on Sept. 3, 2017, a new resolution was passed by the United Nations Security Council to impose increasingly restrictive sanctions on North Korea. Sanctions include reducing 30 percent of the oil provided to North Korea, banning all North Korean textile exports, preventing overseas workers from earning wages that finance the regime and banning all joint ventures with North Korea to cut off foreign investment, technology transfer and other economic cooperation.

Kim believes that sanctions like these, combined with the joint power of outside nations, will help to ease nuclear tensions with North Korea.

“The close coordination between the Republic of Korea and the United States and the overwhelming superiority power that stems from the Korea-United States alliance will eventually make North Korea seize its reckless provocations and make North Korea come out to the dialogue for de-nuclearizaton,” Kim said.


Written by: Olivia Rockeman — campus@theaggie.org



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