North Korea is commonly referred to as the “Hermit Kingdom”, a term that already implies how difficult it is to get a realistic idea of the country, its people and politics. One result of this inaccessibility is the proliferation of myths about North Korea, and as Professor Sung Yoon Lee from Tufts University argues, they have repeatedly misinformed the outside world’s thinking and behavior towards the country.
We had the chance to interview Prof. Lee on the nature of said myths, their origins, and how to deal with North Korea.
Sung-Yoon Lee is the Kim Koo-Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Studies and Assistant Professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He is Research Associate at the Harvard Korea Institute and a former Research Fellow with the National Asia Research Program. He has published articles and op-eds in several academic journals and media outlets, including Asia Policy, Foreign Affairs, Korea Policy Review, The New York Times, and many more. Professor Lee earned his MA in Law and Diplomacy and his PhD from Tufts.
[There is the notion] that we can change North Korea, that we can bring progress and civilization to North Korea — because after all, we are richer, bigger, smarter, culturally superior. All these assumptions of superiority underline these misguided approaches to North Korea, I would say.
The interview was conducted on July 13th in Seoul.