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Sung-Yoon Lee is a scholar of Korean and East Asian studies, and expert on North Korea.
- At the very least, the ill-advised rush to "peace" is a likely candidate for the historical annals of self-destructive appeasement. The great sacrifices made by Americans in the Korean War, the legacy of the close US-South Korea relationship over the past 60 years, and future US strategic interests in and around the Korean Peninsula should not be sacrificed at the altar of diplomatic peace. Real peace is won by resolve and sacrifice, while ephemeral peace is all too often concocted only by vowels and consonants. (talking about a potential peace treaty between North Korea and the U.S., to replace the decades-long armistice signed in 1953)
- For many South Koreans today, the Korean War is little more than a tragedy of the past or a tale in abstraction. For others, it is a trauma best forgotten. But on Memorial Day, the South Koreans, as a nation, must not forget the suffering and sacrifice in their national historical experience. The lessons of the most traumatic past must be learned and continually relearned, not only to prevent such a tragedy from repeating itself, but also to honor, as one nation, those who made our freedom possible, and to remember that freedom is certainly never free.
- Remembrance of the Korean War/A new light on the Korean War, Boston: The Korean American Press, 5 June 2008, Archived from the original on March 9, 2013, retrieved on February 26, 2013
- A power vacuum in Pyongyang will require the immediate dispatch of South Korean and U.S. troops. Next will come other regional powers — Chinese peacekeeping forces securing the northern areas, followed by the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force transporting people and supplies along the Korean coastlines. In the short term, a multiparty international presence north of the 38th parallel under the nominal banner of the United Nations will enforce order and provide aid. But even when the dust from the flurry of human activity and balance-of-power politics settles, the task will not be done.
- En route to Tokyo in 1945 to embark on the occupation of Japan, U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur laid out his goals for Japan to his aide, Maj. Gen. Courtney Whitney: "First destroy the military power, then build up representative government, enfranchise women, free political prisoners, liberate farmers, establish free labor, destroy monopolies, abolish police repression, liberate the press, liberalize education, and decentralize political power." The transformation of North Korea will require nothing less.
- The presence of U.S. troops in South Korea has been and remains the greatest deterrent to North Korean adventurism and a disruption of the current and longstanding peace on the Korean peninsula. And to repeat an important point: the absence of a formal peace treaty no more threatens this peace than the absence of a post-World War Two peace treaty between Moscow and Tokyo threatens the peace between Russia and Japan.
- It’s also important for Washington to hold quiet consultations with Beijing to prepare jointly for a unified Korea under Seoul’s direction, a new polity that will be free, peaceful, capitalist, pro-U.S. and pro-China.
- The North Korean state is essentially two things: 1) a large money-laundering concern; 2) the world’s largest prison and slave labor camp. Now, however, it is a large money-laundering concern and prison camp that has additionally extorted its way to nuclear weapons. Any U.S. policy should begin and end with the knowledge of what North Korea really is. It is not a state engaged in the normal give-and-take of diplomacy, seeking "security assurances" in return for "denuclearization" or some other such deal conjured up by diplomats whose experience is in dealing with real countries who negotiate in good faith. Rather, North Korea has had a pretty good run with its current approach of extortion, criminality and the deprivation of its own people.
- Development experts and theorists of democratization take note. South Korea has the same culture, historical legacies, and so on as its neighbor to the North. And yet it is an advanced industrial economy and a thriving democracy that has just, despite its Confucian culture, elected a woman as president. It has managed to reach this high point of prosperity and human dignity because of — to reduce a complex set of phenomena to its minimal essence — different institutions than those in the North: democratic and capitalist ones. (I realize that I may be violating some tenet of doctrinaire realism with this observation. For the less doctrinaire, the contrast between the two Koreas is a useful reminder of why we try and favor and even push for democratic capitalism). Given the stark contrast between the two countries one can safely draw at least one conclusion: There is nothing inherent in culture or history that ipso facto should keep a country poor and enslaved.
- The sum total of such policies is a state that is what can only be described as—grammatical propriety notwithstanding—“uniquely unique.” Allow me to give you some examples: North Korea is the world’s sole communist hereditary dynasty, the world’s only literate-industrialized-urbanized peacetime economy to have suffered a famine, the world’s most cultish totalitarian system, and the world’s most secretive, isolated country—albeit one with the world’s largest military in terms of manpower and defense spending proportional to its population and national income. The result is a most abnormal state, one that is able to exercise disproportionate influence in regional politics despite its relatively small territorial and population size and its exceedingly meager economic, political, and soft power, principally through a strategy of external provocations and internal repression.
- Testimony of Sung-Yoon Lee, Hearing on "North Korea’s Criminal Activities: Financing the Regime", United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs, 5 March 2013, p. 1-2, Archived from the original on May 1, 2017
- A similar, shorter, quote also appears here: Daniel Blumenthal (12 February 2013), North Korea is a nuclear criminal enterprise, USA: Foreign Policy, Archived from the original on July 8, 2013, retrieved on February 13, 2013
- Just imagine if Seoul and Washington vastly increased funding for radio broadcast and other information operations into North Korea, as they well should. In an Orwellian world, “War is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength.” In the surreal world of the DPRK, the past 62 years of de facto peace in Korea is war, a life of extreme servitude to the state is freedom, and national strength is preserved by keeping the people ignorant of the outside world. Informing and educating the North Korean people is not only the right thing to do, but also a potentially great leverage vis-à-vis Pyongyang. Moreover, it can save lives, too.
- Pyon, Changsop (26 August 2015), Interview: Korean Accord to 'Increase the Illusion of a Reasonable North Korea, Radio Free Asia, Archived from the original on May 28, 2017, retrieved on May 28, 2017
- A similar, shorter, quote also appears here: Testimony of Sung-Yoon Lee, Hearing on "North Korea’s Criminal Activities: Financing the Regime", United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs, 26 July 2013, Archived from the original on February 2, 2017, retrieved on 2018
- Since the Kim regime is governed by the need to dominate South Korea by threatening the region with nuclear annihilation, its willingness to use its lethal powers will only grow unless it is confronted by the specter of bankruptcy and the consequent destabilization of its rule.