Changes on the Horizon?
Former U.S. ambassador to South Korea Donald Gregg and Korea Society head Evans Revere believe changes are on the horizon, reports Andrew Salmon of the Washington Times. Gregg and Revere were instrumental in bringing in the New York Philharmonic to Pyongyang and are both advocates of increasing cultural contacts between the U.S. and North Korea. Revere told the Washington Times:
“They are seeing a different face of America for the first time…that contrasts significantly with the image they have talked about for over half a century.”
Gregg told a group of businessmen that the concert bodes well for the future of North Korean reform. In his view, the concert was an important boost to pro-opening forces within the regime:
“I think there was an internal debate in North Korea and I think this was an experiment by those in favor of opening up…the hand of those favoring opening up has been strengthened.”
While in Pyongyang to view the concert, the pair had the opportunity to meet with North Korean nuclear negotiator Kim Gye Gwan:
They urged him to strike a deal with Washington immediately, rather than wait for the next administration to take office. “Our point was, ‘Do it now,’” Mr. Gregg recalled. “Kim took it very seriously.”
However, some North Korean officials believe Washington has “moved the goalposts” and not reciprocated for its early denuclearization moves, Mr. Revere said. Pyongyang had expected to be removed from the list of terrorist-sponsoring states and the Trading with the Enemy Act, he said. He suggested that a separate mechanism may be required for issues such as North Korea’s reported nuclear link with Syria.
Ominously, a German doctor with experience working in North Korea warned that perhaps the two were being too optimistic:
“Warm-hearted intentions are turned around,” said Dr. Norbert Vollertsen, a former German aid doctor in North Korean, now an anti-regime activist. “I donated some of my skin (to a burn victim), but the story was that I donated it for juche and Kim Jong-il. We are abused in our naiveness.”