This week, students in Dr. Robert Wellington’s Contemporary Global Issues class met with two experts on North Korea to learn about and discuss the nation’s nuclear program and its implications for the rest of the world.
On Wednesday, January 18, the class was joined virtually by Matt Korda, a senior research associate and project manager for the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, who spoke to students about how and why countries develop nuclear weapons. Students considered the perspectives of countries with nuclear programs and engaged in conversations about national pride, diplomatic bargaining chips, domestic legitimacy, and deterrence. Mr. Korda led students through a thoughtful discussion about the U.S. and South Korea’s strategic alliance and policies regarding North Korea. Students posed insightful questions about China’s role in the relationship between the nations and pondered why other countries with the necessary technological capacity do not have nuclear arsenals. Mr. Korda ended the class by posing a question for discussion: What are some ideas for risk reduction when it comes to nuclear proliferation? While there are no perfect answers to this question, students considered measures such as scaling back proactive military exercises, negotiating diplomatic agreements, and empathizing with each other’s security concerns.
Bogdan Banu, Senior Director for Program Management at the Meridian Center for Global Leadership, visited the class in person on Thursday, January 19. Mr. Banu brought photos, videos, and mementos from trips he has personally taken to North Korea. Students had the opportunity to ask questions about North Korea’s culture, military, and governmental oppression of its people. As a native of Romania, who grew up amid the country’s communist regime, Mr. Banu was able to provide insight into what life is like when a government exerts control over its people and cuts itself off from the world. When nutritious food is not widely available, for instance, citizens develop differently than their counterparts in neighboring countries, as evidenced by the wide gap in the average heights of North and South Koreans. In North Korea, as well as in Romania during its communist years, it becomes difficult to separate what is real and what is staged, from national pride parades to the news that is disseminated to citizens. Mr. Banu’s insights sparked a flurry of conversation about what life must be like for North Korean citizens and why U.S. and South Korean foreign policies are so critical to the world.
Contemporary Global Issues is a trimester-long elective course in which students build on what they learned in their 9th-grade Human Geography class and dive deep into modern global topics. Students examine issues of importance such as human rights to water, health, gender equality, and freedom of expression. The course is offered in two parts — Contemporary Global Issues I and II — and seeks to develop students into global citizens.