A Symposium for High School Students: The Enigma That is North Korea – Dictatorship, Nuclear Weapons, and the Threat to Regional Peace
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Sep , 21, 8:30 am - 2:00 pm

Colorado College


Location:  Colorado College Armstrong Hall, 14 E. Cache la Poudre St., downtown Colorado Springs

The Issues

The Kim dynasty Korea has ruled North Korea continuously from 1948 to the present. Without claiming kingship, how has a single family been able to exercise authoritarian control for so long? Are there any institutions inside North Korea that threaten this dynasty?

In one of the world’s poorest economies, where millions live a precarious existence, why have the Kims decided to spend scarce resources on nuclear weapons? What benefits have these leaders attempted to gain by acquiring nuclear weapons?

Each American president from George H.W. Bush in the late 1980s to Donald Trump has attempted to convince North Korean leaders to abandon their nuclear weapons programs. Which foreign policy tools (diplomacy, economic sanctions/rewards, threats of military actions, etc.) have these administrations employed? Why have these efforts been so unsuccessful? What other options may be available?

Preparatory and Backgrounder Material Here

Keynote Speaker:  Kongdan (Katy) Oh, Senior Asia Specialist at the Institute for Defense Analyses

Katy Oh has written and spoken on a wide variety of topics in East Asian studies.

Katy was born in South Korea. In 1971 she received her B.A. in Korean language and literature and Oriental history from Sogang University, the Jesuit university in Seoul. In 1974 she earned an M.A. in Korean language and literature from Seoul National University. She came to the United States in 1979 and earned an M.A. in Asian studies at the University of California, Berkeley in 1981. In 1986 she received the Ph.D. in Asian studies, with distinction, becoming the first student to receive a doctorate from the Asian studies program. Her areas of concentration were East Asian comparative politics, political economy, international relations, and contemporary history.

Before coming to the United States, she taught courses in Asian studies and East Asian politics for the University of Maryland’s Far East Division in Korea. After receiving her Ph.D., she became the academic coordinator for UC Berkeley’s Center for Korean Studies, and lectured in the Graduate Program in Pacific Basin Studies at Dominican College. A year later, in 1986, she moved to RAND in Santa Monica, California, where she worked as a Political Scientist until 1995. She then moved to the Washington, DC area, where she did consulting research for government and private-sector clients, including the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA). In 1997 she joined IDA as a Research Staff Member in the Strategy, Forces, and Resources Division. In recent years she has participated in activities and written a book for the Brookings Institution, and taught courses at the Elliott School of International Studies at George Washington University and the Graduate Program in International Commerce and Policy at George Mason University.

Katy is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and its Korea Task Force, the Korea Working Group of the United States Institute of Peace, and she is the co-founder and former co-director of the Korea Club of Washington. She is a member of numerous other organizations, including the Association of Korean Political Studies in North America, and the United States Committee of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific.



8:45                 Welcome and Introductions.

9:00-10:00       Keynote Address: Dr. Kongdan Oh

10:15-11:00     Demonstration debate, USAFA Cadets

11:15-12:15     Roundtable Discussions

12:30-1:30       Lunch in Rastall Dining Room

1:30 -2:00        Plenary Session: Reports on the roundtables.

2:00-3:00    Film and discussion.

Resource Materials

How to Enroll

The CSWAC invites Pikes Peak area high schools to send names of selected students and sponsoring faculty to Nancye Thayer, registrar, at ThayerKH@comcast.net.  Home-schooled students should contact the registrar directly.  Registration for the Symposium closes September 15. 

There is no cost to schools, teachers, or student participants thanks to the generosity of the CSWAC.  We urge schools and teachers to be selective in bringing students.  We reserve the right to limit enrollment to 50 students per school and a total of 400.

The Colorado Springs World Affairs Council has limited funds to help defray the cost of substitute teachers, transportation, or interpreters for schools wishing to participate but with insufficient resources.  For such assistance, please call or write Robert Lee, (719) 389-6590, rlee@ColoradoCollege.edu.


Karen Burghart, Executive Director, Colorado Springs World Affairs Council, (719) 579-8443

Nancye Thayer, ThayerKH@comcast.net, (719) 577-9655, Registrar

Robert Lee, Professor of Political Science, Colorado College, (719) 389-6590

Frances Pilch, Prof. Emeritus, United States Air Force Academy, (719) 373-0456


The Colorado Springs World Affairs Council thanks its members and donors for making this symposium possible.  The Council is also grateful to Colorado College for its in-kind support and to volunteers for their help with organization and roundtable discussions.

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