Fletcher in the News

Prof. Lee Speaks to NPR 'Talk of The Nation' on North Korea


Sung-Yoon Lee is the Kim Koo-Korea Foundation Professor in Korean Studies and Assistant Professor at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University

North Korea scrapped the 1953 armistice agreement that ended the Korean War, escalating fears of a preemptive nuclear attack on the U.S. Tuft University Korean studies professor Sung-Yoon Lee discusses this precarious moment for North Korea, its neighbors and the international community.


Over the past week, North Korea threatened a pre-emptive nuclear attack on the United States, scrapped the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War and cut off the hotline communication with the South. Now, reports from Seoul say the North Korean government has begun to evacuate civilians into tunnels and repaint city buses in camouflage. Many analysts worry the rhetoric may signal a provocation of some sort. If that happens, the new government in South Korea threatens a much more damaging response. If you have questions about the rising tension on the Korean peninsula, give us a call: 800-989-8255. Email: talk@npr.org. Sung-Yoon Lee is a professor of Korean studies at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, and joins us now by phone from his office there. Good to have you on TALK OF THE NATION.

SUNG-YOON LEE: Thank you for having me on.

CONAN: And these latest reports from Seoul - moving citizens into tunnels, putting camouflage on buses - some might take that as a sign of alarm.

LEE: Well, North Korea is used to conducting more drills, and even in South Korea, when I was growing up in South Korea in the '70s, we would have such exercises, as well. So it's not entirely routine, but it's not entirely out-of-the-ordinary, either. North Korea is carrying out its own psychological warfare in ratcheting up tension with South Korea and the United States, you know, in its bluster barrage in recent days, as you said, threatening to launch a precision nuclear strike against Washington, or to wipe out a South Korean island near the site of the two deadly attacks against the South in 2010. It creates the notion that things are spiraling out of control, that we are on the verge of war.

Listen to the full conversation here 

Follow us on Twitter