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The Korean Peninsula
The Korean peninsula has long been one of the world's hot spots. With the end of the Cold War, the peninsula has experienced significant changes. North Korea lost traditionally essential military and economic support from former socialist allies. It has become diplomatically isolated and economically bankrupt. Pyongyang is desperate to survive. It has adopted a combination of self-contradictory policies - development of weapons of mass destruction, limited economic reform and opening, blackmailing and diplomatic engagement with the outside world, including South Korea. North Korea's seemingly unpredictable behavior influences countries in the region, especially South Korea. With the perception of a significantly reduced threat from the north, public opinion in South Korea favors inter-Korean reconciliation, an approach alien to Washington's view of North Korea's programs for weapons of mass destruction as more dangerous after the September 11 terrorist attack. The results of the on-going six-party talks will be a crucial turning point for which way the peninsula will head - a peaceful resolution or more dangerous confrontation.

The key question is whether Pyongyang is ready to adopt a genuine and long-term policy of change, reform, and opening. We need to understand more the economic and social conditions of the country including human rights violations, possible options for its survival, and calculations of its leadership. Will external security guarantees really secure the isolated socialist regime's survival when the regime itself has no viable strategy for successful reform and opening? Other questions include: What are the prospects for South-North relations? What are the requirements and obstacles for establishing a permanent peace mechanism on the peninsula? How will the emerging reconciliation and cooperation between the South and the North influence the US-ROK alliance? And finally, what are the implications of Korean developments for the wider region? Will the reduction of tensions on the peninsula increase the likelihood of peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia? Or will it lead to a confrontation between the United States and China, or to greater competition and even an arms race between China and Japan?

Whatever the future uncertainties, the present developments present an opportunity for forging a new security framework on the peninsula and enhancing peace and stability in Northeast Asia by engaging North Korea in a serious dialogue aimed at reducing the military threat that Pyongyang poses for its neighbors. The East-West Center and the POSCO visiting fellows will try to answer these questions during the next few years.

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