By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Education Writer
As the crisis with North Korea plays out coinciding with Korean-American celebrations marking the centennial of immigration to the United States Edward "Ned" Schulz, an expert on Korea based at the University of Hawai'i, is becoming one of the media sources for an understanding of the Korean mind.
"If the U.S. sits down and talks to them and takes them seriously and lives up to some of the promises it made, it will go a long way to ameliorate difficulties," said Schulz. "The North Koreans have nothing to bargain with. They're desperately trying to find a way to have people take them seriously and survive. This is where the nuclear card comes in."
As a Peace Corps volunteer in Korea in 1966, Schulz remembers seeing two Korean men posturing and blustering belligerently on a public street as they faced off against each another. But all it took for an amicable settlement of the disagreement was intervention by a third party who stepped in to talk them both down, he says.
Schulz believes mediation could resolve this international crisis and rewrite the agreements between the two countries.
Schulz traces the current nuclear crisis to the 1994 agreement among the United States, Japan and North and South Korea in which the western powers agreed to provide fuel for the North's electric power in return for a freeze on its nuclear program. Included in that agreement was an understanding that the United States would eventually provide technical information for North Korea to create a nuclear energy industry much different than a weapons track.
But the United States reneged on its agreements, said Schulz. "We stopped sending fuel ... so we didn't really live up to the bargain."
Under President Clinton, Schulz saw a continuing movement toward normalized relations. But under President Bush, there has been in essence a return to Cold War policies.
"What Bush did was slam the door shut and set out to isolate Korea once again and that did nothing but create fear," he said. "Too often Americans look at the major players and refuse to talk to the small guys, and the small guys can cause the problems."
It's not clear when it happened, said Schulz, but at some point North Korea re-created its nuclear research program.
"They were expecting (the U.S.) doing away with economic sanctions, and allowing more fluidity between North Korea and the U.S.," said Schulz. "They feel they deserve to be treated with respect. Koreans don't want to be patronized or sloughed off somewhere between China and Japan."
Schulz's expertise on Korea has its roots in the mid-1960s, when he taught English in Pusan. His knowledge continued to grow when he returned to the United States, earning a master's degree and then a doctoral degree in Korean studies at UH. He's now director of the Korean Studies Institute on the UH-Manoa campus.
Schulz has told friends that once "the U.S. wakes up and sits down and starts talking," the current crisis will be resolved.
Schulz said he would be very surprised if the North Koreans have already built nuclear weapons.
If they even had had two, he said, they would have had to detonate one to determine whether it works.
Correction: University of Hawai'i Korea expert Edward "Ned" Schulz's name was misspelled in a previous version of this column because of a reporters error.