“Where has the last half-century brought us?” was the question echoing through the ICC auditorium this past weekend as scholars from as far away as Seoul presented papers on various topics dealing with the conference’s central theme, “The Republic of Korea After 50 Years: Continuity and Convergence.” The conference, sponsored by the Asian Studies Department and The Korea Society, was first conceived nearly a year ago and is the only conference dealing with the 50th anniversary of South Korea in the country, according to organizer Bonnie B.C. Oh, professor of Korean Studies at Georgetown. The Korea Society is a non-profit group which promotes Korean culture in the United States. The event gave scholars the opportunity to discuss issues ranging from gender roles in Korea to issues of nationalism and foreign relations. Papers presented this weekend will be revised and streamlined over the next few months to prepare them for submission to a publisher, according to Oh. Kyongsoo Lho of Seoul National University, who had flown in for the Saturday session, focused on foreign relations and the relationship between North and South Korea. Commenting on the title of the conference, Lho said, “It was not preordained that South Korea would make it even this far … South Korean foreign policy from 1948 to today is about survival.” Noting that Korean foreign policy had traditionally been played out within the context of the Cold War, Lho said that now was a time of serious self-reflection for the country. He said that from the 1950s through the 1970s, South Korea defined itself by what it was not, as anti-communist. Today, however, “[Korea] has to create its own identity in the world community,” he said. Lho advocated a policy of “tough love” regarding the North Korean economic and social situation, saying that humanitarian aid is not reaching the average North Korean. “We need to have a little backbone, a little toughness to get North Korea to move in the direction we want them to,” he said. According to Lho, unification of the two Koreas is a relative certainty. Such a program represents the raison d’être of any South Korean regime, he said. Looking back on the last 50 years, Lho said, “It’s a far more democratic place than I imagined it would be at this juncture.

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