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Published: Saturday, 2/15/2003

Panelists at UT view N. Korea as the greater threat

One good reason not to go to war against Iraq is that it would take focus away from the more potent threat of North Korea, a University of Toledo professor said yesterday.

“I would say this is a far more serious problem than the situation in Iraq,” David Davis, a political science professor, said.

Dr. Davis was speaking as part of a panel discussion entitled “The North Korea Problem - Causes and Realities.”

He said that North Korean officials are fond of selling missiles, as evidenced in December by a shipment of Scud missiles that was intercepted on the way to Yemen, and that they could do the same with nuclear weapons.

North Korea, a country of 22 million people, has taken a series of steps in recent months to reactivate a nuclear weapons program that it promised to shut down as part of a 1994 agreement with the Clinton administration.

The country was included with Iraq and Iran as part of the “axis of evil” by President Bush.

Dr. Davis said it likely has one or two nuclear bombs ready at this time, and it could have 10 within a year.

“It's largely a homegrown capability,” he said.

Panelist Ken Kim, a UT professor of strategic and international management who was born in North Korea, said the country's people live under an oppressive tyranny by leader Kim Jong Il.

Dr. Kim described thousands of kidnappings ordered by top officials and acts of terrorism directed against South Korea over the years.

“If there's any evil country, North Korea is one,” he said.

He also detailed examples of the country's economic woes. Most citizens have no hope of ever owning a car, he said, and North Korea's main type of train still uses a steam engine.

The country entered a serious famine in the 1990s, and its economy remains inadequate, according to panelists.

“Even though the people are starving, Kim Jong Il will buy 20 Mercedes to give to generals,” Dr. Kim said.

When it comes to finding a solution to the problems facing North Korea and the threat it poses to the rest of the world, Dr. Davis is pessimistic.

“I see virtually no solution to this problem,” he said.

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