Complicated Connections

David McKenzie

In an effort to inform students about Korean issues, the Korean Students Association (KSA) invited former U.S. Ambassador to Korea Donald Gregg to speak on campus. Upon graduation from Williams College, Gregg joined the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1951, where he worked for 25 years in Japan, Burma, Vietnam and Korea. In 1982, he became then-Vice-President George H.W. Bush’s National Security Advisor before taking his post in Korea from 1989 to 1993. Sharing personal anecdotes from his career, Gregg touched on the historical roots of the tension between the United States and Korea and his proposed solution on how to reduce North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and establish diplomatic relations with the United States. Gregg began by assuring the audience that “to understand what goes on in Korea, you have to know more than the fact that the North invaded the South.” Gregg described the difficulties of intercepting information from North Korea during his days in the CIA, referring to the country as “the longest running failure in the history of American espionage.”He went on to explain the challenges of spying on North Korea with satellites and listening to the conversations with their leaders, which all stemmed from the lack of ability to convert a North Korean on the inside into a spy for the United States. “Koreans are rightly resentful of the role that the U.S. played in the division of Korea,” Gregg said, referring to the United States’ attempt to aid South Korea from attack and invasion from the communist North. He explained that, while Americans think South Koreans should be grateful for our interference, some South Koreans feel that the issue should have been left to members of the country involved.Citing the November 1994 Agreed Framework on Nuclear Weapons between the U.S. and Korea as a turning point in the U.S.’s movement toward diplomatic relations with North Korea, Gregg said that he believes our country did not follow through on its end of the agreement to provide North Korea with alternative energy sources in return for North Korea ending its nuclear programIn response to the United States’ lapse of activity, North Korea developed nuclear weapons with the potential to reach Western Hawaii or Alaska. Despite this disagreement, Gregg remains optimistic about the relationship between the United States and North Korea. “North Korea will become a member of our family of nations, which will help us with health care and advance both our countries technologically and economically.”In his experience in the CIA, Gregg has seen many regime changes, and believes that they are “most successful when they arise internally, rather than influenced by outside sources.”Also, he feels the unification of North and South Korea looms on the horizon and encouraged students to stay informed about this monumental process. Gregg reflected proudly on his distinguished life’s work, stating that although the process is far from over, “South Korea has become the most dynamic democracy in Asia – by far.”Gregg’s visit to campus was well received by the Colgate community. “Mr. Gregg was very willing to come to Colgate,” sophomore KSA President Jason Park said, “he just seemed like a guy who wanted to educate anyone who was willing to listen. Talking about his experiences seemed to be his duty.”