On September 1 2021, HSF attended a workshop titled Jeong-Il Kim, Jeong-Un Kim Regimes and Power Elites Viewed on Site, which took place at Kookmin University. Consisting of academic professionals and research experts studying inter-Korean relations as well as students from Kookmin Graduate School as participants, the workshop invited Dr. Thomas Schäfer, the former German Ambassador to North Korea who worked during the political transition from Jeong-Il Kim to Jeong-Un Kim’s regime. With his informative speech based on his unique working experience in North Korea, the workshop mainly focused on the exacerbated exclusiveness of North Korea throughout the transition of the regime.
One of the important aspects shared in his presentation was that the most prioritized interest among the military-based hardliners who strengthened their authority in Kim Jeong-Un’s regime, was the maintenance of the regime itself. He argued that their underlying belief is that the access to other nation-states outside the border could weaken the North Korean regime. He took the connection of Trans-Korean Railway and Trans-Siberian Railway as an example. Even though its envision has been structured for a long period, the North Korean regime still expresses disagreement with its establishment due to the accessibility to neighboring countries.
After Dr. Schäfer’s speech, a brief Q&A session among participants proceeded based on Dr. Schäfer’s fruitful presentation. The questions shared a similar theme such as the hardliners’ reactions toward the United States government (especially during the Trump Administration period) and the prospects regarding the Inter-Korean relationship based on the United States' political influence. Overall, his distinct speech was significantly informative as it provided an opportunity to take a different approach towards the analysis of domestic changes in North Korea during the transition of regime between Jeong-Il Kim and Jeong-Un Kim and apply to research for more concrete inter-Korean cooperative development in pursuit of peace settlement in the Korean Peninsula.