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Geopolitics of Law and Conflict on the Korean Peninsula

Course number: L8813

The seminar will explore three inter-related themes. Part I centers around the theme of division and nuclearization. First, we will trace the origins of the division of the two Koreas as well as the legal dilemmas and questions raised by a war that ended with an armistice agreement rather than a peace treaty. The aim is to examine the international legal difficulties raised when attempting to define the "special relationship" between the two Koreas and the implications this has for understanding past and present conflicts on the peninsula. Next, we will explore the circumstances behind the North Korean pursuit of WMD and the ensuing conflict with Western powers. The focus will be on placing the North Korean WMD program in the context of existing international treaty regimes with an aim to understanding the international legal constraints and variables related to negotiating with a nuclear North Korea, including the role of the IAEA, the impact of the 1994 Agreed Framework and the KEDO agreements. Part II will deal with the broader international legal and institutional themes arising out of North Korea's relations with the major powers in the region: China, the United States, Russia and Japan. This will include topics relating to human rights (including both domestic human rights abuses, and its role in foreign affairs and US legislation, and the problems raised by increasing refugee flows into China), money laundering, trafficking of drugs and counterfeit currency. The goal is to locate these issues in the broader framework of international human rights and criminal law and the resulting status of North Korea in the international community. Part III will focus on inter-Korea relations, including exploration of the international and domestic legal issues related to establishing a permanent peace regime, territorial disputes involving the Northern Limit Line (NLL), dynastic succession in North Korea and unification. Throughout the seminar, emphasis will be placed on exploring North Korean activities and behavior within the context of existing regional and international legal regimes and governance mechanisms. As we examine this context, our goal is to gain a better understanding of the way in which North Korean law and legal institutions, regional mechanisms, and international law and conflict over North Korean issues interact to form the outcomes we observe and to improve our ability to gauge future North Korea related developments in law and politics on the peninsula and in the region.