Fletcher in the News

North Korea Does Not Care about its Image with the Outside World, Says Professor Lee

Sung-Yoon Lee is the Kim Koo-Korea Foundation Professor in Korean Studies and Assistant Professor at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University

Elderly American Man Asks North Korea for Mercy


Merrill Newman, of Palo Alto, California, fought in the Korean War. On a recent trip to North Korea, Newman was detained for his alleged atrocities against the North Korean people during his service over 60 years ago.

His apology, riddled with grammatical errors and stilted English, begged the North Korean government to pardon him. Newman is the second high profile American detained in North Korea recently. Another California man, Kenneth Bae, has been detained for over a year.

Sung-Yoon Lee, assistant professor of Korean studies with the Kim-Koo Korea Foundation at Tufts University, says North Korea doesn't care about its image with the outside world.

"The regime, above all, cares for its own self-preservation. The less the people know about the outside world, and the less information about the outside world that outsiders bring into North Korea, the better the prospects for a long, healthy reign for the regime--the Kim regime. So the regime goes out of its way to control its own population and to constrain the few foreigners that visit North Korea out of curiosity and for other reasons."

Lee adds that all visitors to North Korea should take extreme caution in "doing their homework" about the country to make sure they don't overstep their bounds and risk detainment.

Listen to the interview