Photo by Richard Howard
Mounting tensions in North Korea are keeping Katharine Moon busy. From an interview with Bloomberg, to a segment on C-SPAN, to writing an op-ed for CNN.com, she’s a go-to source for the media looking for insight into the impact North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile threats could have on the world.
“This is a country to be taken seriously,” says Moon, a professor of political science. “We’re in the middle of an international crisis with no good option.”
Tough sanctions are needed, she adds, but may only serve to remind the world that North Korea’s behavior is unacceptable. North Korea knows how to operate as an isolated economy, and it’s committed to its nuclear program. Moon says she has no delusions that sanctions will actually work. “We’re stuck,” she says.
Developments in North Korea are top-of-mind for Moon, who’s also the Edith Stix Wasserman Professor of Asian Studies, as she digs deep into another timely topic for Korea: migration. She’s at work on a book about “new Koreans”—the thousands of immigrants who’ve flooded into South Korea since the 1990s from across Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa looking for work, plus North Korean migrants—and how they’re affecting politics. It’s on track to be the first book that looks at these immigrants through a political lens.
“For thousands of years, South Korea has been linguistically homogenous, and now it’s facing this diversification of languages and cultures and religions,” says Moon, who was born in the U.S. but lived in South Korea through her teenage years.
Migrants from China, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan are filling jobs South Koreans would rather not do, what Moon calls the “three D’s—dangerous, dirty, and dull,” and are forming political communities. Migrant women are marrying men in rural areas who can’t find Korean women willing to spend their lives tending chickens or unearthing potatoes on a farm. Immigrants are becoming citizens; rural areas are becoming more multiethnic.