EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Korean conflict has divided more than the two Koreas. It has also prompted the creation of opposing “blame narratives” among scholars, policymakers, and journalists. The election of Donald Trump, and the 2018 Singapore summit between Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, challenged those narratives and forced some of the actors to reconsider their political agendas.
For many years, discussion of the Korean Peninsula conflict was divided between two main narratives that were influenced by the Cold War, as well as by the divisions between liberals and conservatives and between Democrats and Republicans. The positions were clear, depending on the writers’ political and ideological points of view. North Korea was generally portrayed in the West as evil, while South Korea and the US were presented as moderate-rational states seeking solutions for the Peninsula – solutions the DPRK was not willing to accept.
Researchers, policymakers, and journalists who wrote favorably about the DPRK or who questioned the premise that North Korea should always be blamed were perceived as pro-Communist, anti-American, or pro-Pyongyang. The dominant narrative in most of the academy coincided with the South Korean-US narrative, not the North Korean.