A Brilliant Rivalry: Victor Cha and David Kang

David Kang and Victor Cha

Amid the sometimes competitive world of academia and the frequently divisive world of contemporary politics, it would be unlikely to find a collaborative relationship among two people from different sides of the political spectrum. However, the influential scholars David Kang and Victor Cha have found a way to develop a productive relationship that has led to a book, Nuclear North Korea: A Debate on Engagement Strategies, the series Contemporary Asia and the World, and the Korea Project.

This remarkable relationship as well as Kang and Cha’s extraordinary individual accomplishments were recently profiled on KoreAm. Victor Cha, who is considered a hawk on North Korea and worked in the George W. Bush administration, had long been aware of David Kang, “who wants to open the isolated nation to capitalism and Western ideas.” Their parallel paths in academia came to fruition after each wrote op-eds for the New York Times on North Korea, which led to the writing of Nuclear North Korea.

As the article explains, despite their different approaches they have found room for agreement

Cha and Kang, considered moderates in their views, took opposite directions to the same conclusion—that, as reprehensible as the actions of the Kim Jong-il regime were, its behavior was comprehensible, even rational, and therefore, there was a path for diplomacy. They commonly urged Washington to pursue some form of engagement with the North. For Kang, it could pave a gradual path to regime change; for Cha, engagement could be used to test whether Kim Jong-il would truly disarm.

One of the next chapters in this collaboration will be the eagerly anticipated updated version of Nuclear North Korea.

Leave a Reply