The Great Engagement Debate: Stanton v. Delury at NCNK

On October 22nd, the National Committee for North Korea invited me and Professor John Delury of Yonsei University to a debate, in which we each offered three proposals for the next president on North Korea policy, all premised on a delusion of grandeur that Donald Trump really cares what either of us thinks.

The debate was held in a beautiful conference room on the top floor of the Hart Senate Office Building overlooking the Capitol. There was a great crowd — probably about 60 people. Stephen Noerper, the Senior Vice President of the Korea Society, moderated.

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Naturally, the debate became a debate about the Sunshine Policy, the Sunshine Lite Policy, and other Sunshine hybrids and mutations that have dominated U.S. and South Korean policy for most of the last 20 years. And while I could hardly agree less with Professor Delury on policy matters, I also found him to be an exceedingly likable and genial person. I’m glad to have met him, and honored to have debated him. My only regret is that there wasn’t video, but the transcript is here.

Many thanks to Keith Luse and NCNK for their kind invitation, and to Daniel Wertz for arranging this, and for his careful attention to the transcripts.


  1. congrats..looks like it was a great only qualm with engagement proponents is that they don’t actually talk about closing concentration camps (delury didn’t seem to mention it)..they don’t seem to even refer to them with euphemisms (e.g., ‘re-education’ or ‘labor) and seemingly treat them as annoyances or non-issues, which is ridiculous to at SAIS i’ve heard a mansourov clone describe the north korean human rights situation as getting better or not being so bad as well as praising india’s recent economic charm offensive with nk as increasing economic linkages to improve engagement opportunities

  2. Mr. Stanton, thanks for the transcript. The vid would have body language / voice inflection / audience reaction / etc. that the transcript can’t present, but I / we certainly got the idea. Boo on anal Yonhap.

    Although I am a fellow traveller, you objectively won the debate because you kept to “lower level / more granular” issues and problems to (re)solve. I’ll take your word for it that Prof. Delury is a cool / honorable gentleman, but process / procedures / officialosity / legalese / etc. paralyze his thinking and he can’t pull himself outside those boxes out to the real objective – put the Little Fatso dynasty out of business.

    Keep at it, Mr. Stanton. Great historical causes often enough take time. Lotsa time. Abolition here in America, for example. Hell – the re-rise of Israel! I have no doubt – one day the Nork Empire will fall and you will pull the plug on One Free Korea, sending it to the archives . . .

  3. Funny thing about that, Felix. I never did see the words “Koryolink” or “Orascom” anywhere in your article. Mostly just a lot of modest plugs for your book. It’s hard to believe Naguib Sawaris agrees with you at this point.

    Incidentally, did you have anything to do with this project?

    Just curious.

  4. Nope, I wasn’t involved in the fertilizer project but for example in a dairy project on behalf of S.Korean and overseas Korean sponsors who wanted to offer a daily glass of milk to every N.Korean child. The project was aborted after the big sanctions wave by the G.W. Bush administration.
    Wrong again, Josh: I told the Egyptians at the time their project was too big and too risky. Perhaps Sawiris would now agree with me.
    For people who don’t understand the nature of frontier and emerging markets here is a short introduction:

  5. Thanks for posting the transcript. I thought Prof. Delury’s presentation had a lot of dead air and unsubstantiated opinion. For example, he argued that it doesn’t make sense for North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons given American and South Korean “attitudes.” Which means, I guess, that without nuclear missiles, North Korea would quickly succumb to American imperialism. But Delury moves on without unpacking or defending that assertion. I’ve come to recognize this as a standard technique of people with weak arguments.

  6. My favorite Abt Tweet of the year was not any of his rants about the
    evils of “US fascism” or his slurs against defectors as “criminals.”
    My favorite Abt Tweet of the year was his comment wishing all of his
    “Jewish friends” a happy Rosh Hashanah! The Iranian Mullahs also issued a similarly laughable “greeting” on this past Jewish New Year!
    “Some of his best friends are Jewish” Didn’t you know? Ha! Ha! Ha!

  7. You should have had someone record it for you – you should start looking after this yourself, and make it a condition of speaking.

    Seriously. It’s important enough for you to think about.

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