North Korea Conference 2019

Can we live with a Nuclear North Korea?

The conference brings together American and regional experts, academicians and policy-makers to examine the implications of North Korea’s acquisition of nuclear weapons and an intercontinental ballistic missile capability for the evolving security environment in Northeast Asia. Speakers with expertise on the foreign and security policy of the Republic of Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Japan, China, and the United States will examine and debate the challenges and opportunities each state faces from the altered security environment.


This will be the second biennial conference co-hosted by the School of Policy and International Affairs and the Cohen Institute for Leadership Studies. The conference is intended for the university community and the interested public.

All are welcome!


No RSVP is needed for attendance. For more information or further questions please contact Dr. Kristin Vekasi. 


Meet our presenters

Keynote Speaker: Ambassador Chris Hill, University of Denver

Ambassador Kathleen Stephens – Korean Economic Institute

Dr. Sheila Smith – Council of Foreign Relations

Dr. Jung Pak – Brookings Institute

Dr. Jiyoung Ko – Bates College


Buchanan House McIntire Room


Thursday, October 17 (5:00 – 6:30 pm)


  • Introduction from Dean Emily Haddad, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Keynote from Ambassador Chris Hill
  • Moderated by Dr. Kristin Vekasi

Friday, October 18 (8:30 am – 12:00 pm) 


  • Great power politics and the Korean peninsula
  • Presenter:  Ambassador Kathleen Stephens 
  • Moderator: Ambassador Chris Hill


  • Coffee Break


  • North Korea’s nuclear program and neighborhood politics
  • Presenter: Dr. Sheila Smith
  • Moderator: Dr. Jiyoung Ko


  • Coffee Break


  • North Korea’s nuclear program and Implications for the international non-proliferation regime
  • Presenter: Dr. Jung Pak
  • Moderator: Dr. Asif Nawaz

Meet our Presenters

Ambassador Kathleen StephensKorean Economic Institute

Ambassador Kathleen Stephens assumed leadership of KEI as President and CEO. Ambassador Stephens was a career diplomat in the United States Foreign Service, 1978-2015.  She was U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea 2008-2011, the first woman and first Korean-speaker to serve in that position.  Other overseas assignments included postings to China, former Yugoslavia, Portugal, Northern Ireland, where she was U.S. Consul General in Belfast during the negotiations culminating in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, and India, where she was U.S. Charge ‘d Affaires (2014-2015).

Ambassador Chris Hill– University of Denver

Ambassador Christopher Robert Hill is currently the chief advisor to the chancellor for global engagement and professor of the practice in diplomacy at the University of Denver. Prior to this position, he was the dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University, a position he held from September 2010 to December 2017. In addition to overseeing the University’s Global Engagement, Ambassador Hill is author of Outpost: Life on the Frontlines of American Diplomacy: A Memoir, a monthly columnist for Project Syndicate, and a highly sought public speaker and voice in the media on international affairs.

Dr. Sheila Smith – Council of Foreign Relations

Dr. Sheila A. Smith, an expert on Japanese politics and foreign policy, is senior fellow for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Smith is a regular contributor to the CFR blog Asia Unbound, and frequent contributor to major media outlets in the United States and Asia. She joined CFR from the East-West Center in 2007, where she directed a multinational research team in a cross-national study of the domestic politics of the U.S. military presence in Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines.

Dr. Jung Pak – Brookings Institute

Dr. Jung H. Pak is a senior fellow and the SK-Korea Foundation Chair in Korea Studies at Brookings Institution’s Center for East Asia Policy Studies. She focuses on the national security challenges facing the United States and East Asia, including North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) capabilities, the regime’s domestic and foreign policy calculus, internal stability, and inter-Korean ties. Pak is also focused on developing interdisciplinary forums to bolster regional dialogue on counterterrorism, nonproliferation, cybersecurity, and climate change. She also has interests in broader U.S.-South Korea relations and regional dynamics.

Dr. Jiyoung Ko – Bates College

Dr. Jiyoung Ko is an Assistant Professor of Politics at Bates College. Dr. Ko is an international security scholar with a regional focus on Northeast Asia. Her research interests include alliance politics, nuclear proliferation, and nationalism. She is currently completing her book project that examines how popular nationalism affects the likelihood of international conflict. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the Notre Dame International Security Center, and is an organizer of the International Relations and East Asia Online Colloquium.

Dr. Ko received her Ph.D, M.Phil, and M.A. in Political Science from Yale University, and a B.A. and a M.A. in Political Science from Korea University.