A Fish Tale With a Happy Ending |
| Search the Universe for Your Own Molecule
U.S. researchers have little to show for efforts in recent years to reach out to counterparts in North Korea. But the stars may be aligning for a new push, particularly if the Administration of U.S. President Barack Obama jump-starts stalled efforts at science diplomacy. The new U.S. Administration "presents a new face internationally and can make this a very special time to engage in these activities," Peter Agre, incoming AAAS president and a 2003 Nobel Laureate in chemistry, said at a session on engaging scientists in North Korea.
The atmosphere of late for scientific cooperation has been bleak. Intelligence analysts say that North Korea is gearing up for another provocative round of missile tests and that relations between North and South Korea are at their lowest point in years. "Educational or academic exchanges in the strict sense are limited to virtually nonexistent," said Fred Carriere of The Korea Society in New York City. "Trust and a communication deficit is the root of the problem."
"Soft power" aficionados hope this year they can turn the page. A ray
of hope is an 8-year-long collaboration between Syracuse University in New York state and
Kim Chaek University of Technology in Pyongyang, which resulted in the
construction of a digital library at Kim Chaek. The collaboration
"produced something of consequence. It actually mattered," said
Syracuse's Stuart Thorson. Syracuse helped organize North Korea's
first participation a couple of years ago in the Association for Computing
Machinery intercollegiate computer program contest; a team from Kim
Chaek this year made it to the finals. Syracuse is now working with the
U.S. Fulbright office in Seoul to organize a program to bring junior
faculty members from North Korea to U.S. universities for extended stays.
"Hopefully, this will happen relatively soon," said Thorson.
the meantime, a consortium involving AAAS, Syracuse University, The
Korea Society, and the U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation plans
this year to dispatch a trailblazing science delegation to North Korea
to explore potential cooperation. "This is not charity on our part. We
will benefit and our Korean counterparts will benefit," said Agre, who
will lead the delegation. "We hope this will be the first of many