John Duncan is a UCLA scholar of Korean history and teaches in the departments of Asian languages and cultures and history. Duncan is the former head of the Center for Korean Studies at UCLA and a member of the UCLA International Institute.
Before taking part in a Zócalo/UCLA panel discussion titled “Is War With North Korea Inevitable?” at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in downtown Los Angeles, he spoke in the green room about how South Korean society has changed since the war, and why he hasn’t traveled to North Korea.
How did your interest in Korea start?
During the Vietnam War years, the U.S. Army sent me to Korea. I was attached to the 2nd Infantry Division, which in those years was responsible for [part] of the DMZ [demiliatized zone]. And then after I got discharged from the Army I went back to Korea and studied, spent another four years there as a student. I knew I was going to be something with Korea, at that point; I just didn’t know exactly what I would be doing.