Pulitzer Center Update

NPR's "Fresh Air" Interviews Evan Osnos about North Korea

Pulitzer Center grantee Evan Osnos appeared on the September 13, 2017 edition of NPR’s Fresh Air to speak about his four-day trip to North Korea and the future of U.S.-Korean relations. Osnos, who met with government officials and Pyongyang citizens alike while writing a cover story for The New Yorker, gave a unique perspective on how the Hermit Kingdom views the escalating tension between the two countries:

“The message was, we will never give up nuclear weapons. And that message is deeply felt. I mean they will tell you that the reason they will never give up nuclear weapons is that they remember what happened to Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, both of whom were developing nuclear weapons at one point, gave them up and, as a result, ended up losing their regime.”

Osnos observed that the U.S. and North Korea are locked in a relationship where neither side truly knows—let alone understands—what the other is doing:

“In many ways, you find two countries staring at each other through very foggy glass. … North Korea is asking many of the same questions about Donald Trump that we ask about Kim Jong Un. Is he rational? Does he have a coherent plan? And does he recognize the full risks of what he's doing?”

Osnos’ trip, which was funded in part by a grant from the Pulitzer Center, began only three days after President Trump released a series of aggressive tweets regarding the possibility of American military intervention in North Korea. Although he considered not making the trip during such an uneasy time, he decided that the benefits outweighed the potential costs:

“We concluded in the end was that the risks were manageable. I was there, invited by the government. They knew who I was. They knew I was a journalist. And it seemed like the wise choice to go.”

Osnos’s story, “The Risk of Nuclear War with North Korea,” provided an in-depth (14,000 word) look into the culture surrounding the nuclear threat within North Korea, and appeared as a New Yorker cover story. Since publishing, he has been invited by several programs to speak about his story, including an appearance on Charlie Rose September 12.