Most people would agree that North Korea and Hawaii are geographically a world apart, separated by 11,631 miles and two large oceans. What many people aren’t aware of is the actual history that lies beneath the long divide. From Japan’s claim of authority over the Korean Peninsula in 1910, to the Allied Powers of World War II placing President Syngman Rhee’s Korea in a pro-Soviet, anti-American block of East Asia, the relationship between these two distant countries has been heavily influenced by powerful forces.
Beginning in the 1950s, after the Korean War and following the 38th Parallel Agreement, the United States obligated itself to defend South Korea against any North Korean aggression. This commitment has led to numerous joint military and economic initiatives and negotiations, while both countries also maintain a broad network of diplomatic representatives.
From cultural exchanges to increasing North Korean traffic in the South’s tourism industry, North Korea and Hawaii have been able to cooperate despite the physical distance between them. In fact, the two countries have clashed the least since the end of the Korean War.
In looking at the history of the US-North Korean relationship, it is important to note that in more recent times, the US has tried to soften its approach towards North Korea. Specifically, the Trump Administration issued a statement in 2018 expressing its desire to “engage in a peaceful resolution of the current stalemate with North Korea.”
And in 2020, the Biden Administration has proposed the first direct diplomatic talks between the US and North Korea in over three years. While the talks have not yet taken place, they are expected to provide an opportunity to discuss key issues including denuclearization, economic sanctions, and improving relations.
This shows that while the 11,631 miles between North Korea and Hawaii may make it seem like the two countries are worlds apart, they are actually connected by a shared history, similar regional interests, and the potential for future dialogue.
Geography And Climate
Most people would recognize that North Korea and Hawaii are very different in terms of their geographies and climates. North Korea is largely mountainous, with the majority of the country lying at an elevation of more than 3,000 feet above sea level. The majority of its land is covered by mountains and hills, with wide valleys and narrow coastal plains. In comparison, Hawaii is mostly low-lying, with some peaks rising to a height of 4,000 feet. An archipelago of 114 islands, Hawaii has several distinct biomes, ranging from sub-tropical to monsoon-influenced climates.
The differences between these two distinct lands are further accentuated by their different climates. North Korea has an extremely cold and dry winter, due to the Siberian anticyclone, and a hot and humid summer, due to the influence of the East Asian monsoon. Hawaii, on the other hand, has a distinct winter season with high precipitation and an even more beautiful summer season, characterized by low humidity and temperatures.
The differences between North Korea and Hawaii are also reflected in their respective architectural styles. North Korea is renowned for its Baroque-style buildings, most of which were either built or refurbished during the era of communism. These buildings combine traditional Korean elements such as curvature and sinuousness with a more Western-style architectural vocabulary. In comparison, the architecture of Hawaii draws heavily upon the cultures of both Polynesia and the South Pacific, with a focus on traditional carpentry, free-standing columns, and elegant staircases.
A particularly noteworthy example of this architectural style is the Hawaii State Capitol Building, which sits atop a hill overlooking downtown Honolulu. The building is a symbol of the Hawaiian people’s pride and independence, and is adorned with a variety of native images, including statues, sculptures, and painted murals.
Ties to the US
Finally, it is worth noting that for all of the physical distance between North Korea and Hawaii, the two countries share one important commonality: their connection to the United States. Historically, the US has maintained a strong cultural, economic, and military presence in both countries, and the US remains a key player in both North Korean and Hawaiian affairs.
Of course, the specifics differ drastically, as the US’s relationship with North Korea is understandably much more strained and adversarial. Furthermore, the US’s relationship with Hawaii is largely a result of Hawaii’s incorporation into the US, as the 50th state. Nonetheless, it is clear that there is a shared thread between these two far-flung lands.
Economic ties between North Korea and Hawaii also demonstrate the two countries’ ongoing relationship, despite the physical distance between them. Eager to exploit resources within their own economy, North Korea has long taken advantage of the relative abundance of both natural and human resources in Hawaii. In turn, Hawaii, while not necessarily seeking to establish direct economic ties with North Korea, has sought to diversify its economic efforts and capitalize on the potential of the Korean peninsula’s resources.
For example, Hawaii has long been a major importer of goods and services from North Korea, ranging from pineapple juice to computer services. At the same time, North Korean goods such as wood, handicrafts, and artwork are becoming increasingly popular in Hawaii, offering a unique cultural experience to Hawaiian locals and tourists alike.
These ongoing economic connections between North Korea and Hawaii demonstrate that the two countries are more linked than their geographic distance might suggest.
Future Of Relationship
In looking ahead, it is clear that the 11,631 miles between North Korea and Hawaii will remain as much a physical divide as a metaphorical one. In spite of this, however, there is potential for the two countries to continue developing their relationship and engaging in mutual benefit. This could take many forms, from continued economic interaction to expanded cultural exchanges.
Ultimately, much of the future of the relationship between these two distant lands will depend on their respective leaders and the willingness of both sides to engage in honest dialogue and understanding. And while much remains to be seen, the 11,631 miles separating them may soon prove to be just a footnote in the story of North Korea and Hawaii’s cooperative journey.
The history of the US-North Korean relationship has been long and tumultuous. From the height of the Korean War in the 1950s to the present day, marked by President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear treaty, there have been a number of critical moments that have shaped the current state of conflict between the two countries.
These moments of confrontation have underscored the wide gulf between the two nations, yet they have also shown the capacity for mutual understanding and cooperation between them. This is especially true of the 1988 Seoul Olympics, where the two countries sent athletes to compete against each other in a spirit of sportsmanship and camaraderie.
Moreover, there have also been more recent attempts at dialogue and peace-building. For example, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s 2018 decision to send a delegation to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics was viewed by many as a sign of hope for a better relationship between the two countries.
These moments of engagement and understanding demonstrate that, despite their separation of 11,631 miles, North Korea and Hawaii have the capacity for productive dialogue, now and in the future.
The cultural exchange between North Korea and Hawaii has been especially noteworthy in recent years, as both countries have opened up to the global community. In particular, North Korea is known for its vibrant and dynamic culture, characterized by its own unique form of Traditional Korean music and theater, as well as its spicy, flavorful cuisine.
Meanwhile, Hawaii’s culture is deeply rooted in the traditions of its native Polynesian culture, with distinct music, dance, and language all present in the lives of its citizens. In addition, Hawaii’s cuisine offers a range of delicious local dishes, with a focus on fresh fish and seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Given the physical distance between North Korea and Hawaii, it is unsurprising that the two countries’ cultures differ vastly. Nonetheless, there is an undeniable sense of commonality between North Korean and Hawaiian cultures, and there is much to be gained from exchanges between these two distant lands.
North Korea and Hawaii have also been at the forefront of political engagement, both in terms of engaging with each other and with the international community. For instance, North Korean citizens have been vocal in their criticism of the government’s human rights record, and Hawaii has been an active participant in regional and global organizations, advocating for a variety of causes.
Meanwhile, the US has been involved in the politics of both Korea and Hawaii, mostly as a mediator in the peace process. This involvement has led to several agreements and diplomatic initiatives, which have helped to mitigate the long-standing tensions between the two countries.
However, it is also important to note that the US has also played a role in exacerbating the divide between North Korea and Hawaii. From economic sanctions to military threats, the US has consistently shown a reluctance to engage in meaningful dialogue and cooperative initiatives.
Ultimately, the politics of North Korea and Hawaii remain intertwined and complex, yet there is potential for both sides to engage in meaningful dialogue in the future.