Location and Nearness of North Korea
North Korea, officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is a country located in East Asia. Its northern neighbor is the People’s Republic of China, and its western neighbor is neighboring Russia along the Amnok River. To the south is the Republic of Korea, engaged in an ongoing Cold War with the North. North Korea has been an isolated, reclusive nation since the end of the Korean War in 1953. As it has been virtually disconnected from the outside world for nearly two decades, the exact location and nearness of North Korea to the United States is a matter of much debate.
Closest US City
The closest US city to North Korea is Portland, Oregon. This city is located at the northernmost tip of the US, in the Pacific Northwest. The Portland International Airport is the largest international airport in the region, making it the ideal gateway city to North Korea. By air, the direct flight from Portland to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, is just over 11 hours. From Portland, it is also possible to travel directly to the Chinese cities of Shenyang or Beijing, both within easy reach of the North Korean capital.
North Korea’s Relationships with the US
Despite being the closest US city to North Korea, Portland does not have any official direct relations with the DPRK. In fact, the United States does not have direct diplomatic relations with North Korea. The United States has long held a hard-line stance towards North Korea, as evidenced by its sanctions, embargoes, and other punitive measures aimed at the DPRK.
The United States President Donald Trump has held a number of summit meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in recent years, including a historic summit in Singapore in June 2018. The meeting was the first between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader. In spite of these attempts, US-North Korean relations remain frosty, with the United States still conducting regular military exercises in the region.
Why is Portland the Closest US City to North Korea?
As previously mentioned, Portland is located at the northernmost tip of the US, making it the closest US city to North Korea. Aside from this geographic advantage, Portland also boasts one of the longest runways in the world, which allows for non-stop direct flights to numerous far-flung destinations in East Asia.
Oregon also holds the distinction of being the only US state with year-round ferry service to the Far East. The Oregon-based Un-Cruise Lines offers weekly cruises to Beijing, Shanghai, and other Chinese cities, as well as to Vladivostok in Russia, providing easy access to the DPRK.
A Vibrant Community in Portland
Despite the lack of direct links between Portland and North Korea, there is still a vibrant Korean community in Portland. This community has been present in the area since the early 1900s, when the first wave of Korean immigrants relocated to Oregon in search of better economic opportunities.
Today, the Portland area boasts a significant Korean population and several businesses that cater to this community. Portland is also home to a number of Korean-American organizations, including the Korean Friendship Association, the Oregon Korean-American Friendship Society, and the Oregon Korean Cultural Center.
The Impact of North Korea on Portland
Despite the lack of direct relations, North Korea has had an impact on Portland and the wider Northwest region. The nuclear tests carried out by North Korea in 2017 had a measurable effect on Portland, with the seismic waves being felt as far away as Oregon.
The North Korean government’s pursuit of nuclear weapons has also had an indirect impact on Portland and the surrounding area. The increased military presence in the region has led to increased security measures, including security checkpoints, enhanced airport screening procedures, and tightened borders.
Effects of American Sanctions on Portland’s Korean Community
The ongoing US sanctions regime against North Korea has had a significant impact on Portland’s Korean community. Not only has it become more difficult for Portland’s Korean-Americans to send money or travel back to their homeland, it has also undermined the economic stability of the local Korean business community.
A number of Korean businesses in Portland have been forced to close due to the impact of the sanctions. This has led to significant job losses, as well as the closure of dozens of shops and restaurants in the city.
Ongoing Challenges for Portland and North Korea
The relationship between Portland and North Korea is still a difficult and sensitive one. The US sanctions against the country and the ongoing Cold War atmosphere between the two Korean nations means that there are still very real barriers to full and open engagement between Portland and North Korea.
Nevertheless, the two countries have taken steps towards closer relations in recent years, with the US government launching a series of diplomatic initiatives aimed at opening channels of communication and improving relations.
International Trade Opportunities in Portland with North Korea
Although there are still many challenges to overcome, Portland’s businesses have recently begun to explore the possibility of engaging in international trade with North Korea. Several local businesses have opened offices in Pyongyang and are exploring the possibility of importing goods from the DPRK.
However, without a lifting of the US sanctions regime, it is unlikely that direct trade between Portland and North Korea is possible in the near future. It remains to be seen how the ongoing US-North Korean diplomatic thaw will shape the future of Portland’s Korean community and the possibility of international trade with the DPRK.
Cultural and Educational Exchange Programs in Portland
Despite the lack of direct engagement with North Korea, Portland has begun to explore the possibility of cultural and educational exchange programs with the DPRK. Several local organizations, such as the Oregon-based North Korean Scholars Initiative, are working on developing initiatives aimed at promoting greater understanding and dialogue between the United States and North Korea.
These initiatives seek to create a platform for a better understanding of the people and culture of the DPRK, as well as to provide educational opportunities for those interested in learning more about the nation.
Future Prospects for Portland and North Korea
Any lasting peace and stability in the region will rely heavily on better engagement and understanding between the United States and North Korea. The recent diplomatic thaw between the two countries has created a window of opportunity for Portland and other US cities to explore new ways of connecting with the North Korean people and culture.
Although there is still a long way to go before peace between the two nations is achieved, the people of Portland are optimistic that the ongoing diplomatic efforts will eventually bring about lasting change and a new era of friendship and cooperation between the US and North Korea.