Christian case for engaging north Korea

Joseph Yi, Joe Phillips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The Trump Administration’s strategy to isolate North Korea includes a ban on Americans travelling there. The 2017 ban especially impacts nearly seventy Christian faith-based organizations (FBOs), which in the past two decades legally channelled hundreds of (mostly volunteer) workers and thousands of tourists to North Korea. Since the travel restriction, these faith-based workers and tourists have publicly joined the debate over the United States’ North Korea policy. They have acted as “norm entrepreneurs,” shaping an alternative, cognitive frame for engagement. This frame includes three claims: 1) foreign Christian workers and tourists are generally tolerated by the regime, so long as they obey existing laws and regulations 2) these workers and tourists meaningfully contribute to socioeconomic development and religious freedom in North Korea and, 3) the US government should not violate the rights of Americans to travel and practice their faith, as long as they engage in these activities in a safe and meaningful way. The faith-based frame for peaceful engagement resonates among American mainstream and evangelical Christian media it links with America’s individualist and evangelical normative traditions of social change through grassroots, personal relationships. We narrate and assess this frame through interviews and other communications with over twenty workers and tourists (mostly US citizens) linked with FBOs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)523-537
Number of pages15
JournalPacific Affairs
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Sep

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
National Research Foundation of Korea Grant funded by the Korean Government (NRF-2016S1A5A2A01026603). We appreciate the research assistance of Subin Kim and Byeonggeun Heo. Kim is majoring in political science and English language and literature at Hanyang University. Heo received a B.A. in political science at Hanyang University and is a graduate student in political science at New York University.

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments: This article was supported by the Hanyang University Research Fund and the

Publisher Copyright:
© Pacific Affairs.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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