Former ambassador to North Korea to shed light on secretive nation in lecture at URI, April 3

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KINGSTON, R.I. – March 20, 2013 – Friedrich Löhr, the former German Ambassador to North Korea and a Distinguished Visiting International Scholar at the University of Rhode Island, will present a lecture on April 3 entitled “Making Sense of North Korea: The Father, the Son, and the Sacred System.”

The presentation begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Lippitt Hall auditorium on the URI Kingston campus. The event is free and open to the public.

North Korea is an unusual country, since it is thoroughly secluded from the rest of the world, said Löhr. Its population has been effectively indoctrinated to see all good coming from the Kim family and all things bad from the U.S. and its allies. A policy of ‘military first’ makes it easier for the regime to control its population.

In his lecture, Löhr will discuss the two years he served as ambassador from 2005 to 2007 and provide insight into how the recent change in North Korea’s leadership will affect the future of its political regime.

“North Koreans are a deeply Confucian people, hard-working, disciplined and emotional, and they are normal Asian people as long as things do not become political,” Löhr said.

“Then they freeze and the results of social engineering and military discipline shines through. For their officials, regime preservation trumps everything else. Many things seemingly irrational make some sense when seen through a mental template of the preservation of the ‘Sacred System.’ This is why they will try to keep their nuclear program for the time being whilst studiously avoiding collective suicide.”

Löhr has had a long career in foreign affairs for the German government. A Rhodes Scholar with degrees in law and international relations, he served in the Germany embassies in Yugoslavia, Sudan, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Algeria, among other assignments, from 1977 to 2002. He later was minister and deputy chief of mission at the German embassy in Beijing, China, before becoming ambassador to North Korea. He concluded his diplomatic career as German consulate general in Boston from 2008 to 2012.

In his latter position, Löhr visited URI several times to recognize the University’s International Engineering Program and honor the program’s directors, John Grandin and Sigrid Berka, with awards from the German government. He is teaching a URI honors course on “European Crisis and Integration” this semester, supported in part by a grant from the Max Kade Foundation.

His lecture, as well as events related to Löhr’s visit to URI this spring, is sponsored by the URI Provost’s Office, which administers the Distinguished Visiting International Scholars program, as well as the College of Arts & Sciences, the College of Engineering, the College of Business, the Department of History and the Honors Program.

For more information about the lecture, contact Sigrid Berka at or 401-874-4700.