We concluded a third meeting with a video showing South Korean musicians and African-American singers performing a round of Arirang (a traditional favorite song of North and South Koreans) combined with Amazing Grace.

The ambassador hoped that we might visit Pyongyang for a medical conference and begin cooperative medical work with DPRK colleagues. (We have now received and accepted an official invitation for a delegation of five Harvard-affiliated physicians to visit Pyongyang Medical College later this year.)

The future of nuclear threat

In 2017, the US-North Korea standoff brought the hidden danger of nuclear weapons back out of the shadows. North Korea exploded weapons and launched intercontinental missiles. Trump threatened “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” Kim said that “the entire United States is within range of our nuclear weapons. The button is always on my desk.” Trump stated that he had a bigger button. The nuclear threat to humanity, ever-present since Hiroshima but only intermittently visible, suddenly recaptured the attention it deserves.

The current escalating nuclear danger reminds us of a similar time of peril. In 1980, the United States and the Soviet Union spoke of fighting and winning a nuclear war with their 60,000 nuclear weapons. As physicians, we joined with Russian colleagues to publicize the medical facts demonstrating that there will be no winners in a nuclear war. For these efforts, the IPPNW was awarded its Nobel. Thirty-two years later, we hoped that a focus on the human consequences of the use of nuclear weapons could again be instructive for world leaders.

The public needs to stay informed to help governments abandon a nuclear mindset and move toward safety; in particular, the young need to add their energy and idealism in this struggle for the future of humanity.

The nuclear threat had been hidden from millennials, who came of age after the fall of the Soviet Union. But now that they have been alerted to the North Korean crisis, their eyes have been opened. With the problem once again clearly visible, it is our hope that today’s youth will advocate outlawing nuclear weapons. They are the flagbearers of the future, and they are the ones who will increase the chances for our survival and that of all generations.

At the dawn of the nuclear age, Albert Einstein stated that the world will require a new way of thinking if it is to survive. In the 70 years since, we have experienced multiple technical mistakes and nuclear crises. On the current course, these crises will continue, and if governments don’t act, sooner or later, our luck will run out. An informed citizenry can help the nuclear-armed nations change course—and ensure a future for humanity.

Dr. James Muller was a co-founder and Dr. John Pastore was the executive secretary of the Nobel prize-winning International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). Pastore has visited North Korea twice for medical work, and Muller has recently met with diplomats at the DPRK UN mission to discuss possible future cooperation with North Korean physicians in the fields of cardiology and prevention of nuclear war.

This article is part of Quartz Ideas, our home for bold arguments and big thinkers.

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