Is America the main obstacle to peace in Korea?

Though it’s still winter in Pyeongchang, where the world’s athletes are competing in the 23rd Olympic Winter Games, the heralds of spring are already twittering and tweeting across the Korean peninsula and around the world. Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, successfully charmed the international media. Her brother has been calling for further efforts at reconciliation, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, notwithstanding his surprisingly forceful response to North Korean provocations over the past year, is surely inclined to pursue such efforts.

Officially, both North and South Korea favor reunification. So why has there been essentially no progress towards that goal since the fall of the Soviet Union made the Cold War confrontation obsolete?

The obvious answer would be: because North Korea is a giant Stalinist prison camp, a routine violator of human rights on an industrial scale, a nuclear proliferator and supporter of terrorism, ruled by a degenerate and half-mad dynasty whose latest scion murdered his own brother to secure his position on the throne. And all of these things are true. But they are not by any means the whole truth, nor even the most important part of it.

Consider the position of the Kim family, and the North Korean state, from a purely rational perspective. If the only path to reconciliation is through dismantling its nuclear deterrent, upending the ideological basis of the regime, and surrendering its leadership to international human rights prosecutors, then of course reconciliation is impossible — and, indeed, nobody truly favors it. In that case, South Korea’s true aim must be not reunification, but conquest: to force North Korea to collapse and then take over. Which is precisely what North Korean propaganda says.

But there is ample evidence that this is not what South Korea wants at all. The collapse of the North Korean regime would present the South with a sudden and massive humanitarian catastrophe for which it would bear the brunt of the cost and logistical responsibility. Far better to have some kind of negotiated transition for the North out of Stalinism, however long it might take. While pro-reunification sentiment has declined substantially in recent years, particularly among younger South Koreans, that’s primarily because of concerns about the economic toll, and not because of increased commitment to anti-communism.

As for the military threat, South Korea is certainly not happy with North Korea going nuclear, but not because …read more

Source:: The Week – World

      

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