Topic of the Day: North Korea
Today's Topic of the Day was inspired by this AP piece on abcnews.com.
North Korea was also the Topic of the Day on 5/13/05
From the article:
South Korea, seeking to get North Korea to return to six-nation negotiations over its nuclear weapons program, hoped for a response Tuesday from the reclusive communist country.
Trying to ease rising tensions, South Korea on Monday promised a major new proposal if North Korea returns to the talks. No details were released, but South Korean media speculated that Seoul would offer aid to its impoverished neighbor, which has been wracked by famine.
Now I'm sure all of us are a little skeptical of the results of such a meeting. The U.S. has turned down one-on-one talks with North Korea because it believes the "six party talks" will be more effective. They are probably correct, assuming the North Koreans ever again agree to the talks. There has been a lot made about the Chinese pushing, although not as hard as we'd like, North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions. So one might be likely to assume that if a superpower cannot accomplish anything through a one-on-one and an emerging superpower and staunch ally cannot accomplish anything through a one-on-one that nothing will come of these latest talks. This, however, would be incorrect, in my opinion.
While nothing major will come out of these talks, such as disarmament or shifts towards a western style economy or government, one of the most important little things will emerge: dialogue.
You see the Korean Peninsula is much like Cold War Germany: a divided nation yearning to unite. This, of course, won't happen until two pre-requisites are fulfilled:
1. The Korean War generation dies off.
2. Those in power can come to terms.
While #1 is just a matter of time (and not far away, especially considering the North's life expectancy resembles that during the Great Depression, and is on track to get lower), #2 is where these talks come in handily. You see, South Korean who led the talks is not just a top-ranking Korean diplomat, he's the Vice Unification Minister. That's right, the Koreans are quite formal in their desire to see a unified Korea once again.
Obviously, the North Koreans will not easily come to terms with the South's more Western economy and progressive government, but I fully expect this to happen in my lifetime.
South Korea already gives aide in various forms to the North. For example, to fight the raging famine in the PRNK, the South generously gives fertilizer to the North. There used to be some places South Koreans were allowed to visit as tourists, and while the only one I knew of was shut down, some forms of tourism might be allowed.
Remember that Kim Jung Il is obsessed, more than anything, with power. While many believe his weakness is his pride, I think it's quite the opposite. I think he's pissing in his pants afraid. Look at what has happened in China. The Chinese have gone to a western economy to gain political power in the region and world. But it has come at a price, a loss of power over its people. Kim, if he were truly filled with pride, would have altered his economic system thinking there was no way he could lose power. A prideful man doesn't simply guard his marbles, and that's all Kim is doing.
If, given time, talks such as these can soften Kim and provide enough targeted assistance so that the people of North Korea come to see the South as saviors, then Kim will have to move closer to the South politically. Don't get me wrong, until Kim dies or is overthrown, there will be two nations on the Korean Peninsula, but if he remains in power for, say, 10-15 more years, by the attitudes towards the South will be much more positive, and unification will be possible.
In reality, these Chinese incidents with Japan only bring the North and South closer together, as both position on the side of the Chinese. Hatred of Japan, it seems, runs multiple generations deep while hatred for the Koreans across the border doesn't get passed down. As proof, it seems that South Korea has done what many Americans might consider unthinkable by siding against us on how to deal with the north:
As Washington tries to unite participants in the six-party talks over the North's nuclear program - stalled since last June - fundamental differences have hardened. While the United States and Japan favor tougher measures, South Korea and China do not. Russia tends to share the South Korean and Chinese views.
After North Korea declared last week that it had extracted weapons-grade fuel from a nuclear reactor, South Korea and China dismissed punitive options like economic sanctions.
The offer underscored the fact that South Korea, though an ally of the United States, shares China's softer approach toward North Korea. In recent years the South has increased political, cultural and economic exchanges with the North to prevent a total collapse of the Communist government and nudge it toward Chinese-style reforms.
For Seoul, managing its growing ties with the North and its alliance with an American administration hawkish on North Korea has become increasingly delicate. South Korean officials tend not to criticize Washington openly, as the Chinese do, but privately express some of the same frustrations over American tactics.
Ultimately the U.S. just wants to stop the North Korean threat, while South Korea wants the North to be in ship-shape when unification finally occurs. I personally cannot argue with the Korean's motives, let's just hope we can control Kim until those dreams meet reality.