Saturday, June 29, 2013

Which is the real Korea? Behind the North’s strange behavior and the South’s strange indifference is a still-unsettled war.

I just received a copy of the author's new book on Korea and it is well worth the read. I think it makes a very important contribution to Korean War and contemporary history and should be considered for use in Korean history studies.  But in answer to the rhetorical question of the title perhaps the questions is who are the real Korean people?  As I have recently written there are two Korean Miracles:  The one we all know about: "The Miracle on the Han: which is  the miraculous economic growth and transition to a vibrant democracy in South Korea.  The second is the "Miracle on the Taedong," which is the miracle that the north Korean people have survived their horrendous conditions living under the iron totalitarian rule of the Kim Family Regime.  The connection between the two is that both miracles rest on the traditional Korean culture that allows for survival in the face of extreme hardship as well as the creative, entrepreneurship of the people and the ability of the nation to survive and thrive as a "Shrimp among whales."  I think this theme is worth exploring for use in ROK PSYOP to help prepare the north Korean people for unification.  Although there are vast differences between north and South, the underlying fabric of traditional Korean culture may be useful in helping to bridge those differences and help facilitate the unification process. Credit for the idea of the Miracle on the Taedong goes to retired ROK Navy Admiral and Ambassador to Kuwait who mentioned it to me over lunch this week at a conference in Korea.

As far as the subtitle to this piece it is an important reminder of paragraph 60 of the 1953 Armistice that called for a meeting of ally he powers within 90 days of the signing to resolve the "Korea Question."  Such a meeting never took place but it does illustrate the unfinished war of 1950-1953 and recognized even then that the only solution to the Korea question is unification.
Which is the real Korea?
Behind the North’s strange behavior and the South’s strange indifference is a still-unsettled war.
By Sheila Miyoshi Jager |  GLOBE CORRESPONDENT     JUNE 30, 2013

WHAT DOES NORTH KOREA WANT? Internationally isolated, the North Korean regime has a long history of confrontation with the outside world, having threatened to engage South Korea and the United States in another war on numerous occasions. North Korea successfully tested its first nuclear device in 2006; most recently, its provocations have included a third nuclear test in February 2013 and a renewed threat to turn Seoul “into a sea of fire.” Stories from North Korean defectors reveal a life of desperate poverty and unimaginable repression. To Westerners, this belligerence and isolation in the context of such national suffering have often seemed baffling, even shocking. Guessing what motivates the regime, and what its inexperienced leader Kim Jong Un might do next, has become almost a parlor game.

To the south, meanwhile, sits a country where conditions could not be more different, and one where the threats of its neighbor to the north have been met with surprising calm, even indifference. “North Korea threatens to start a nuclear war, while South Korea dances to ‘Gangnam Style’,” observed German journalist Ullrich Fichtner about South Koreans’ reactions to North Korea’s rantings this spring. “War has never been this close, but Koreans in Seoul confront their fears by going about a bizarre version of everyday life, complete with truffle pasta and super-smart phones.” South Koreans even seem indifferent to the plight of the North Korean people themselves. Shin Dong-hyuk, who published a memoir in 2012 with journalist Blaine Harden about his early life spent entirely in a North Korean prison camp, bitterly suggested in a recent interview that “South Korea should be put on trial next to the North Korean regime for turning a blind eye” to North Korean human rights violations.
The strange contrast between the two Koreas—and the dynamic between them, one of total preoccupation from the North and apparent nonchalance from the South—is striking, a vexing clash of worldviews with major implications for the stability of East Asia and beyond. But it may not be as mysterious as it seems. The attitudes of the two nations can be understood as faces of the same coin, one that is a product of a war fought over 60 years ago in which neither side ever actually admitted defeat—and which North Korea continues to fight today.

For decades, the most important struggle for both of the Koreas has been the contest for legitimacy. The people of the South understand that this contest is decisively over, and now worry more about their own prosperity than the blusterings of their neighbor. The North, however, has so far refused to come to terms with its defeat. For us to navigate its continuing threats, we need to realize that the conventional explanations of the regime’s behavior—as recklessly seeking to maintain its hold on power and privilege, or as rationally responding to threats posed by hostile powers like the United States—miss something important. To North Korea, the main security threat is not the United States. It is the prosperity, wealth, and prestige of South Korea.
Which would become the legitimate Korea? As surprising as it may sound today, the answer at first appeared to be the North.

THE ORIGINS of the Korean conflict can formally be traced to the end of the Second World War, when the Korean peninsula was liberated from Japan and divided at the 38th parallel by the victorious United States and the Soviet Union. This new occupation—with the Soviets in the northern half and the Americans in the south—reinforced a divide that had already grown in Korea under the stresses of Japanese colonial occupation and created two partisan camps with the support of two rival patrons.
(Continued at the link below)

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