Wednesday, July 10, 2013

No simple scenario for uniting the Koreas

It is even harder if you do not try or just have hope as a course of action.  

One thing to keep in mind with the author's comments is that he implies that the strength of the ROK/US alliance is a factor in making the Peninsula a dangerous flashpoint.  He is not a supporter of the Alliance.  But I think he has it backwards.  The strength of the ROK/US Alliance provides President Park much flexibility in dealing with the north and it will also be key in supporting the unification process whether it occurs after war or regime collapse.

No simple scenario for uniting the Koreas
July 10th, 2013
Author: Chung-in Moon, Yonsei University
It is a daunting challenge to predict the future of the Korean peninsula in the Asian century because there are so many variables involved.

But the key factor is clear: the peninsula’s regional and international status and influence will be determined by the nature of inter-Korean relations. Whereas peaceful reunification would greatly enhance Korea’s position, a continuation of the status quo, heightened tension and military clashes are likely to undermine its leadership in the region.

Yet the status quo — where the Korean peninsula remains divided — does not have to entail negative consequences. Although both Koreas might fail to achieve de jure unification, they can avoid military tension and conflict through by promoting mutual exchanges and through cooperation, and so lay the foundation for eventual peaceful unification. Under this rather benign status quo scenario the South Korean economy would continue to grow and North Korea could grasp a new opportunity for opening and reform as well as economic revitalisation. The peninsula, though divided, would be at peace. That would allow both Koreas to play a significant role in shaping the Asian century.

A more disturbing scenario is possible. North Korea maintains its nuclear ambition and international efforts to punish the North through bilateral and multilateral sanctions increase hostility between the two Koreas. The South strengthens its alliance with the United States and seeks further American assurance that it will be protected under the US nuclear umbrella. North Korea  responds by intensifying its nuclear threats. Such a harsh confrontation revives the ‘cold war divide’ in the region and complicating regional security problems. Occasional military clashes deal critical blows to the South Korean economy with the ‘Korea discount’ and ‘sell out Korea’ dominating the response in international markets, while the North Korean economy continues to slide into deep stagnation and paralysis. The Korean peninsula would remain, in this scenario, a dangerous flash point in the Asian century.

Another scenario is that North Korea becomes so dependent on China as to lose aspects of its sovereignty — the ‘Finlandisation’ of North Korea. Mounting external pressures have already made North Korea increasingly dependent on China. As of 2012, China accounted for more than 80 per cent of North Korea’s total trade, and economic ties between the two countries have expanded markedly. If this trend continues, North Korea could be functionally incorporated into China’s northeast economic zone. Inter-Korean economic relations would suffer greatly and the chance of national unification recede. The North Korean economy would, however, be better off than under the second scenario, and South Korea could also sustain its economic growth at a moderate pace. But China’s growing influence would overshadow the role and visibility of both Koreas.

National division might not be the inevitable destiny of Koreans. They could achieve national unification. Koreans could take Germany as a successful example of unification by absorption; a total merger of the two Koreas into a unified nation, through South Korea’s takeover of the North, is possible. The complete internal collapse of North Korea is also plausible. If unification occurred under these circumstances, it would represent the ultimate triumph of South Korea’s market economy and liberal democracy over North Korea’s juche ideology.

Three factors could impede unification through collapse and takeover.
(Continued at the link below)

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