Conversely, if North Korea continues as it is, unification would not be the jackpot. Unification of a different sort; a phased unification, or a confederation of states as hypothesized elsewhere, would be ruinous for all concerned.The Republic of Korea must stop hesitating and complete the struggle to extend liberal democracy to the territory of North Korea. That is the way forward. It is my hope that President Park will open the way to liberal democratic unification during her term. Only then will unification truly be the jackpot.
Saturday, January 11, 2014
"Jackpot" Unification Comes with Caveats
The author Lee Ae Ran could be advocating for an unconventional warfare campaign plan (I would be happy to write one for her). Conclusion:
In her January 6th press conference, President Park Geun Hye said that unification would be something akin to hitting the jackpot. For me, unification is an opportunity to achieve the prosperity and development of the Korean Peninsula. President Park’s comments were cut from a similar cloth.
And yet we have been talking for some time about the “price of unification.” It is unclear where the figures come from, but a raft of academic, political and economic analyses have come out with astronomical calculations for the total cost of unification. These have caused ordinary Koreans to worry about the potential harm unification could do, and even the possible bankruptcy of a unified Korea.
As a consequence, many South Koreans now have sympathy for the position of those scholars and Sunshine Policy supporters who contend that it would be better to avoid the risk of an economically burdensome unification; rather, they would prefer to go on in the current manner while giving economic assistance to North Korea. This position is shaped by the belief that the price of reunification will fall if South Korea pours assistance into North Korea beforehand.
During ten years of liberal government in pursuit of this very goal, Sunshine Policy theorists handed over many hundreds of millions of dollars to Kim Jong Il and poured taxpayers’ money into North Korea at any sign of trouble. North Korean expectations rose; they got accustomed to the generosity. The cost of doing business rose commensurately, too; Kim Jong Il’s ransom became more expensive. An absurd situation unfolded: there were people visiting North Korea to flatter Kim Jong Il and have their picture taken standing next to him.
Even now there are some scholars and unification experts who cleave to this Sunshine Policy approach, explaining that reunification must be achieved slowly and through economic means; in other words, by affluent South Korea aiding unfortunate North Korea. Inter-Korean exchanges, economic cooperation and dialogue are essential, they say.
Despite the fact that the only things we obtained from ten years of left wing government propping up [North Korea] were nuclear developments and missiles, such people never mention for how long we must help the North, how much help we must give them, or how much better North Korea’s economy must become before its political system will change.
In reality, however, the North Korean economic crisis wouldn’t be solved even if South Korea provided support for a million years. The unification we want might never come about.
The economic crisis in North Korea today is a result of the errors of socialist and communist systems coupled to a hereditary Suryeongist dictatorship that defends that very system. No matter how much money North Korea may accumulate, unless the feudal dynastic system that deprives the North Korean people of their freedoms and human rights changes, those same people will continue to live in hunger. There will be no overcoming North Korea’s economic crisis, and, in the end, there is no nuclear solution without a solution to the difficulties of the North Korean people.
In which case, what is to be done?
The Republic of Korea must change its unification policy, strategy and tactics.
It was possible for the Republic of Korea to become the affluent state that it is today because of the liberal democratic system that President Rhee Syngman founded and the passionate, patriotic desire of President Park Chung Hee to see the people living well. If the two Koreas were unified under such a liberal democratic system then it would indeed be a golden opportunity.
Changing President Park’s “unification is the jackpot” comment slightly, we can say that “unification with North Korea under a liberal democratic system is the jackpot.”
Accordingly, what today’s North Korea needs is a liberal democratic system. If liberal democracy were established in North Korea, the people would develop an advanced, affluent nation even without external help. Naturally, if the capital, technologies and experiences of the Republic of Korea, which overcame its trials via liberal democracy and industrialization, modernization and advancement, were to buttress that process then it would take place all the more quickly.
Conversely, if North Korea continues as it is, unification would not be the jackpot. Unification of a different sort; a phased unification, or a confederation of states as hypothesized elsewhere, would be ruinous for all concerned.
The Republic of Korea must stop hesitating and complete the struggle to extend liberal democracy to the territory of North Korea. That is the way forward. It is my hope that President Park will open the way to liberal democratic unification during her term. Only then will unification truly be the jackpot.
* The views expressed in Guest Columns are independent and not necessarily those of Daily NK.
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