Support to Korean Resistance: Has the Time Come?
Journal Article | August 5, 2015 - 1:50am
Support to Korean Resistance: Has the Time Come?
David S. Maxwell
“It is time to take a professional approach to supporting a resistance among the Korean people living in the north.”
Unification of Korea is the only outcome that will solve three of the most intractable problems in Northeast Asia: (1) the Kim Family Regime’s nuclear threat; (2) the human rights atrocities and crimes against humanity that have been perpetrated on the Korean people living in the north each and every day for the past six decades; and (3) the threat to peace and prosperity in the region. It is only through unification, described as “a stable, secure, peaceful, economically vibrant, non-nuclear peninsula, reunified under a liberal constitutional form of government determined by the Korean people,” that can bring security and stability to Northeast Asia. No enlightened person can deny that this is what all Korean people deserve.
The combination of threats posed by North Korea with its conventional and asymmetric military capabilities, and the impact of conflict on the region and globally as well as the thought of the humanitarian crisis with 25 million hungry and suffering Korean people, has paralyzed the nations that have a major role in the region (the Republic of Korea, the United States, Japan, China, and Russia) as well as the broader international community. For decades we have approached the security and humanitarian problems through stovepipes trying to solve pieces and parts of the overall problem. There are the Six Party Talks trying to solve the nuclear problem while the regime continues to develop and test nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems while rewriting its constitution to call itself a nuclear state. For the first time there is the United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) investigation of the human rights atrocities that called for the referral of Kim Jong-un to the International Criminal Court. There are many other initiatives of engagement with governments and non-government organizations to assist the north with education, technology development, and agricultural development as well as food aid trying to assist the Korean people living in the north.
It is time to recognize the central problem and to understand that nuclear weapons and human suffering are the result of one thing: the existence of the Kim Family Regime and its oppression and enslavement of the Korean people living in the north. With recognition of the problem it may be possible to harness or at least orchestrate the actions of the many disparate organizations to achieve one goal: to free the people in the north and reunite the entire Korean peninsula.
Of course to many this is interpreted as regime change and in effect that is what I am arguing except that I am not arguing for an externally imposed regime change but one organized, led, and executed by people from within the northern part of Korea so that they can be free to peacefully reunite with their Korean brothers and sisters in the Southern half of the peninsula.
What stymies the international community and regional powers from achieving decisive change in the Kim Family Regime behavior and solving the nuclear and human rights issues is first and foremost the existence of the Regime and its vital national interest: regime survival. The regime will not succumb to international engagement or pressure or carrots or sticks. It will only continue to practice its time worn strategy of conducting blackmail diplomacy by using provocations to gain political and economic concessions while conducting illicit activities (counterfeiting, drug trafficking, and weapons proliferation to rogue states and non-state actors) around the world to gain hard currency and vital resources to ensure survival of the regime. There is no carrot or stick that will cause the regime to end its quest for nuclear weapons or lift the yoke of oppression from the people in the north because both are deemed as key to regime survival.
The second obstacle that prevents action is the uncertainty of regime collapse that could very likely lead to conflict or the outbreak of war between north and South on the Peninsula. The only thing we know with some certainty is that any form of conflict from regime collapse or war will lead to a tremendous loss of blood and treasure on the peninsula and the economic effects of conflict will have global impact.
Some will argue that supporting a resistance in North Korea poses a moral hazard as it could put innocent Koreans at risk if the Kim Family Regime conducts widespread security operations to suppress a resistance. I would argue that the regime is already conducting such operations because the system is designed in such a way as to deliberately oppress the people to prevent coups and resistance. Yes there will be crackdowns and Koreans will be arrested and put into the gulags and worse. But I would counter the moral hazard argument with a reminder that the 25 million Koreans living in the north are already suffering horrendously with many being sent to the gulags and worse already. They deserve to be free and the risk posed by supporting a resistance is one worth taking for the people to attain freedom. We should consider the morality of not helping them and remember the history of not helping the suffering and oppressed which has in past times led to genocide in other parts of the world.
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