A divided Korea is the natural future of the Korean Peninsula

Yes it seems to be that:

A broader question in this vein is whether it is conceivable for Both Koreas to cooperate together in the longer-term. Does it mean that both Koreas should be reunified?

Observing the geostrategic situation, we may remark that the unification may not satisfy the North Eastern Asian key players. First a united Korea may push the United States military off the Korean Peninsula.  Then a new Korean entity may try to accommodate itself with China. Finally Japan may be isolated in a configuration.

Kim Jong Eun propaganda

Taking in account these realities, Lee Myung Bak proposed a three step strategy which may lead to the formation of a United Korea[1]. First a “peace community” should emerge on the coexistence. That’s the main condition for the next step which aims to build “an economic community” for co-prosperity. The final stage will deal with the creation of a “national community”. This strategy carry out an increase of Inter-Korean exchanges which may lead first to a dramatically improvement of the North Korean economy and then to a high degree of specialization of the North economical system.  Only after both Koreas may remove the barrier of the two different political systems.

Kim Jong Eun in Chinese medias
Kim Jong Eun in Chinese medias

Like in the cooperative federalism, a concept in which national, state, and local governments interact cooperatively and collectively to solve problems, South Korean authorities proposed a unification tax which will aim to finance heavy preparations for the reunification in the future. The problem of this financing is that provinces and metropolitan cities may misunderstand the reference of a unification tax[2], especially at a time where the world is facing a global economic crisis. North Korea may also be opposed to this policy as it is a sudden concrete change in the South Korean policy and that it may lead to a brutal absorption of the North.

As a matter of fact, speaking about the unification of the Korean Peninsula is a never-ending story and most of the debate has now definitely centered on the China’s position in the Korean Peninsula.  China heavily invests in North Korea and therefore the Chinese authorities refuse the idea of the collapse of North Korea. That’s why various joint ventures are creating within North Korea. A lot of foreign companies are also investing in North Korea. These entities are not only Chinese but also Russian, Egyptian, British, Italian and Malaysian. All these countries are not only sharing the “North Korean cake” but strongly believe that North Korea won’t be reunified with South Korea.

The problem is however more complicated: taking in account economical reality nobody wants the reunification, but considering humanitarian matters, everybody wants the collapse of North Korea. Then how to cope with this huge challenge? According to the interviews that I realized with defectors and with people, people interested in the Korean Unification are mainly people whose families are on both sides of the peninsula. Only these families, divided by the border between both countries, really have a need for the unification. However, they are too few, and that’s why nothing is done in order to find a solution to their problem. I think that a first solution may be the creation of a Reunification Center within Kaesong or a historical point where reunions may occur more often than in the past. Taking in account a possible softening of relations between both Koreas, we can really imagine the creation of an institution.

Taking in account the new realities of North Korea and the impossibility of unification, what are the prospects for the country? The first scenario which we can take in account is a quick satellization in any aspects of North Korea by China. Not only Chinese companies are present in this country but also the Chinese army. We can even imagine that at the beginning some Chinese troops may protect Chinese invested facilities. On the other side, it really does not mean that North Koreans would trust the Chinese. Hostility is always there, interrupted by brief periods of détente. Cooldown periods take place only when one of the sides needs the other for whatever reasons.

Another scenario that I partially believe is the disappearance of North Korea. United Nations may attack North Korea, but that requires the permission of China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council.  In case of victory, the North Korean territory will be occupied for a while by United Nations Troops. If North Korea disappeared then as a sovereign state, it could be still a country in a geographical sense, divided into various occupation zones. The situation maybe similar to the one, which happened within the Balkans, where peacekeepers were sent. In the case of North Korea, the United Nations would be going to maintain a presence, with the acceptance of China and South Korea. Chinese may accept such a deal if they could use the North Korean population as source of cheap labor and if the population of North Korea would have a limited access to China. China will also prohibit migration from North Korea people to access to China because China is afraid that this population will commute with the Korean minority living already in China and together would have some whims on independence.  What’s more North Korean population won’t have access to South Korea either, or the access will be strictly limited. It is due to the fact that South Korea cannot already manage a 22 thous. population of defectors[3] and surveys shows that their economic livehood is improving but still poor.

We can also present another option: Park Gab Dong, a former director of the Propaganda Department of the Korean Workers Party, a defector to South Korea, urges to use preemptive attacks against North Korea. Waiting is not a good solution, because it means condemning the next generation of North Koreans to live under the banner of one of the of the world’s most repressive regimes. However North Korea is a sovereign state and this cannot be omitted by foreign countries. We also have a limited knowledge on the real oppression on North Koreans. This oppression is also decreasing during the last years. According to one of my interviews that I conducted with a defector, Bribes are now replacing punishments. In the past, when one man escaped from North Korea, his family was considered as responsible and sends to jail. Now things changes: when one person is escaping North Korea, his family has only to give bribes to the administration. Such situation was unimaginable in the 80s.

After a period of adaptation a new country may emerged with a new economical infrastructure. New persons will be also at the head of this country but who are they? Potential future North Korean elites should be mainly found out of North Korea , because North Korean who are living in the country have still nor political neither economical education. The potential new elites are mainly in South Korea, which is a base for the majority of defectors.  The problem is, nevertheless, that the majority of defectors are lower class people and they cannot be viewed as potential next leaders of the new North Korea. However there are also a group of people who created a movement for the democratization of North Korea like for instance The National Salvation Front for the Democratic Reunification of Korea. It is an exile organization which is constituted of former North Korean government leaders. Interestingly, it may be the case that new North Korean elites may also be found in North Korea at the new Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. This school is to boost the North Korean economic development. It is to be the place where business capacities and foreign languages are to be taught. We should also warmly welcome the initiatives realized by the Choson Exchange Group[4]. This is an institution focusing on economic policy, business and legal training for young North Koreans in North Korea. Programs realized by this institution cover economics, companies management, fiscal policy and financial sector development.

New North Korean elites should be found out of North Korea, because North Koreans who are living in the country haven’t any kind of political education. The potential new elites are mainly in South Korea and in China. There are also a group of people who created a movement for the democratization of North Korea: The National Salvation Front for the Democratic Reunification of Korea. It is an exile organization constituted of former North Korean government leaders.  These people should complete their political education in countries supportive of the idea of new North Korea.  All of this should help to a smooth the creation of a new state with the total, or at least partial, acceptance of its neighbors: China, South Korea and Russia. Don’t forget also North Koreans who are living in their country, these people are also to be considered as the next leadership of North Koreans. Interestingly, it may be the case that new North Korean elites may also be found in North Korea at the new Pyongyang University of Science and Technology or educated via the Choson Exchange, an organization which is educating young brilliant North Koreans. This school is to boost the North Korean economic development. It is to be the place where business capacities and foreign languages are to be taught.

[1] Chico Harlan, South Korean leader has reunification plan, „The Washington Post”, 16th August 2010.

[2] Choe Sang Un, South Korean Leader Proposes a Tax to Finance Reunification, “The New York Times”, 15th August 2010.

[3] Shin Hae In, Ex-S. Korean envoys demand China stop repatriating N. K. defectors, “Asian News Network”, 11th February 2011.

[4] Sarah Lee, North Koreans learn lessons in Singapore, „Joongang Ilbo”, 22th October 2011.

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