Saturday, April 02, 2005

"Balancer" or "Stabilizer"?

The difference a word can make:

"South Korea will play the role of a stabilizer not only for the Korean Peninsula but for the whole East Asian region. Depending on what kind of choices we make in the future, the power relations of East Asia will change."

This article quotes President Roh's Military Academy speech but uses the word "stabilizer" where previous articles, such as the one by Professor Ha Young-sun, have used the word "balancer."

"Stabilizer" has a more positive connotation than "balancer," but I don't see Korea as a stabilizing influence in East Asia. As the locus of a divided nation, the Korean peninsula is inherently unstable. Nor would a reunified Korea easily act as a stabilizer. Why? Because there are issues about borders with both Japan and China.

Korea's current, bluntly expressed anger at Japan over Dokdo does not support the view that Korea will play the role of a stabilizer. On this point, I would suggest that Korea has rather tended to destabilize East Asia than to stabilize it. Roh's public threat to wage a war of diplomacy does not greatly encourage stability.

Korea also has outstanding issues with China over borders. No less an official spokesperson than Ban Ki-moon has raised questions about the legal validity of the Gando Convention, the 1905 agreement between Japan and China that set the border between China and Korea. Raising border issues is no usual way to encourage stability. Rather the opposite.

Considered realistically, then, Korea seems far less likely to encourage stability than to generate instability.


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