Friday, July 14, 2006

Supporting the South Korean...

(Shining on at Wikipedia)

... "Sunshine Policy" ain't always easy, but I have my reasons.

First, I think that in the long term, having a South Korean policy that engages the North in high-level dialogue, invests in the North's economy, and encourages tourism to the North will gradually transform North Korea. The North may appear to have the upper hand because it has the loudest voice and acts in ways that embarass the South's political leadership, e.g., launching those recent missiles, but the South actually has the power in this relationship because its economy generates the enormous wealth that the North needs and wants. In short, the North needs the South more than the South needs the North, a fact that gives the South long-term leverage to gradually pry the North open.

Second, I worry that in the long term, having a South Korean policy that would attempt to isolate the North would have the unwanted effect of driving the North further into the arms of China, upon which it is already far too economically dependent. The long-term danger would be that a North Korea isolated from the South would be forced into ever-greater economic integration with China due to cross-border trade and Chinese investment. If China sees North Korean territory as part of its 'greater Goguryeo' province, then economic integration might lead to ever-closer political integration ... in the long term.

On the other hand, perhaps I worry too much, for Esther Pan, writing for the Council on Foreign Relations, argues in "The China-North Korea Relationship" (July 11, 2006) that:
Pyongyang is not an ally Beijing can count on. Kim Jung-Il's foreign policy is, like its leader, highly unpredictable. "North Korea is extremely difficult to deal with, even as an ally," says Daniel Sneider, the associate director for research at Stanford's Asia-Pacific Research Center and a former longtime foreign correspondent specializing in Asia. "This is not a warm and fuzzy relationship," he says. "North Korean officials look for reasons to defy Beijing." Some experts say the missile tests were just one example of North Korea pushing back against China's influence. "It was certainly a sign of independence [and] a willingness to send a message to China as well as everyone else," ... says [Adam Segal, the Maurice R. Greenberg senior fellow for China studies at the Council on Foreign Relations]. The Chinese, who favor "quiet diplomacy" with North Korea instead of public statements, took the unusual step of making public the fact that Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, warned North Korea not to launch their missiles. The fact that Pyongyang did anyway has hurt China's image, other experts say.
I would venture to suggest that the North Koreans recognize the danger in drawing too close to China, and their willingness to defy China's publicly stated opposition to the North's threatened missile launch is the North's statement of its independence from China. In other words, the North may be launching its missiles in the general direction of Japan and the United States, but a message is being sent to China as well, as Segal notes.

A big hat tip to Robert Koehler at The Marmot's Hole for the link to Pan's article.

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At 10:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the problem with the way South Korea engages is that it’s one way and perpetuates the regime instead of transforming it. When you say in the “long-term” you think this engagement will transform North Korea, how long, 50 years? I tend to believe that North Korea is in ‘wound-licking-mode,’ and that the south, along with China is helping prop them up.

The second issue I have with ‘Sunshine’ and the time it apparently takes is that in the mean time millions are suffering in the north. I’ve spoken with several defectors, and all want the regime to fall. One in particular wanted the U.S. to invade North Korea NOW. When I asked him if the casualties in Seoul from North Korean artillery just above the DMZ would be worth it, the gist of his answer was, ‘anything would be worth it to help those people.’

Yesterday I saw a bumper sticker that said “There’s no such thing as a good war or a bad peace.” I’m inclined to believe there are exceptions in extraordinary cases in regard to a “bad peace.”

That is why I support policies of regime strangulation with the goal of collapse. After 50 (or even just 20-30) more years of “Sunshine,” I’ll bet the first thing survivors would ask is, “what the hell took you so long?”

At 11:22 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I understand the views of the refugees and the former prisoners of the gulags. I've read Kang Chol-hwan's The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag and found the conditions horrifying. I would be happy to see the regime collapse, the prisoners go free, the North unify with the South, and a unified Korea find its place in the world.

But I'm not convinced that this would currently happen without war, and while that would bring about the collapse of the North Korean regime, the damage to South Korea would likely be enormous. Moreover, the collapsing regime would likely turn to China for its rescue in such an extreme circumstance, which would probably intervene to protect its interests, occupying the North and effectively integrating it into China.

I don't think that anyone but the Chinese would want that outcome.

However, I do think that the Sunshine Policy should be tougher on the North. The recent rebuttal, by Lee Jong-seok, of the North's claim to be protecting the entire peninsula through its missile launch is a long overdue corrective to the South Korean tendency to justify whatever the North says and does. We'll see if this continues.

The South should couple its Sunshine Policy with 'tough love' to ensure change. What can the North do? They need the aid and investment. Minus the South's help, the North could only turn to China, which the Northerners themselves recognize as problematic and -- outside of the extreme circumstance noted above -- would probably be unwilling to do so long at the South is offering enough to keep it interested and engaged. By slow degrees and incremental steps, the South can change the North and bring about a desired unification, but only by a willingness to criticize even while engaging and investing.

In my opinion, of course...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:46 PM, Blogger Saur♥Kraut said...

It's such a big mess over there. I'm glad I'm no where near it, but unhappy that my little brother is.

At 3:47 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Saur, is your brother in Korea ... or Japan? Or maybe China?

Jeffery Hodges

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