Friday, December 01, 2006

"Korea as a Clashpoint of Civilizations"

After his clash with civilizations...
(Image from ThoughtCast)

A couple of months ago, I mentioned this article that I co-authored with a Yonsei professor of political science, Myongsob Kim, but since I didn't follow it up with any further remarks, I'll make a few minor points now.

"Korea as a Clashpoint of Civilizations" appears in the recent Korea Observer (Volume 37, Number 3, Autumn 2006), published by The Institute of Korean Studies, and seems to be downloadable there for those interested and willing to read a somewhat lengthy article.

I've pasted our "Abstract" below:
How can we overcome the divide in Korea and in East Asia without succumbing to apocalyptic fatalism? Reflections based on a civilizational paradigm can perhaps bring sharper focus for this question because the divide maps onto the civilizational fault lines imposed on this region. In Huntington's schema, the Korean peninsula would seem to be stretched across two civilizational fault lines: the Sino-Japanese confrontational fault line and the Western-Sinic civilizational fault line. As Huntington's geological metaphor implies, like the earth's tectonic plates, civilizations grind against each other over long durations, gradually increasing the intercivilizational pressures that periodically break into appallingly destructive, fault-line wars. These intercivilizational pressures might be heightened by unilateral actions of great powers aiming to replace the concept of Pax International by the concept of Pax Imperium. Although the two Koreas lie separated by these fault lines, perhaps we should alter Huntington's metaphor and think less in terms of geology and more in terms of engineering. This might be the new geopolitics that South Korean government is thinking about.
This abstract reflects mine and Kim's conjoined research and thinking of about a year ago, and much has happened since then, North Korea's 'successful' testing of a nuclear weapon being the most notable.

Every jointly written paper requires a lot of fine-tuning with compromise language since no two scholars hold precisely the same ideas. This makes for the occasional inconcinnity in our argument, it seems to me.

For instance, concerning the Roh Administration's "Balancer Policy" -- whereby South Korea intends to pursue a foreign policy aimed at balancing powers in Northeast Asia by shifting Korea toward one or the other side -- Kim suggests that this might be intended to draw South Korea away from Japan and in the direction of China, whereas I think that it is meant to draw the South away from the United States (and in China's direction).

I suppose that it's really doing both of these things.

In some of my contribution to this article, I note that Korea might be able to draw further from an alliance with the United States if it knows that it can depend upon America's interests in Northeast Asia to remain strong, which I think likely, but only if it also knows that it can depend upon China's peaceful rise to great power status, which I consider somewhat less likely.

This last point on China's rise is where I'd be more concerned about a Pax Imperium, but without the pax.


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