Sunday, November 18, 2007

Meanwhile, here on the peninsula...

Dr. Andrei Lankov

Readers of Gypsy Scholar may easily overlook this fact -- for unlike most expat bloggers here in Northeast Asia, I don't often talk about peninsular issues -- but I do happen to live in South Korea, and the shadow of the North still falls across the DMZ.

That shadow used to darken thoughts with fears of a Communist takeover, but few sincerely worry about that anymore.

Instead, the shadow whose penumbra darkens South Korean thoughts is one whose umbra will bring the total eclipse of the North. Why?
Despite the [communist] government's resistance to reform, the North Korean system is gradually crumbling from below, and this slow-motion disintegration might turn into an uncontrollable collapse in any moment. A sudden death of even a serious illness of Kim Jong-il is almost certain to trigger a serious crisis. If this happens, all bets are off, but it seems that a collapse of the system, Romanian or East German style, is one of the most likely outcomes.
So says Andrei Lankov, "Working through Korean unification blues," Asia Times Online, November 15, 2007, an article that Robert Koehler has linked to and commented upon at his indispensable website, The Marmot's Hole.

Better to opt for an East German ending rather than a Romanian one, if we could choose, but the choice is not really ours.

But why should South Koreans fear the North's collapse? Assuming that China does not intervene and that reunification does take place, the Korean peninsula will face enormous problems, the huge cost of reunifying being merely one of these. For Lankov's analysis of these other problems, and there are many, read his three-page article on the possible scenarios, their consequences, and how to deal both with scenarios and with consequences.

These include masses of unemployed, a possible crime wave, unscrupulous deception of naive Northerners by Southern land speculators, and other equally pleasant possibilities.

One thing that Lankov neglects to mention, but it's relevant to my line of work: the huge Korean demand for English instructors can only be vastly increased by the North's collapse.

There's always a silver lining...

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