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Eureka: Korean doves, bullies and hawks
by Joseph Gatt
2018-07-02 07:01:32
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This article was originally intended to be about the notorious Korean corporate culture and aggressive culture at large. But it's going to end up being notes on the future of the Korean peninsula, with cultural tidbits on how the peace deal could succeed or fail. The notes are in no particular order.

-The Koreans. I've met my fair share of Koreans, and could roughly categorize Koreans as follows: doves, bullies and hawks. I've met my fair share of doves, that is Koreans who are full of affection and who would go miles to do good deeds. They are the older ladies who babysit free of charge. And they won't just babysit your kid, they will tend to feed your kid and pamper your kid. Free of charge. Or those who spend hours, days, weeks looking after you, even when you're not related, if you're sick or if you need help with an examination. They will put their lives on hold to help you out. Then there are the bullies. They are a minority, but they exist. Bullies are those who will attack only those who don't know how to defend themselves. They tried to attack me, but they chose the wrong target, and when they attacked me I did no justice to the ferocious Israeli stereotype. But once they find out you are ferocious, they immediately try to become your friend. Those are bullies. Then there are hawks. I almost married one. Korean hawks are those who bully even those who respond with aggression. I remember having two bosses, one was a bully, the other was a hawk. If both were bullies, I would still have the job. Unfortunately one was a hawk, and I did not win the war.

-At the political level. I can't think of a single South Korean president who was not a hawk. Some had dovish views on North Korea, but all were hawks with their assistants. Now the problem is Korean policy making tends to be last-minute, that is the Korean president will take a decision, and it has to be implemented within minutes of the decision. If they say, God forbid, decide to attack North Korea, they will plan the attack over breakfast, and start attacking at lunch.

skor001_400-Procedure vs. charismatic leaders. South Korea has had its fair share of charismatic leaders who molded the presidency around their personality. That's why the South Korean presidency is a one five-year term, and presidents can not be reelected. A series of procedures and constitutional amendments were made to prevent presidents from being too authoritarian, but the constitution and legal procedure framework is more of a guideline no one really follows. If the president or cabinet members decide to ignore the guidelines, the guidelines could be ignored.

-What could make Kim Jung Eun change his mind. Chairman Kim could feel offended when being satirized, when being mocked, or being under the impression for being mocked. Remember I've said over and again that Koreans are authoritarian, the thin-skinned type.

-Let's put it this way. Imagine a basketball game where the Center decides the rules. Referees advise the Center on what the rules should be, but the guards and forwards ultimately follow the center and referees have no real power, the center decides. Now the center could decide to play fair and have the rules of the game implemented, with defensive and offensive fouls, illegal defense, three-second violations, travelling, substitution rules, technical fouls and flagrant fouls. But the center could decide to do away with those and decide to put the foul mode in off mode just like in video games, and play rough. Imagine both North Korean and South Korean centers playing in foul mode off. That could hurt.

-Finally, domestic pressures could lead to pressure in the Korean peninsula. We could well imagine that a sluggish South Korean economy could lead to the election of a hawk not just on the economic front but also on the North Korea front. Or domestic pressures leading to North Korea taking a tough stance on the South.

-Finally finally, of course I don't wish for all this to happen. I'm not saying it will happen, God forbid it will. I'm just saying it could happen, and that every scenario needs to be studied carefully. 

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