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Things to consider about North-South Korea relations Things to consider about North-South Korea relations
by Joseph Gatt
2019-06-23 09:27:06
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North and South Korea are a divided nation. North and South Koreans are not allowed to talk to each other, not allowed to correspond, not allowed to check-in on each other. Yet they are a tight-knit homogenous group, sharing a common language, culture and belief system.

Having been separated from my family and my country for 35 years, I can empathize with that. It's not easy not to be allowed to check in on your peers. Some would say it's painful.

nskor01_400Right now talks with North Korea have been focusing on denuclearization, without taking division or unification aspects into account. So there are several things that I would like to say about Korean unification, and about denuclearization.

First off, there needs to be a long-term road map or game plan for Korean unification. Right now there have been a few joint economic projects between North and South Korea, a few tourism projects, and occasional joint conferences are held between North and South Korean scholars, while some political consultations are made between North and South Korea, along with a few residing white spies in North and South Korea.

But for a long-term unification plan to be held, as I've discussed before, the unification plan should be led in five successive steps:

-First, military cooperation. That is there needs to be a joint military cooperation deal that would include trust-building, the denuclearization of North Korea, and military alternatives for North Korea. I'll get to denuclearization further down in this article.

-Once a military cooperation deal has been reached, the Koreas needs to discuss environmental cooperation, not because the environment is hype, but because the Koreas share air and the seas.

-Then a political cooperation deal would be reached, that would include consultative assemblies that would discuss joint Korean issues and establish trust between Korean leaders.

-You would then have an economic cooperation deal that would establish economic projects in North and South Korea.

-Finally you would have social cooperation deals, including tourism projects, student exchange programs, social welfare programs, teacher and doctor exchange programs and other programs.

In the long run that should lead to the normalization of inter-Korean relations, before unification becomes a possibility.

But before we dream on, we need to focus on military issues, namely denuclearization of North Korea and the lifting of North Korean sanctions.

Up until now, the main deterrent to a second Korean war was the South Korean economy and the US military presence in South Korea. That is the South Korean economy was so big, and you had conglomerates who were lobbying the South Korean government not to go to war with North Korea. That is Samsung, LG, SK, Kia, Hyundai, Lotte etc. were pressuring South Korean governments to turn a blind eye to North Korean provocations.

Now the South Korean economy is in the red. Not in a recession. The South Korean economy grows at a 1 or 2% annual rate, mainly because it's mostly an industrial economy, producing non-perishable goods such as cars and chemicals and electronics. That is in industrial economies, if you have a bad sales month or two, you can always keep your industrial products in the storage room and wait for the dead cat's bounce for people to come buy your products. If South Korea had been a retail economy, it would probably be in recession.

But profit margins for South Korean conglomerates are no longer as cushy as they once were, and if profit levels collapse and debt levels skyrocket, South Korean conglomerates will no longer be lobbying the US military and the Korean government not to go to war.

So if you put yourself in North Korea's shoes, you'd be panicking at the idea that Samsung and LG could actually no longer pressure the South Korean government not to go to war with North Korea, and denuclearization wouldn't be such a good idea.

So North Korea needs guarantees that South Korea won't try to cover up a recession by going to war with North Korea. Or that South Korea won't elect a fierce anti-Communist who will want to go to war with North Korea.

So what are the alternatives for North Korea? If North Korea gets rid of its nukes, it will probably want defense alternatives. Weapons that can help them defend themselves against an attack from South Korea.

Second of all North Korea had been on the defensive edge specifically because Samsung and LG and the likes were “lusting” at North Korea's cheap labor and cheap land. Samsung and LG hinted several times that they wanted North Korean cheap labor and land. North Koreans did not like what they were hearing.

There's also the fact that both North and South Korea are rather unpredictable when it comes to their political regimes. Both North and South Koreans have hinted at invasions over the years. And, while I might dream of unification, both North and South Koreans have confessed to me that they had a few accounts to settle when unification comes. So I wouldn't dream too much.

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