Living with an anti-reunification North Korea – Asia Times

Living with an anti-reunification North Korea - Asia Times

The government of North Korea also presented its neighbor, the Republic of Korea ( ROK ) with a new concern this year along with the deployment of new types and larger numbers of vehicles capable of carrying nuclear weapons. &nbsp,

Paramount head Kim Jong- un&nbsp, made official&nbsp, a modified see of North Korea’s connection with the South, one that Pyongyang had gravitated toward over the past several decades.

Kim rejected the notion of Koreans as a one country or cultural group residing on both sides of the Peninsula. &nbsp, More, he said, South Korea is today a foreign position and the main enemy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea ( DPRK).

Kim expressed disappointment with both the liberal and conservative institutions ‘ policies toward North Korea, which ranged from a relatively friendly to a liberal one. &nbsp,

He claimed that the ROK intends to destroy the DPRK state. &nbsp, Nevertheless, he added,” We will never unilaterally unleash a war if the enemies do not provoke us”.

The shift is jarring. &nbsp, One DPRK watcher&nbsp, compared it&nbsp, to the Pope giving Catholic Church members to stop believing in a Second Heading of Jesus Christ. &nbsp,

However, the policy change is metaphorical and psychological more than substantive.

A situation in which Pyongyang is ruled over South Korea by the Kim dynasty has been almost unthinkable for many years. &nbsp, This may involve that either

  • a ) The South Koreans choose to abandon their country’s recent socio-political structure and standard of living, and lived as North Koreans do, or
  • b ) Seoul decides not to use its own nuclear weapons to counteract the DPRK and the US abandons its responsibility to defend the ROK.

What is really important is what the new non-reunification coverage predicts for South Korea’s upcoming behavior in the future. &nbsp, Two expert and reliable economists, for instance, quickly&nbsp, concluded&nbsp, Pyongyang has decided to go to war against the ROK in the near future.

To determine the effect of the new plan on local harmony, it is necessary to find out what led Kim to abandon reunification. &nbsp, Among the theories offered by inside spectators, four are realistic. &nbsp, They are not mutually exclusive.

Gentle power

Kim fears South Korea’s sweet power, which is the first plausible explanation.

Rejecting reconciliation sends a clear message to DPRK people that friendly relations with South Korea are no longer socially right. &nbsp,

North Korea’s and other countries are both seeing a rise in common interest in North Korean culture. &nbsp, While the worldwide popularity of BTS,” Gangnam style” or K- dramas has financial and prestige benefits for the ROK, the impact of Asian sweet power upon the DPRK has geopolitical consequences.

” Asian Wave” society is epitomized by K- Pop. Image: Jiyeun Kang / Allure

The” Korean Wave,” known as Choson Baram in North Korea as the” South Choson wind,” is the preferred North Korean name for Korea as a whole, has been demonstrated by the DPRK government as an extraordinary sensitivity.

The Conservative Ideology and Culture&nbsp, Rejection Act, which harsh punishment is imposed on North Korean citizens who imitate North Korean cultural practices or consume North Korean media, was passed in December 2020.

There are &nbsp, multiple&nbsp, reports&nbsp, since the crisis of the DPRK executing North Koreans for distributing movies and television plans from South Korea. &nbsp, In January the BBC&nbsp, publicized&nbsp, a picture from 2022 showing the people imprisonment of two young boys to 12 years of hard work for the murder of watching North Korean TV shows.

Contact to depictions of life in South Korea, which is considerably wealthier, diminishes value among North Koreans for their president’s claimed achievement. &nbsp, Admiration for South Korea’s magnificence and society can only enhance the desire of some North Koreans that the ROK “absorbs” the DPRK, things Kim has repeatedly&nbsp, said&nbsp, he fears.

The ROK is a logical choice for a government that wants to signal to its citizens that they should never be able to enjoy the South Korean lifestyle because of its affinity for things that are a threat to regime security.

Elections take place in the US and South Korea.

The second justification is a desire to win both the US and the UK over during an election year in both nations.

Recently the DPRK has deepened its strategic&nbsp, cooperation&nbsp, with Russia, which puts pressure on Beijing to court the DPRK as well to avoid falling behind Russia’s level of influence over a country that borders China. &nbsp, Pyongyang&nbsp, seemingly gave up&nbsp, on reaching an agreement with Washington after the collapse of the Trump- Kim talks in Hanoi in 2019.

Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, and US President Donald Trump were seen together at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi when they failed to agree on a nuclear deal where Kim proposed to tear apart a portion of the Yongbyon reactor complex. On March 1, 2019, the two countries presented starkly different accounts of how their high-stakes second summit was going. Photo: KCNA VIA KNS

However, Kim’s closer ties with the China-Russia Bloc do not indicate that he is no longer interested in making concessions from Seoul and Washington.

The DPRK government wants the USA to lift&nbsp, economic sanctions, &nbsp, recognize&nbsp, North Korea as a nuclear weapons state, halt joint&nbsp, military exercises&nbsp, with the ROK, and discontinue the routine&nbsp, visits&nbsp, of nuclear- capable US ships and aircraft to South Korea.

According to Georgetown University Professor Victor Cha, empirical evidence points to the fact that” North Korea has increased its level of provocations during US election years.”

Elections for South Korea’s National Assembly, where President Yoon Suk Yeol’s People Power Party hopes to win a legislative majority, will take place in November in addition to the US presidential election and the majority of the congressional seats in November.

South Korea is a source of possible economic handouts, and Pyongyang wants to intimidate the Yoon Administration into backing away from its&nbsp, hawkish&nbsp, posture&nbsp, toward&nbsp, North Korea.

Kim might see the renunciation of reunification as an alternative way to make North Korea a higher priority issue for Washington and Seoul because DPRK missile tests have become so frequent that they have lost much of their political shock value.

Rally ‘ round the flag

The third explanation is based on what scholars in international relations refer to as a diversionary foreign policy: national leaders talking up an external crisis to divert attention away from domestic government failures and to mobilize popular patriotic support through a “rally’round the flag” effect.

The DPRK government is causing public unhappiness due to economic hardship. &nbsp, An already- weak North Korean economy&nbsp, declined&nbsp, for three consecutive years during the COVID- 19 pandemic.

A February 2023 report by Radio Free Asia&nbsp, said&nbsp, ordinary North Koreans resent seeing&nbsp, that Kim’s 9- year- old daughter is well- fed and well- dressed while most North Korean children are under- nourished – and are punished if they show interest in” capitalist” fashion. &nbsp,

Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, and his daughter witnessing a hypothetical nuclear attack with a warhead missile launch exercise. Photo: KCNA

Kim&nbsp, warned&nbsp, his people in late 2023 that economic problems will worsen in 2024. &nbsp, The country continues to suffer chronic&nbsp, food shortages. &nbsp, In January, Kim&nbsp, acknowledged&nbsp, his government’s “inability to provide even basic necessities such as basic foodstuffs, groceries and consumer goods to the local people”.

Redefining neighbor South Korea as a temporary estranged cousin to a permanent enemy makes the DPRK’s national security situation appear more dangerous, causing North Koreans to form alliances with the Kim regime in a struggle for survival against their shared outside enemies. &nbsp, This may have been at least part of Kim’s intention.

Dehumanizing adversaries

The fourth possible explanation is that Pyongyang wants to lessen the enemy’s sympathy.

The idea that the southern half of the Korean Peninsula is a part of the country of North Koreans and that its inhabitants are members of the larger Korean family underpinned the policy of striving for reunification. &nbsp, At the same time, Pyongyang spoke of “mercilessly” slaughtering South Koreans and contaminating their land with&nbsp, nuclear strikes.

Analysts such as Hong Min, a senior fellow at the Korea Institute of National Unification, argue&nbsp, that Pyongyang’s ideology presented the North Korean people with a contradiction. &nbsp,” The logic of ideology fell apart”, Hong says. However, the contradiction is “abandoning the unification discourse and defining the ROK as a hostile foreign state at war without diplomatic relations.”

The first three possible explanations do not support Kim’s decision to launch a war against the South.

Even if it were possible, the desire to isolate itself from South Korean cultural influence reflects a fundamentally defensive mindset rather than a desire to annex the South.

Seoul street scene. Photo: codexperutrade.com

Perhaps Kim is aware that his government would most likely be unable to govern South Koreans, who are competitive, entrepreneurial, and twice as many as North Koreans, and who frequently recall kicking off their own dictatorship in the late 1980s. &nbsp,

The DPRK has frequently stated to Seoul and Washington that the peninsula is now nearing war, not as a prelude to an attack but as a tactic to start negotiations.

Similar to how the North Korean public is intended to distract from the hyped-up enemy when it comes to cultivating a sense of external crisis as a distraction &nbsp, Pyongyang routinely&nbsp, claims&nbsp, that war is imminent, for example, when the US and the ROK hold joint military exercises. The message to DPRK citizens is sufficiently clear: Powerful enemies are determined to destroy us, so respect your government for keeping them at bay.

Number 4 is frightful.

It’s frightening to consider the fourth possible explanation: dehumanizing adversaries to make it easier to kill them psychologically.

However, there are three compelling arguments to reject Kim’s decision to declare war on the ROK based on his non-reunification policy.

First, the North Korean government had a history of comfort with the ostensible contradiction of telling its citizens they should look forward to reunification with South Koreans but also that they should also be prepared to kill them. &nbsp, Pyongyang started threatening to turn Seoul into a” sea of fire” 30 years ago.

This is the same contradiction Taiwan’s citizens in the People’s Republic of China experience. The DPRK never lost a war with the South because of the contradiction. &nbsp, Dropping reunification, therefore, is not convincing evidence that Pyongyang plans to attack.

Second, statements from DPRK leaders and the media consistently confirm that any North Korean use of force will be in response to an aggression against the country. &nbsp, Pyongyang does n’t want war, so it is careful to avoid inviting a pre- emptive war by its adversaries.

Third, Kim’s claim that he intends to launch a war with South Korea poses the challenge of explaining how Kim and his nation could expect to survive such a war, in which they would be fighting with a combined force that far exceeds the DPRK’s conventional and nuclear capabilities.

Pyongyang’s renunciation of reunification does nothing to improve inter-Korean relations, and it appears to undermine the foundation for modest peace-building initiatives like family reunions and humanitarian aid. It is not a sure harbinger of war.

It confirms that the North Korean government that is currently in power is incompatible with South Korea as we know it. &nbsp, Nevertheless, this being North Korea, no policy is irreversible. &nbsp,

Denny Roy is a senior fellow at the East- West Center, Honolulu.