The Korean Peninsula: Two Scenarios

EDITORIAL, 13 Dec 2010

#142 | Johan Galtung

Acceptance Speech of the DMZ Peace Prize – Chuncheon, South Korea, 5 Dec 2010

Governor Kwang-Jae Lee of the Gangwon Province; President Hee Jong Lee of the Kang Won Ilbo; Professor Chae-Han Kim of Hallym University; Ladies and Gentlemen;

I am deeply honored and grateful for the 6th, 2010, DMZ Peace Prize you have kindly awarded me for my work for global peace and reunification of the Korean nation; making me the sixth foreigner among the three recipients per year, the first being Dag Hammarskjöld, UN Secretary General, post mortem.  Having worked since 1972 for the non-negotiable human right of all Koreans to unification, I’ll work ever harder against the division caused by Japanese imperialism 1910-1945 and 1945 superpower USA-Soviet Union dictate; as usual with my friend Professor Jae-Bong Lee of Wonkwang University.

These are trying times.  The clouds are dark over the peninsula after the submarine incident and artillery shelling of an island, even killing civilians; a totally unacceptable act by North Korea.

But equally unacceptable is South Korea’s failure to enact the October 4 2007 agreement to explore joint fisheries in the contested zone defined by the NLL (Northern Limit Line) and the 12 miles limit, like what Norway had with the Soviet Union, agreeing to define the contested area as a jointly managed “grey zone” till a line was drawn 35 years later.  The present administration is actually voiding years of extremely difficult “sunshine policy” work to bring the Koreas closer, also against the spirit of the 4 July 1972 and 15 June 2000 accords.

And equally unacceptable is US refusal of a non-aggression treaty that worked so well with Gaddafi in Libya, a peace treaty in general, bilateral diplomatic relations, in short normalization.

And equally unacceptable is the Japanese refusal to honor the agreement to deliver 250,000 tons of oil, and refusing reconciliation for the crimes committed during colonialism.

They should be ashamed of themselves, being unpredictable and unreliable, voiding agreements for democratic elections.  Autocratic North Korea becomes pathological, hitting back violently. The allies South Korea-USA-Japan threaten military retaliation. A Second Korean war looms on the horizon.  This simply cannot, must not, happen.

Scenario I is a way out, solving the problem with two parallel bilateral talks, one between South and North Korea over ever more cooperation for mutual and equal benefit, and one between North Korea and the USA exchanging normalization for denuclearization of the peninsula.  We have been close on both.  Then the sabotage came.  Is the six Parties Talks part of the problem rather than the solution?

Joint fisheries could take the form of cultivating fish, like salmon, in contested waters, sharing benefits and profits equally.  Then there is joint administration of the DMZ, making it live up to its name by demilitarizing this MZ, removing mines and military fixtures, ecologically stable with no industry and urbanization, but organic agriculture, natural parks, and centers for family reunion and economic cooperation that in the future might be a framework for a Korean confederation of the two states, preferably under the aegis of an East Asian Community.  “One peninsula, two systems, with open borders” is a realistic unification formula, practiced by China.

What comes first, normalization or verifiable denuclearization? A stupid question, they go together, like depositing check and deed to a third party when buying-selling a house (escrow), delivering normalization and denuclearization instruments to some UN Agency.

Beautiful, and unlikely.  The three above have a non-starter scenario: North Korea’s collapse; the USA underestimating for 60 years their will of confucian steel.    The same mistake North Korea made much earlier, predicting a working class revolution against the super-exploitative military dictatorship in the South, and collapse.

I have never believed in the Six Parties talks giving the track record of Washington and Tokyo, with hearts refusing to thaw even under strong sunshine.  And South Korea is oscillating.

Morale: make a democratic opposition party to the talks lest they sabotage any agreement entered into by the government in power when their chance comes.  A problem of parliamentarism, that one.

But, this all can be done, and must be done, when the waters are quieter.  What happens if the forces against are too strong?

The second scenario: South Korea clings even more closely to the USA as non-combat ally in the US war for bases and pipelines, now also for minerals, in Afghanistan, keeps out till the very end, more unified with the USA than with North Korea.  And North Korea does the same: joins its ally China into the SCO, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.  South Korea practices capitalism US style, not challenging big brother, and North Korea practices capi-communism as it is now called, not challenging big brother either.

Today North Korea’s economy is sluggish to say the least, South Korea’s brilliant but vulnerable to crises; having had some of them. And more may be coming if South Korea adopts too much of the US economic style.  South Korea may accompany the US economy on its way down, just like North Korea may be hanging on to the Chinese economy on its way up.  One falling, one rising.  Double digit growth for North Korean capi-communism and crisis, devaluation etc., for South Korean hyper-capitalism?  Not impossible.

Worse still: politically this would cement the division of the Korean nation into two different and possibly mutually hostile regions. And the unification more remote than ever.

Back to Scenario I, mobilizing the South Korean NGOs, engaging North when an unwilling government does not, supported by the civil society all over. Till the winds blow where sunshine leads.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 13 Dec 2010.

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3 Responses to “The Korean Peninsula: Two Scenarios”

  1. What would politics without satire be?

    Visit to see Kim Jong Il looking at things.

    Hilarious. An absolutely solutionless comment depicting a clueless member of the U.S ascribed axis of evil.

  2. I pray for the united peace of the Korean Peninsura, too.