(From 38 North)
A growing number of policymakers and experts in South Korea, the United States and other countries now presume that the best solution in principle for the North Korean nuclear problem and the larger “Korean issue” is unification, implying a peaceful takeover of the North by the South. This has been especially true in the latter half of Park Geun-hye’s presidency; where since her Dresden speech, this issue has been at the forefront of government and public discussion. Some commentators in Seoul have concluded that unification is not only desirable but also quickly achievable, as evidenced by indications that the North Korean regime is about to collapse. Though I see no signs of brewing instability as I write this in Pyongyang, South Korea’s only reasonable course of action is to prepare for the possibility that international pressure will someday bring the North to its knees, as analysts assess the plausibility and desirability of such a scenario.
Expert predictions about unification belie the inevitable complexities that the process would entail. Pundits argue that the international community could locate North Korea’s nuclear weapons and materials, and a nuclear power-likely the United States-or a multilateral organization such as the International Atomic Energy Agency would take charge of the assets with the ultimate aim of destroying them. They suggest that North Korea’s population would welcome South Koreans-including the flood of South Korean soldiers who would arrive first-and North Koreans would eagerly adapt to their new reality (though they would likely have limited freedom to move to South Korea or elsewhere). In a matter of years, natural resource development and labor-intensive production facilities would help to integrate North Korea into the larger Korean economy, giving a tremendous boost to the undivided country’s economic performance in the global market. The international status of the unified Korea would become qualitatively different, probably making it a new Asian power center. At the same time, such a development would benefit Asian security by removing a major military threat, eliminating the proliferation danger and helping all parties to generally feel safer. Read more