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  Global Views
Embracing a Slim Hope on Pyongyang, but Full of Ucertainties and Toubles
Special Contribution
By Dr. Park Tae-Woo
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il (left) meets with then South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung in Pyeongyang, North Korea. The late President Kim visited the North Korean capital for the historic summit talks with the North Korean leader on June 13-15.

It is not quite clear whether North Korea(NK) will take the path of crash landing as Romania had gone in the late 1980s. NK with more power of controlling its people either through oppression and ideological indoctrination, will forge a new aspect that is hard to figure out as of now.

Former UK ambassador to NK, Peter Hughes argued in a debate hosted by a Kwanhun Club, a fraternity of senior Korean journalists that not all North Koreans support the succession process underway from leader Kim Jong-il to his youngest son but chances remain slim for collective action against the regime.

In the future possible process of NK's collapse or soft landing of system transformation as China had gone through by the naem of Open Door line, the role of South Korea(SK), which is largely to be determined by the variables of inter-Korean dynamics, is never to be ignored for the ultimate peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula.

We all know that Inter-Korean relations have gone through many troubles since the first official contact started in 1972. The Joint communique on North South dialogue of July 4 , 1972, was the first bilaterally agreed formula to seek a peaceful alternative to resolving the inter-Korean conflict through dialogue and cooperation. The heightened tensions deterred the further development beyond 1974.

The next phase of resumed inter-Korean dialogue in 1984-1985 was also repetition of the former case; the dialogue led to an exchange of visits by a few dispersed family members and artist troupes from both sides in 1985, which has been going on sometimes by the tentative needs of the each others' political calculations; rather NK's political calculations having been major variable; this inter-Korean dialogue in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, with on-off patterns, has been short-lived and has failed to produce a substantive results for national unity and harmony.

The historical signing of "the December 13 1991 Agreement on Reconciliation, Non-aggression, Exchanges and Cooperation Between the North and South" and "a joint declaration of De-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula on December 31, 1991" have not substantially contributed to restoring peace and security on the Korean Peninsula. In this context, the routine repetition of past patterns must be adjusted by NK boldly breaking the past undesirable deceiving tactics of inter-Korean politics.

The three characteristics of inter-Korean relations in 1994 to 2004 are noticed. First, North Korea generally refused to talk with South Korea and tried to exclude the South from the table, while it responded diversely, depending on the respective SK administrations. For the survival of the system, NK strengthened the military line and tried to develop nuclear weapons with all the available resources with formula of the "military-first policy." The nuclear power was the key to assuring the security of the regime.

And to a certain degree it has worked out till as of now.

Secondly, US-NK relations had influenced the closeness of inter-Korean relations, while NK considered the US-NK relations to be of more importance than that with SK. NK still thinks that the US could guarantee the regime security, which naturally creates the situation in which NK excludes SK from the table to negotiate a peace treaty with the US and this always heightens tensions on the Korean soil. Third, inter-Korean relations were sustained at the nongovernmental level, mainly in the humanitarian area.

Breaking from the past setbacks, two summit meetings between Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il in 2000 happened also between Roh Mu-hyun and Kim Jong-il in 2007 respectively produced lots of bilateral agreements to be practiced. However, due to controversial inter-dynamics of right vs. left groups' confrontation and ideological clashes in SK with different interpretations and calculations coming from too much financial burdens within SK, the hastened approach of the former two progressive regimes to economically engage NK were not able to bear some fruits.

Only when NK decides to follow the socialist development model of China that pursued rapid economic growth as a primary socialist stage through opening economic reforms, the prospect of inter-Korean relations would see a certain kind of fruit in the future. NK's last move to include human rights clause in the revised Constitution in response to the global village's demand for better human right appears to be a kind of symbolic gesture.

What concerns us more is the clause to reinforce the ideological revolution, labor clauses and collectivism, reflecting the Kim family tactics to more tighten the whole society. Any clauses on much-expected economic reforms are not found anywhere in the new Constitution, which after all indicates Kim Jong il regime's strong favor to remain on military nations with heavily-armed forces, and nuclear weapons.

It is impossible for Pyongyang to be a powerful and prosperous nation in the future as they insist through this kind of hard tactics.
North Korean expert, Andrew Scobell cautiously predicts the future of NK as follows;

what can one conclude from the foregoing analysis; Do not conflate the end of the Kim regime with the end of North Korea as a state. The latter can follow from the former, but this can not be assumed. Another regime may assume control in a reorganization of a state power. One can conceive, for example, of a military dictatorship succeeding the totalitarian dictatorship.

The situation remains unchanged in nature. SK, nevertheless, should make more active efforts to change this deadlocked situation with a firm belief that SK could lead the future talks of peace-mechanism building on the Korean Peninsula. Kim Jong-il's health and economic situation in North Korea would be two major determinants of North Korean destiny.

by Prof. Tae-Woo Park, the Institute of Sustainable Development, Korea University. He also lectures on a irregular basis Korean Politics and international topics at National Chenchi (politics)University, at the Dept. of Diplomacy, Republic of China. He teaches special topics on international relations, international cooperation, European politics, contending views on democracy at the division of international studies, Korea Univ. and at the college of international studies, Kyunghee Univ. respectively this semester.

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Dr. Park Tae-Woo, visiting professor of National Chengchi University's Dept. of Diplomacy in the Republic of China, serves as special columnist for The Seoul Times. Dr. Park also serves as honorary consul of East Timor in South Korea, and secretary-general of Democratic Pacific Union Korea Chapter. His website can be reached at






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