Dr. Park's Discourse with World
The Fall of Kim Jung-Il Will Create Chaos as well as Chance for Reform and Opening in N. Korea
By Dr. Park Tae-Woo
The scenarios are either too dark or too optimistic. Majority South Koreans have been a little worried by the recent news of Kim Jung-Il illness. Rather short-sighted international focus has been on the possibility of North Korea's disrupting the six-party process, and stalled process of South-North dialogue. International experts even discuss North Korea without Kim's charisma with a few scenarios. Even in this uncertain situation, North Korea last Friday (on Sept. 19, 2008) argued that it no longer wished to be deleted from the list of sponsors of terrorism. North Korea hardened its stance against the US and international society amid this Kim's illness.What worries South Koreans most is a chaotic situation that could lead to a civil war in the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)-laden North Korea that will also call for U.S. military intervention and China's aggressive expansionism.If Beijing fully cooperates with the U.S. and UN in extreme case of Kim's failing, chaotic happening could be managed to a gradual stability in North Korea. In this context, South Korea-U.S. alliance could work out to alleviate this crisis. What if Beijing pursues its own nationalistic-expansionist scenario toward the Korean Peninsula?In this case, international conflict potential in East Asia could be developed into real military confrontations.South Korea's position in this structure could be cornered to a limited space only to protect its own Southern territory, not withstanding to take this chaos into a proper chance to go to a unification stage.Point is how to take full advantage of this crisis into a chance? Full diplomatic preparations with useable leverages had better be well arranged in close consultation with UN, the U.S. and possibly with China. Seoul, Washington, and Beijing are all extremely concerned with Kim's illness and possibly Kim's dying. If Kim is really incapacitated or really dead, it means that the most heavily militarized neighborhoods on the earth will be thrown into power vacuum for the time being.At this stage, however, Kim's death is not likely to lead to the situation of demise of North Korea's regime as of now. At least for the time being, strong military faction royal to Kim would control this crisis.Actually no one knows who would replace Kim after his death?Commonly speculations reveal that one of his three sons will take the empty seat.What concerns us most at this state is how they are to treat its nuclear weapons. Will they continue to manipulate against the U.S. and South Korea within the same framework of six-party talks?As far as they need economic aids from outside world, they will not break down this framework, even though they threaten to restore its nuclear facilities in Yongbyon.Under any circumstances, North Korea's using nuclear arsenal must be avoided toward international society including South Korea.Considering the peculiar characteristics of North Korea's regime rigidity, it is most probable that repeated happening of diplomatic inaction and domestic stasis, just like that of aftermath of Kim Il-Sung's death in 1994, shall be occurred.To South Koreans, the sudden collapse of the North Korean system is not a desirable option; rather South Korea and China, and even the US would prefer the orderly transition from the military dictatorship to a more democratic regime with realistic hope for economic reform and opening.We have to prepare any scenarios.Imagine the next North Korea that will be controlled with hawk militias with WMD weapons and with power vacuum is terrible and uncontrollable.Chaos and flood of North Korean refugees into South Korea, and China is the worst scenario.In this context, UN must pay more attention to prevent human disasters and possible conflicts among China and the US and South Korea.If we all manage this uncertainty well with wisdom and patience, adjusting each nation's national interests in the Korean Peninsula, this crisis could turn into a blessing; ultimately leading North Korea into the level of China's economic success with more flexible democratic leadership and economic reform, opening to the outside world.Of course, more pragmatic North Korea will not need nuclear weapons. Instead, they will demand more development capital from World Bank, IMF, and etc.Then, South Korea will naturally be more actively involved in North Korea's economic development as the same people.This economic integration will naturally lead the entire Korean Peninsula to a gradual integration and unity without wars.A crisis could turn into a chance.By Dr. Park Tae Woo, Visiting Professor, Dept. of Diplomacy, National Chengchi Univ. Republic of China; also serves as the Honorary Consul of Timor-Leste in Korea, and Secretary-General of Democratic Pacific Union Korea Chapter.
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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 www.hanbatforum.com