Heard about the North Korean’s releasing six South Korean detainees, and so decided to repost this just for the simple fact that our North Korean policy is broken, and needs some serious rehabilitation. This article originally appeared in the College of Lake Counties Lancer newspaper. Enjoy!
Though a transition in the North Korean leadership seems imminent in the near future this should not necessarily be viewed as a negative development. Kim Jong-IL who is severely ailing after a purported 2008 stroke has rarely been seen in public since and has had his propaganda apparatus issue decrees on the imminence of a possible successor taking over; the twenty-six year old son of the reclusive leader Kim Jong –Un. The most recent evidence of this has been the much covered media harbinger, a visit by the North Korean leader, along with Kim Jong-Un to China while former American President Jimmy Carter attempted to secure the release of an American hostage in North Korea. The most obvious explanation that I can think of as to why the “Dear Leader” didn’t remain in North Korea whereby he could usher in new found relations for his successor son is that by shirking former president Jimmy Carter, Kim Jong-Un, it is thought, would have more latitude in his official foreign policy dealings with the outside world.
The trip served a purpose of many fold, since it allowed for the North’s leadership also to cultivate an understanding between them and the Chinese leadership that will serve them well if possible reunification talks go forward for the peninsula as the incoming Jong-Un sees fit. Though the Dear Leaders son is young his popularity in both North, and South Korea should not go unobserved. He is known for his intellect than for his military exploits, and his proximity in age to the nascent intelligentsia in South Korea makes him a popular figure in the south. In South Korea the aging ruling class who still harbor resentment toward the North over the Korean War will still control the reins of power at the time of the North’s plenary session which is rumored to be the official handing over of power to the younger Kim, and for the foreseeable future. However this doesn’t mean that unification talks won’t take place while there still in power, but it does mean that there will likely not be complete unification between the two countries until the south hands over the reins of power to the younger ruling class.
The unpredictability of the North’s leadership will not be lessened by this change in leadership either. Some are certain that from Thanksgiving of 2006, when the north first detonated a nuclear device, to roughly the present that there has been a high stakes contest between certain elements within the North’s leadership to rule the country, a contest which Jong-Un by his elevation by his father is assumed to have won. It also doesn’t help that these contest of will have also coincided with extremely provocative acts by the North such as the testing of a new longer range missile, the Tae-Po Dong three, and the detonation of nuclear devices in underground laboratories. It’s also worth noting that these provocative measures have ebbed and flowed according to the “Dear Leaders” sporadic health scares. A destabilized Korean peninsula is in no one’s self interest, and if six-way party talks are to resume an emboldened, yet conciliatory Jong-Un may be the correct way to go. The Koreans are currently suffering through one of the worst food shortages in their history. This should be taken as an opportunity of rapprochement with the North, and also to test the revolutionary ideals, and east wind vs. western bloc attitudes of the newly installed leadership. By being gracious and forthcoming with food aid for the north we not only ingratiate ourselves with the leadership, but the arrival of new stores of food for the jubilee celebration for his ascendancy will no doubt be a lesson to the younger Jong-Un that if he hopes to do more than survive, yet still prosper within the stringent international world order that he should take care to reciprocate kind for kind with the U.S.
If we take one thing away from the North Korean leaderships recent harbinger in China It should be this. That the north sees itself on par with the Chinese and hopes to project that stance throughout the world. We can facilitate that point of view but only if they’re willing to compromise in the agreed nuclear framework. A policy that is heavy on carrots and light on sticks will serve us well in the opening salvos of the nascent government’s beginnings. A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.
Kevin Miller is a Political Science student at the College of Lake County