[Marxism] CSM op-ed calls for US pressure to counter S. Korean sympathy for N. Korea nukle programs
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Tue Aug 9 21:23:37 MDT 2005
National feeling, desire and optimism about reunification prospects,
aspirations for independent power are spurring wide sympathy, including
in the South Korean ruling circles, for North Korea in the clash with
Washington, these alarmed South Korean would-be think-tankers complain.
August 10 CSM
The logic behind South Korea's big embrace of North Korea nukes
By Won Joon Choe and Jack Kim
NEW YORK AND TORONTO - From the Bush administration perspective, South
Korea's nonchalance about the North Korean nukes borders on madness. The
totalitarian regime in Pyongyang is about as evil as they come, and much
of its malice is directed at South Korea. North Korea has even
threatened to turn Seoul into a nuclear "sea of fire."
But there is actually an internal logic to the South Korean position:
Not only does South Korea not fear the North Korean nukes; it seemingly
welcomes them with open arms.
In Seoul's long-term calculus, the North Korean bomb is the "Korean
bomb," which will benefit Seoul after eventual reunification. Such a
quixotic view is epitomized by South Korean popular culture. A quasi-
fascist novel about the two Koreas collaborating on developing nukes and
using them to bully Japan has sold more than 5 million copies since its
publication in 1994.
In order to obtain Seoul's cooperation in resolving the North Korea
nuclear crisis, the Bush administration must understand South Korea's
worrisome position - and the public support it enjoys - on the nuclear
Many South Koreans no longer see North Korea as a threat. Instead of a
mortal enemy, North Korea has become transmogrified into a sympathetic
brother in the South Korean imagination.
This transmogrification is mainly government-induced. Since the election
of the longtime dissident Kim Dae Jung to the presidency in 1997, Seoul
has pursued the "Sunshine Policy" - a policy designed to appease
Pyongyang's murderous regime through massive economic bribery.
To sell this policy to a skeptical electorate, Kim spearheaded a
comprehensive propaganda campaign to reconstruct the South's image of
the North. This campaign included government censorship and intimidation
of those who would criticize North Korea. As a result of this ongoing
campaign, South Koreans are now increasingly kept in the dark about the
true nature of Pyongyang's gulag state.
Even more troubling, however, is Seoul's belief that it may actually
benefit from the North Korean nukes. This view is based on two premises:
First, Seoul believes nukes will one day guarantee security for a
unified Korea and thereby free it from its traditional dependence on
foreign powers. This desire to achieve a self-sufficient security
posture was behind Park Chung Hee's US-aborted drive to develop a bomb
in the 1970s. It may have also contributed to the recently revealed
secret nuclear experiments that "rogue" South Korean scientists
undertook as late as in 2000, which has been hushed by Washington to
avoid friction with Seoul.
Second, Seoul believes going nuclear would confer it the international
prestige that it feels the country deserves for its "miracle" economy
but has yet to obtain. Such intangibles loom large in the minds of the
fiercely nationalistic Koreans.
Meanwhile, the North Korean nuclear crisis may assist South Korea's
nuclear ambitions in the short term even if there is no reunification
and Seoul doesn't gain possession of Pyongyang's nukes. A nuclear
Pyongyang has already dramatically increased the pressure on Tokyo -
which has also been threatened with the "sea of fire" rhetoric - to go
nuclear. The nuclearization of its historic enemy will then make it
easier for Seoul to justify the development of its own nukes.
These differences between Washington and Seoul regarding Pyongyang's
nukes will continue to frustrate the Bush administration's attempt to
resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis. While it is unlikely that
Pyongyang would give up its nukes without a credible threat of military
action, the current leftist government in Seoul, headed by Kim Dae
Jung's successor Roh Moo Hyun, would never back a military solution.
Given that Seoul bankrolls Pyongyang, it would also be difficult for the
US to impose workable economic sanctions. Even the Chinese, whose
influence the Bush administration has come to rely on as the last best
hope, have complained that Seoul's appeasement emboldens Pyongyang and
renders it less amenable to Beijing's pressure.
Washington must therefore disabuse South Koreans of their twin fantasy
of North Korean benevolence and the utility of possessing nuclear arms.
This means, in the first place, Seoul's propaganda that North Korea is
benign must be countered. The South Korean public must be made to see
North Korea for what it is: an evil, totalitarian regime that murders
its own people and even today threatens to communize the South.
Second, South Korea must be reminded of the grave costs of pursuing the
nuclear option for itself. In fact, the Bush administration lost a
golden opportunity to do so when it failed to refer South Korea to the
UN Security Council when the "rogue" nuclear experiments were exposed
last summer. That failure revealed that the Bush administration was
suffering from a fantasy of its own that the leftist government in Seoul
would reciprocate Washington's goodwill with a more cooperative approach
regarding North Korea.
The stakes are high for Washington in South Korea. Failure to change the
South Korean view about North Korea's nukes will not only perpetuate
paralysis of the Bush administration's North Korea policy, it will also
raise the specter of East Asia engulfed in a nuclear arms race.
. Won Joon Choe is a citizen of South Korea and writes frequently about
Korean politics. Jack Kim is a student at York University's Osgoode Hall
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