[OUTLOOK]Starting our own ‘arduous march’

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[OUTLOOK]Starting our own ‘arduous march’

North Korea is talking about an “arduous march” again after it conducted a nuclear test and faces international sanctions. The expression “the arduous march” originates from when Kim Il Sung led the resistance against the Japanese occupation for some 100 days, while his people were starving and struggling against disease.
North Korea used this expression when countless people died in a famine that lasted from 1995 until 1998 and is using it again. Does it mean that such an inconceivably painful famine will occur again? North Korea prefers to let its people starve to death rather than to surrender to an outside.
The expression “the arduous march” makes no sense to begin with. When people are dying all over the place because they cannot find food, what about that situation can be called a march?
This is a pathetic slogan to glorify poor harvests over many years and the failure of policies by the regime ― a typical propaganda tactic for the North Korean regime.
Common sense never works in North Korean society. The United States calls the nation a gang but this metaphor is also wrong. In a gang, the head honcho never leaves his men to starve to death. Gang members would rather beat up or threaten other people in order to fill the stomachs of their comrades. Also, one can sometimes talk a gang into doing something. In gang movies, members show strong comradeship which is a typical trait for a gang. So, North Korea today cannot be called a gang.
If we need to find something with which to compare North Korea, its regime and its military are more like a sect that possesses people and deceives the world. It is unbelievable that a religious sect can conduct a nuclear test and declare its second and third arduous march.
Worries are spreading over what will happen next. Nobody can predict when this dark tunnel will end. The situation in North Korea may turn into something even more horrible than its mid-1990s famine. It is scary even to imagine what the communist regime will do when it has run out of oil, cash and food.
Let’s say that war will never happen in any case. No matter how optimistic one may be, many share the view that the current stalemate will continue for long. If so, it is not only North Korea that will experience an arduous march. In a sense, South Korea has started its own arduous march after a nuclear test was conducted nearby. If North Korea’s arduous march is prolonged, how can South Korea stay intact? The situation has already started to worsen in South Korea.
The pain that South Korea will suffer is, of course, nothing like shortage of food. But the entire country is sharply divided and faces conflict and chaos. South Koreans do not share a sense of urgency and have failed to reach a consensus, to establish order or to show leadership.
That is the core of the pain we suffer from, but there must be a way to escape from this. Let’s think seriously about what we can do from now on.
There are several things we know for sure. First, North Korea can never reach a happy ending, no matter what path it may take. Second, South Korea will have to take care of the results of that misfortune. Third, North Korea will collapse suddenly in an unpredictable way and at an unpredictable time.
Thus, North Korea is a large burden that South Korea will have to take in the future. But South Korea does not have the capacity for the job and is not prepared for it. This is truly worrisome.
A non-Korean expert on the Korean Peninsula said that North Korea’s collapse would offer Korea a good chance to make a big leap through reunification.
I only partially agree with this because South Korea might lose all its assets before trying to make such a big leap.
According to how we survive this arduous march, Korea’s future ― not only North Korea’s ― will be decided.

* The writer is the CEO of the JoongAng Ilbo News Magazine.

by Lee Chang-kyu
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