Kim versus 75 million
Dictatorships rarely last more than 70 years. Libya’s Muammar el-Qaddafi was killed by rebel fighters after 42 years in power. Cuba’s Fidel Castro opened up to the United States after 56 years. The Communist Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 after 69 years.
It’s been 71 years since Kim Il Sung took power in North Korea, and its dictatorship is on its third generation. The international community is cracking down on its trade. The largest Korea-U.S. joint military exercise in history has begun. The ROK and U.S. Special Forces are training for a “decapitation operation” targeting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Kim is reaching out with his claws like a wounded animal, threatening to use nuclear missiles at any time. If nuclear missiles are really arranged for launch, they are likely to be mid-range missiles, not long-range ones. A nuclear warhead on a long-range missile needs to weigh less than 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) and requires advanced technology. But a mid-range scud missile can be loaded with a 1 ton payload.
The target of a North Korean scud missile is South Korea - not the United States - but the country is perfectly calm. It has no concern about such a threat. Ruling party leader Kim Moo-sung and opposition leaders Kim Chong-in and Ahn Cheol-soo are not discussing this issue. The eerie silence is plain old indifference.
There is no evidence showing North Korea’s deployment of a nuclear missile yet. Many experts say that North Korea’s technological level is not advanced enough to actually deploy such missiles. But that doesn’t make the situation any better, as it won’t take very long for such a development.
If nuclear missiles are actually deployed, the security environment of Korea will be shaken to the roots. Seoul can make a preemptive strike through the kill chain when a nuclear attack is imminent. But how can South Korea strike all the mobile launchers in the North? If North Korea launches a missile, it cannot be completely blocked. The U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system is not perfect. If South Korea develops nuclear weapons or brings in a strategic nuclear program from the United States, that won’t make much of a difference. North Korea’s regime is irrational. Seoul could become another Hiroshima.
If North Korea deploys nuclear missiles, South Korea becomes a nuclear hostage. What would Israel do in such a situation? Israel destroyed nuclear reactors in Iraq and Syria and threatened Iran. But South Korea cannot make such a threat for various reasons.
The only way is to induce changes in North Korea. The international community chose strong pressure, and the Park Geun-hye administration shut down the Kaesong Industrial Complex. Surprisingly, the major opposition party is supportive and agreed on the North Korean human rights bill.
South Korea has begun a hard journey to assure its own existence. In this historical march, citizens’ unity is most important. But South Korea is still divided, and people are concerned about sudden changes in the North. Many are worried that North Korea will collapse when the Kim Jong-un regime falls. But the fall of a regime is different from the fall of a nation. The country won’t collapse when a dictatorial government is toppled.
When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, East Germany’s Socialist Unity Party government collapsed, but East Germany remained intact. The new leadership worked with West Germany to attain reunification. In other dictatorships, regime change did not lead to national collapse. Saddam Hussein and Qaddafi were killed, but Iraq and Libya did not fall.
The Kim dynasty oppressed the people for three generations. They let the countryside starve in order to maintain Pyongyang. They reduced rations to many people to feed their own loyalists. No one would go hungry in North Korea if $100 million worth of food per year is distributed. But the regime spends billions of dollars on nuclear and missile development.
Kim Jong-un is not North Korea. The North Korean people are North Korea. South Korea must strictly distinguish the North Korean regime from the people. The discord on the Korean Peninsula is a contest between Kim Jong-un and 75 million people.
Someday, Kim Jong-un will be ousted and a new regime will be established. The new government will be relatively free from a personality cult and corruption and can pursue reforms. That’s when we will need a Sunshine Policy. South Korea should provide food and energy to prevent social chaos. And Seoul should persuade the new government to follow Germany’s reunification model.
If Kim Jong-un gives up his nuclear program, he can be our partner, but that seems unrealistic. Therefore, the history of the Korean Peninsula is likely to be with a new government in the North. South Korea can make a liberal, democratic and reunified Korea with a new government for 75 million people.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 9, Page 31
The author is an editorial writer for the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jin