Extending olive branch to North
Despite the idealistic goal of working toward a re-unified Korean Peninsula, it is fair to acknowledge that the very geopolitical factors that fed into the separation are still actively at play.
As the shifts in the geopolitical tectonic plates that came with the fall of communism in the Soviet Union and its satellite states in Eastern Europe gathered pace, the natural inclination of strategic thinkers was that the Stalinist North Korean regime was inevitably bound for the same fate as its ideological compatriots.
By all intents and purposes, it is emblematic of a fundamental defiance of the standard conventions. Being one of the most poorly understood states in the world, strategic thinkers have time and again failed to effectively calibrate Pyongyang’s steps.
For instance, while some view it from a position of vulnerability because of its economic difficulties, it has also emerged as an irrational actor with the propensity to be ruthless, according it the status of a dangerous player.
Peaceful coexistence should be pursued through mutual accommodation by both sides. Yet, it is worth conceding that while mutual accommodation offers the best chance for peaceful coexistence the erratic irrationality of the regime in Pyongyang is a potentially hemorrhaging section within the peace chain.
The regime in Pyongyang, like all despots in history, is known to favor playing the cards of external threats to garner domestic support to build their legitimacy.
So long as the North interprets its strategic vulnerability as a caveat for realizing Seoul’s desired policy of unification by “absorption” then it will opt for upsetting the tranquility of the peninsula by resorting saboteurs.
In the mean time, post-World War II Germany and Japan have proven that strategic competence after all can be achieved through economic empowerment.
Japan and the Germany have increasingly demonstrated that against all odds economic power can offer a nation a good chance of exercise considerable international influence.
Indeed, it is the sort of leverage that can be achieved without necessarily resorting to the might military aggression. To this end, as the South’s current economic status supersedes its northern neighbor, it stands the best chance of wielding greater leverage over the latter for all intends and purposes.
Additionally, the North’s official state policy of “juche” (self-reliance) is practically unsustainable in the long run, given its economic fragilities. After all, the internal economic failures of communism precipitated the infamous crumbling of the Soviet project and its satellite franchises across Eastern Europe.
It is further my strongest view that Seoul and its partners should remain resolute to extending an olive branch to Pyongyang through a genuine open-door policy of engagement.
The vexed opposition to continued engagement amid belligerence from the North is understandable, yet, it does not undermine the need to dialogue, given that there is so far no credible alternative to dialogue.
Dialogue helps to assuage mutual suspicion. A confrontational posture works to serve the caprices of the North in destabilizing the peninsula — especially judging from the fiery rhetoric that is characteristic of the regime there.
Dialogue, as seen in history, is the seedbed upon which France and Germany, Europe’s traditional foes are currently cooperating in building a prosperous post-World War II Europe.
The writer is a student at Ewha Womans University. She can be reached at email@example.com.