Sun, Oct 22, 2006 - Page 9 News List

North Korea: The problem and a solution

If the UN Security Council's sanctions don't work, the only option left would be to support South Korea's engagement in serious negotiations with the North

By Bruce Jacobs

In seeking a solution to North Korea as a nuclear power, one must ask the question, "Is Kim Jong-il crazy?"

The answer is both "yes" and "no."

Kim clearly has performed many "crazy" acts. In 1983, he blew up a large part of the South Korean Cabinet in Rangoon, Burma.

He has kidnapped ordinary Japanese people off the streets in order to train his spies.

He has kidnapped South Korean movie stars in order to enhance his efforts at directing films.

He has diplomats run drugs and counterfeit foreign currency in order to earn foreign exchange for his regime.

He has gourmet meals while his people are starving. Two to three million North Koreans starved to death during the 1990s.

He broke agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency. After signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, he unilaterally withdrew. He broke his 1992 agreement with the South Koreans to keep the Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons.

Yet, there is also a logic to Kim Jong-il's actions. Historically, Korea was an isolated hermit kingdom. The most important policy of Kim Il-sung, his father and the founder of the North Korean regime, is Juche or "self-reliance." From a North Korean perspective, foreign countries want to control Korea and the North Koreans need to defend themselves. Nuclear weapons, at least in Kim Jong-il's mind, clearly give his regime some security.

Ironically, the greatest strength of the North Korean regime is everyone's fear that it will collapse. For China, such a collapse would mean huge numbers of refugees as well as "chaos" just across the border.

For South Korea, a North Korean collapse would mean huge expenses. The costs of unifying the two Germanys have been astronomical for West Germany even though East Germany was the wealthiest of the Communist countries. Payments for a collapsed North Korean regime would be many times greater.

North Korean's nuclear test has horrified all concerned nations, but clearly none of their policies -- both benign and hard-line -- have deterred North Korea's determination to have nuclear weapons.

Many reporters say China is North Korea's closest ally, but, despite China's provision of oil and food to North Korea, the two nations are not close and China's experts on North Korea have no greater understanding of North Korea than do experts in other countries.

In addition, North Koreans are deeply suspicious of Chinese motives. North Koreans, as well as South Koreans, get angry at official Chinese Web sites that declare as Chinese such ancient Korean kingdoms as Korguyo and Palhae, which existed on what is now the border between China and North Korean more than 1,000 years ago.

Many South Koreans believe that they can best understand the North Koreans, because, after all, they are all Koreans. In the past decade, South Koreans have implemented a "sunshine" policy to deal with the North and have made investments in North Korea, sent tourist groups and delivered aid.

But these policies have also failed. The number of family visits between North and South has remained very limited, both in total numbers and in time. No real trade has taken place. No trains run on the railway across the de-militarized zone (DMZ).

The hard-line policies of the US and Japan have also failed. In some ways, it appears that the North Koreans actually enjoy being challenged by great powers.

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