Thoughts About South Korea

As a Korean American I cannot be indifferent to what is happening in South Korea. Some may criticize me for what am about to write, but Korea is still a country I love and I want to share my concern.

The policies of the current administration seem to be based on three implicit assumptions. Many young people seem to accept these assumptions without thinking about them critically.

The first assumption is that unification is the ultimate good. The second is that the U.S. is responsible for the division of Korea and has been hindering unification. The third is that past South Korean administrations were evil because they used anti-communism as a tool to suppress opposition and make North Korea an enemy. Their policies towards North Korea are established on these general assumptions. But these policies also have two hidden assumptions, on which I would like to comment.

One assumption is that if left alone without outside influence (especially from the U.S.), the two Koreas could be peacefully united to form a democratic government.

I have sincere doubts about this assumption. When someone has military power and nothing to restrain him, he will use it. Many years ago the military launched a successful coup in South Korea because there was no power to restrain it. The leaders of the current South Korean administration seem to believe that Kim Jong Il will not use his military power because he is a patriot, that unification is his life goal and that he will do anything to achieve it. So they seem to assume that he will give up military power for peaceful unification. I seriously doubt this. He is more power hungry than anyone in South Korea, past or present, and will never give up power. If he becomes ruler of a unified Korea his rule will be more oppressive that any regime in South Korea. Many leaders in the current administration suffered under semi-dictatorial rule in the past and struggled for true democracy. I do not understand how they can accept Kim – a true dictator – as a friend.

The second assumption is that when it is unified, Korea will become a strong, prosperous, independent nation without having to rely on other countries. I am unsure of this assumption as well. Germany, for example, became weaker after unification. In South Korea, there is currently political division and animosity between the West and the East. After unification the country will be further divided between North and South. Even if all these divisions magically disappeared, it’s still questionable whether Korea could be a prosperous country on its own. No country can be prosperous without other countries. The 21st century is an age of interdependency not independency. I do not think that Korea can be prosperous without the cooperation of the U.S. which is the strongest military power and the biggest consumer market.

Foreign policy is based on these hidden assumptions, which are accepted as truth without examination. That is why I am worried.

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