Sunshine Policy’s Execution?

Tonight I was talking to a friend who gave me a heads-up on an article that just came out in the Christian Science Monitor. I realize that to many people this might be old news, but some how I missed it. It is so easy to miss these little things such as unification, human rights, and dissention in the North, when we have more important earth-shaking events like Tokdo Island. However, for those of you who are tired of the Tokdo Issue, I present: The unseen video.

It seems that the South Korean government, according to the CSM, has not allowed the video of the North Korean executions to be viewed by the public. When Pak Sang Huk, an escapee from the North approached KBS with the tape they were received with less than open arms.

“Now that we have evidence, they don’t want to see it…. The people who brought this tape through China were speechless when they visited KBS [Korean Broadcast Service] studios, and were shunned.”

Another man, Gyeng-seob Oh, who runs a newsletter about North Korea was convinced that this would be the story – he was in for a big disappointment.

“When I first saw the footage, I thought it would be front-page news. But South Korea, the most important market for this information, was not interested.”

Is this an example of the censureship the same censureship that took place during the Iraqi execution/murders? The Government trying to protect the dignity of the families and spare the public the sight of a grisly murder? Not according to the CMS.

They see Seoul’s refusal to allow the video to be aired as an attempt not to “upset Pyongyang, for fear of harming fragile North-South relations.” Perhaps an extension of the Sunshine policy?

Would allowing this to air on Korean national T.V. actually accomplish anything? Jae Jin Suh of the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul is quoted as saying.

“It is naive to think that Pyongyang will respond to a push by Seoul to change and treat its people better. We need to focus on what is effective, not what we think we should say.”

What exactly is this “effective” thing that Seoul needs to concentrate on?

This is perhaps the strongest quote of the who article:

Another refugee plaintively asked the group what South Koreans will say to North Koreans “once North Korea is liberated. “What will we say when they ask us, ‘What did you do to help?’ “


  • James

    That is what the leaders of Korea have been telling people since the 6.25 but does anyone think that NK is currently a viable threat to the South or has been for the past 5 years (nuke argument aside)? I have my doubts. Perhaps all the talk of the North not having anything leads me to underestimate them and I certainly do not have access to any information that would either refute or confirm my suspicions but do they have the supplies to launch and sustain an all out offensive? or would it be a case of the Battle of the Bulge? I think that up to No Dae Woo it could be argued they were a legitimate threat but since YS, I have my doubts.

  • Dan G

    It is a valid point they raise,the Nork defectors? what will Southies say when they meet there brothers in the North after reunification, sorry? Please.

  • norapark

    ‘we kept their leaders at bay to prevent them from hurting even more people’?

    a troubling question.

  • Sa Hwa Dong


  • slim

    They’ll say “tokdo nun uri ddang” and all will be forgiven!

    What South Koreans will say to North Koreans ?橫once North Korea is liberated. ?橫What will we say when they ask us, ??What did you do to help??? ??

  • virtual wonderer

    I’m confused… there is a commentor on the NKzone blog who claims that the footage was shown on some TV specials, just not news. I wouldn’t put it passed the axis of Noh-KBS-KJI to obstruct featuring this sort of thing, but I don’t want to blindly believe everything chrisitian science monitor says.

    Ah… who to believe in the quagmire of half-truths…

  • angus

    answers? well one answer is that when it comes right down to it koreans don’t give a flying fuck about what happens to other koreans unless: a) they are blood relatives, b) there is some sort of social connection to them, work, school,etc., or, c) some foreign devil is precieved to be exploiting, insulting or doing something nasty to a korean. then koreans suddenly become moer than interested in their bretherns welfare. and besides, nobody should be ‘shocked’ that the dear leaders security apparatus is publically executing people, and if it doesn’t have shock value or fall into one of the above categories….sorry, it doesn’t make it. and as for the question about what they’ll say to the northerns after unification, how about this one, its tried and true…..”it was the americans/foreign devils fault.”

  • usinkorea

    The term “Sunshine” policy is becoming interesting. It can mean just the “warming” of relations between the two. But, it also gives the impression of allowing the “sunlight” in as well, and especially at the start of it in 1998 and especially in the year 2000, it was discussed in this manner too —

    In the beginning, the warming to North Korea was just as much a reaction against the past in South Korea. Especially when the Summit was held, many people complained about how conservative “reactionaries” who wanted to keep an authoritarian, anti-democratic control of the South had “misled” the S. Korean people about the “truth” in the North. Seeing Kim Jong Il smile and shake Kim Dae Jung’s hand and see them sit down to eat together suddenly made popular the idea long in the minority in South Korea that he wasn’t the demonic, drunken, womanizing caricature SK “propaganda” had previously made him out to be.

    Boy, how the sunshine has dropped this secondary meaning.

    It is more like the “spotlight” policy — focusing where it wants to and not where it doesn’t.

  • usinkorea

    Opps. I didn’t make my point clear above. In the early years of the Sunshine policy, the Sunshine analogy was also about something like letting the light of truth enter in the relationship. It was against the kind of blocking of informatin on the North the former authoritarian goverments in SK had done, and it was against the demonizing of NK by saying “let the sunshine” shows us the truth. Inotherwords, “Don’t keep us in the dark about the true North Korea.”

    You can see this most clearly in the strengthening of the long fight against the National Security Law which was abused in South Korea for decades.

    But, we sure have not witnessed a flowering of presentation of “the real North Korea” since the Sunshine policy began — and this self-censorship goes far beyond just the Roh government.

  • Mark

    “Ignore it, and it will go away.” –Minifiction (Ministry of Unification) and Kinfiction (Korea Institute for National Unification)

    “Move along, there’s nothing to see here.” –Officer Barbrady, South Park

  • Ziggy Freud

    Hmm, I’ve already seen the video twice on local t.v. here in Seoul. That’s where I first learned about it.

  • http://none R. Elgin

    The South Korean Government and their flacks (KBS, etc.) are making a mistake in thinking that they can just cover this up with Dokdo and hide it away because this will get out and the public will figure out just how immoral and bad this current ruling party in South Korea really is. The GNP is looking better and better each time I read these facts.

  • lankov

    Nothing surprising. One had to be na??ve to expect any other reaction. But I suspect that this reflects one interesting question: a innate hypocrisy of democracies when it comes to foreign policy. Unlike all kinds of dictatorships, from an absolute monarchy to a Nazi state, the democracies need something like a majority support for their foreign policy, and they had to sell it to their domestic public opinion using nice packaging. They cannot just say: ?橫We fight a country A because our interests are incompatible in such and such areas??, or ??We make an alliance with country B, a repelling tyranny, to be sure, because our interests currently coincide??. The democracies have to present their wars as crusades for justice rather than for strategic interests, pure and simple. They also have to present their allies in good light. Sufficient to remember what the Western democracies did when they were allies of Stalin. I doubt that Roosevelt or Churchill had many illusions, but they worked hard to sell the image of ??heroic Russia?? to the domestic public. In 1943, Roosevelt commissioned ???Mission to Moscow??, a movie where Stalin??s purges were shown as a righteous struggle against Japanese and German spies (scenario by Koch, of Casablanca fame). Or the (in)famous American inspection of the gulag prison camps in 1944 when commission found that everything was good and improving (the death rate in camps peaked in 1943 at 15% of all inmates dead within a year). They correctly judged Hitler to be a greater threat, they badly needed Russian soldiers and tanks, but they could not openly say: ?橫these guys in Moscow are killers, too, but their interests are more compatible with ours than those of Hitler, so we??ve made a deal??. It would work in the cynical 18th century when nobody cared what the commoners thought of foreign policy, the kings?? business. But in democracy one has to sell alliances. Video would undermine sunshine policy since few people have enough common sense and cynicism to admit that for the political sake it might make sense to be on friendly terms with a bunch of truly repulsive killers. So, video is suppressed.

  • Thorin

    Who says the video has been suppressed? The Christian Science Monitor? Don’t they have internet access?

  • Michael

    Saw the video too on one of the local channels in Seoul–not the evening news, though, certainly no surprise there. What always bothers me about the South’s approach is that while it doesn’t have to completely suspend all aid or attempts at regular family reunions, the sugarcoating is totally unecessary and repulsive. Koizumi had the right approach the first time he dealt with Kim–all business, and it was successful (OK, to a point). But the pandering that comes from the unification minister is really offensive.

  • James

    It seems simple to me-the South doesn’t want to deal with it now because the first thing the average Cho Korean will ask is what is the government doing to stop this. For those that take it a step further, they will complain that the politicians in Seoul spend their time arguing over who has ancestors that are Japanese collaborators when Koreans are being executed (as well as starving to death). This, on top of a population that demands that its politians put forth a strong image on the Tokdo issue would put alot of stress on the politicians-stress (and questions) they would very much like to avoid.
    I have toyed with the question of what if someone could broker a deal with JI and the deal is this: All or nothing in a Korean Peninsula-wide election with the understanding that if he looses he can retire to his villa in Switzerland. The thing about this I wonder about is if the vote in the South could be split enough ways to potentially hand the vote to JI-even with free and open elections in the North. Yes I admit it is perhaps a rediculous idea but one that I have wondered about from time to time. Perhaps another stipulation of it could be that the US troops will leave the Korean peninsula-regardless of your opinion about it, now is probably the convenient time to make a pressing argument for their departure.

  • William G

    Really, I think it’s all more of a case of South Korea being like a battered wife. It’s been going on for so long that they cant see any options except to do their damndest to not upset their abusive husband to the north.

  • Mark

    Great analogy, William. Could also be compared to the Stockholm syndrome.

  • YoMo


    Most Koreans do not know that North Korea is just a front for China. Kim Jongil is not a mad dictator; he follows Hu JinTao’s direction verbatim. When China orders it, Kim will attack SK. Even without explicit order, he may be allowed to attack SK.

    If SK can withstand the initial aggression (this is a big if because Seoul will be totally destroyed and Rho will be dead. Can SK regroup? Under whom?) and fight back and push toward NK, China will supply all the fighting resources NK needs.

    I mean, you have to consider NK and China together. SK can beat NK but it cannot be NK+China. This is why anti-American movement in Korea is so destructive; people are digging their own graves not realizing what is really going on in NK.

  • dogbert

    I think that’s a terrible analogy.

  • Paul H.

    So what happens if the US does leave? My theory is that the ROK would just increase its already large (and steadily growing) appeasement efforts; and, I think they might as well.

    For one thing, it would provide an interesting test of the “engagement” vs “confrontation” theories of dealing with potentially hostile states. Ideally this particular case would end up as a “neutralized” Korean peninsula, which IMO would be best for everyone concerned.

    I don’t think NorK could sustain a 1950-style invasion attempt at conquering the South unless they received continous and long-term support for such an effort from China (ie petroleum supplies). I can’t imagine how it would be in China’s interest to do such a thing, unless they wanted a NorK attack on the South to coincide with an attempt on their part to invade Taiwan; I suppose this is possible.

    But such a war would almost certainly wreck the Chinese economy and thus the Chinese should judge it not to be in their interest (if they retain any rationality at all).

    So, the continual question — if war between NorK and ROK is not really considered a danger by the average citizen of ROK, just why does the US need to be in ROK?

  • norapark

    who says the average south korean citizen doesn’t consider a north korean attack a possibility? don’t let the leftist demonstrations delude you into thinking the entire country feels that way.

    the south has got the carrot in one hand, and is holding on to the guy with the stick with the other. i see nothing really wrong with that. the south knows it needs a u.s.-rok reliance for greatest insurance of security on the peninsula, but it also thinks that some attempts should be made at enticing the north out of its shell.

    i fail to see how these points of view are mutually exclusive. i also think that when a leftist like roh is sending thousands of troops to the u.s.’s unpopular war, at the very least the country shouldn’t be treated as if it’s not supporting the u.s.-rok alliance.

  • http://deleted bluejeans

    If the Americans decide to help the South, the South will win.
    But if the Americans don’t help the South, I don’t think the answer is so easy. The South has a lot more resources, but if the North uses surprise, poison gas, artillery, etc., it might find itself roaring past Seoul to points south in a surprising hurry. There will be chaos and millions of people on the highways to impede southern resupply. If the northern army could capture enough gasoline and supplies to keep going, the old Pusan perimeter might be in danger.
    And I think there is a mindset in the South that the northerners really are tougher and crazier and a whole heap of trouble.
    Well, anyway, I live here, and so do millions of others, so I hope it doesn’t happen.

  • http://deleted bluejeans

    And on the other thing.
    South Korea has no great choices right now. If they isolate the North, they run the risk that it will collapse and a huge wave of starving refugees will head here. Not only that, but they’ll have to compete with China over who will take over the starving chaos that the North will be. On the other hand, if they invest and appease, there’s no guarantee that it won’t be used against them.
    Perhaps they should invest, but not appease. Try all they can to open contacts, but draw some lines in the sand. If they send power, they can always cut it off. When the north arrested a tourist (?) to Kumgansan as a spy, the south cut off the tourists and the guy got out of jail in a hurry. In a perfect world, I guess Noh would try to keep Southern factories and raillinks, etc going, but also not be afraid to criticize gulags and executions. But we don’t live in a perfect world.

  • noolji maripkan

    it’s repugnant to see so many of you salivating over a war on the korean peninsula. y’all would love that, now wouldn’t ya?

    expat: ‘you south koreans couldn’t care less about your brothers in the north! don’t you know they’re starving?’

    sk: ‘well, what do you want us to do?’

    expat: ‘i want you to follow us policy which is designed to end the starvation there.’

    sk; ‘by forcing the north to get rid of nuclear weapons?’

    expat: ‘exactly!’

    sk: ‘how can we help?’

    expat: ‘help us turn the screw on nk and support our efforts at sanctions!’

    sk: ‘won’t that starve more north koreans?’

    expat: ‘well, yes.’

    yo hae

  • non korean

    I have to agree with Dr. Lankov. Nothing surprising about this not being 1st page news.

    Most S. Koreans don’t want to think about this stuff. If you know about something you just might have to do something about it- so don’t tell me. Everyone with half a brain knows North Korea does this kind of stuff and worse. But not thinking/talking about it lessons somehow the responsibility to do something to stop it.

    North Korean and South Korean conversation after unification.

    North Korean: You knew KJI was killing us and we were starving to death and the South did nothing to discourage it?

    South Korea: It was America’s fault because ____________ Fill in the blank.

  • nora sumi park

    one disturbing thing i’ve noticed about the discourse many non-koreans make about korea is the tendency to take a minority or partisan opinion and then attribute it to the entire country.

  • noolji maripkan

    i’m sure mr marmot will post the article on his web, but just a mention about the one at the chosun regarding mongols in korea. korea got the most mongols of any country save inner mongolia. they say korea’s tough but think korea should be mongolia’s role model (start attacks now, my good expat).

    why are the mongols attracted to korea? the ones in the photo looked healthy; looked like they were making it. i wonder if the mongols have a easier time with learning korean.

  • rowan


    RE: your little dialogue post.

    you need to learn the meaning of the lesser of two evils.

    unless you don’t consider whats happening in NK now evil…

  • Geronimo

    What would have happened if West Germany had pumped the same kind of money into the East Germany for years and year before the fall of the Berlin Wall? My German friends all said it was rough for a few years but they have recovered. It seems the Sunshine Policy is designed to keep the North alive so it doesn’t collapse and bring down South Korea’s economic standing. Seems rather short sighted…after that initial period, my guess is a Unified Korea would come back stronger and better. Sure, by removing all the aid more North Koreans might starve for a short time but if the government collapsed and the Koreas could be unified then the number of deaths due to starvation would drop quickly….in the long term you’d be saving lives, wouldn’t you? And I don’t mean to sound shallow about human lives but it seems like something has to be done or it will go on forever with more people starving each year Kim Jong Il stays in power.

    And Nora, respectfully, I don’t think Korea sending troops to Iraq had anything to do with supporting the U.S.-ROK alliance. I believe it was about supporting South Korea’s economy. As the Korea Development Institute said in it’s report (cited in the 6/24/04 Korea Herald) “the overall cost of sending troops to Iraq will top $1 billion. In return for that, Korean companies are forecast to earn between $400 million and $800 million per year for projects for rebuilding the war-torn country.”

    The same article (Korea Herald 6/24/04) quoted the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade as saying “Korean firms will be able to make considerable profits if they win 3 to 5 percent of the post-war restoration projects.” It also says “the Middle East countries [plural] account for 60% of Korea’s overseas construction orders.”

    I don’t know if you were living in Korea then but my adult students were all claiming the economy was actually worse than it had been during the economic crisis of 1997. I couldn’t believe that was true, judging from the level of luxury and spending I witnessed all around, but they believed it was true and the masses were demanding the government do something to improve the economy. They saw a chance in Iraq and they took it. A second added advantage was that it would reduce the risk of Washington taking troops out of Korea to send to Iraq….which is what I would have rather seen happen. After all, it was Bush and ‘us’ Americans who opened that can of worms.

  • norapark

    koreans went ape-poohpooh when george bush was making a speech and forgot to mention korea in his short list of coalition partners. to seoul, this recognition is important. it’s not at all just about the benjamins.

  • norapark

    i was here in 1997 and 1998 and it was like the whole country was shell-shocked. if someone says it is worse now than it was then, i think they just have a very short memory.

  • Geronimo

    Yes, to the general public it was bought that way. But what I meant was the actually politicians who signed off on sending troops. The public is very different from the political leaders. You know, the day after the Korean was brutally murdered in Iraq it was the Minister of Economics…or some such title…which was the first to reconfirm that Korea must go through with plans to send troops to Iraq. (See Korea Herald archives the day after he was killed…it was it’s own news article that he came out and said that) Why would someone in Economics be commenting on Iraqi troops unless it was especially important to the economy? He wouldn’t.

    Just as in America, George Bush sold it to the general public as one thing…but I don’t believe those were his real reasons. Do you? Americans came to believe there were weapons there…I think George Bush KNEW there was oil there.

    Kinda like Lankov said before…governments can’t always come right out and say how cold and calculating they are…they have to try to sell it off as something more noble. And apologies to Dr. Lankov for a slash and dash paraphrase of his comments….or for getting it wrong if I missed his point….I know I’m applying his comments to another argument but they seemed to strike a similar chord and he did put it so well.

  • Geronimo

    And I agree with you…they must have had short memories. I wasn’t here in 97/98 but I’ve read about it and talked about it with a lot of people. I thought they were crazy for saying that. I told them so. I asked them to take a look at the department stores that were full of shoppers (people not afraid of spending money) or all the people out drinking and eating on a Friday or saturday night. Or all the kids shopping for new cell phones or mp3 players. But that doesn’t change the fact that I had a lot of students from University age to middle aged businemen say it was worse in 93/94.

    I also had one student tell me America has been worse than Japan ever was to Korea. Something I was shocked at…but nearly a dozen other students sat in the class and didn’t disagree with him..they didn’t agree but they didn’t disagree. You mentioned before that too often ex-pats take the minority’s opinion as the majority. Well, it might be because often the minority if the VOCAL majority.

  • Geronimo

    oops! “middle aged business men say it was worse in 03/04.” sorry.

  • KO

    To noolji maripkan and a few others.
    SK aid does not go to the starving masses, why do you think they kick out the inspectors so frequantly? The aid just supports the military and KJI’s cronies.

  • Paul H.

    Nora Sumi Park: “One disturbing thing i??ve noticed about the discourse many non-koreans make about korea is the tendency to take a minority or partisan opinion and then attribute it to the entire country.”

    I think you ought to find it disturbing that this non-Korean non-visitor non-expat only came to my view (about the need for US disengagement of ground troops from the ROK) since the revelations of “sunshine” policy of bribery of the North, the election of the Roh administration and his promise to “not kowtow” to the US, and the massive anti-American demonstrations of 2001 and 2002.

    I think it’s insane for the US to risk nuclear war for a country in which the majority of “elite” opinion seriously considers the US to be the major problem. Particularly a country which is wealthy enough to be perfectly capable of defending itself (if the “elites” can find within themselves the will to do so).

    And nothing I have read on this blog has convinced me otherwise, indeed to the contrary. If some of you folks really believe the US is a blundering rogue elephant out to rapaciously plunder Iraq’s oil wealth, then why shouldn’t the ROK follow the implications of this logic to its logical conclusion and separate itself from the US as rapidly as possible? In so doing, the ROK would certainly win the acclaim of many in this world of numerous reality-challenged nations.

    Everybody wants to be a “moral hero” and “speak truth to power”, until the real boogeyman shows up at the door; then they squeak like so many frightened baby birds. How utterly contemptible.

  • Zhang Fei

    The South Korean attitude with respect to North Korea is similar to the Chinese attitude towards Taiwan. They’re not particularly concerned about actual North Koreans – they just want the land.

  • KO

    Very well said Paul H

  • virtual wonderer

    I’m sort of disappointed in the commentors here. I think that the Dr. No-bashing is undertandable, but it just appears to me that there seems to be several people who told me that CSM is wrong at that the segment was aired on Korean TV. Now I don’t know who to believe—but I think it’s generally a good idea not to believe everything that we read. I hope the conservatives here don’t think that everything Fox news says is the Logos of God and the liberals stop insisisting that New York Times lack liberal bias.

    Maybe its possible that the SKorean government or the other forces that be (including the desire for KBS/MBC/SBS not to screw around with KJI for those profitable “Pyong Yang Norae Jarang” or worse yet fear of North Korean commandoes approaching their stations dressed as South Korean policemen) may have pressured the TV shows from airing. Hell, it’s possible that since then No Moo Hyun had a change of heart – I kind of doubt this but… BUT the point is that we shouldn’t cast stones before we check the facts first. Afterall, you guys are all intelligent people aren’t YOU? heh heh heh.

  • Michael Sheehan

    A free video clip of one of the public executions conducted by the Pyongyang regime can be downloaded from:

    As descibed at the web site: This video clip shows 3 minutes from a DVD produced jointly by the NGO Life Funds for North Korean Refugees, and Japan Independent News Net Co. Ltd.’

    The site also describes a DVD that will be shipped to interested parties for a donation of $30.

  • non korean

    “One disturbing thing I??ve noticed about the discourse many non-Koreans make about Korea is the tendency to take a minority or partisan opinion and then attribute it to the entire country.”

    Don’t know if you were referring to my post. If so I do believe a majority of South Koreans just don’t want to hear about the brutality of KJI. They would rather put their hands over their ears and yell la la la. Very few individuals want to talk about the issue. I’ve given up talking about it because 99% don’t want me to even bring it up. This is just my opinion/experience and does not include all Koreans. Maybe your circles of friends/acquaintances are more interested in the issue than my friends/acquaintances, and students.

    As far as blaming America for SK’s lack of action, it is just a matter of time and indoctrination of the school kids through school and indoctrination of adults through the media that will make it a reality.

  • James

    Like I said in the past, the future of the US troops on the Korean peninsula would be a great thing to debate in this forum. I do not think that anyone is salivating over the prospects of war on the Korean peninsula. Without geting into the various cost and benefits of having them here-it seems to be a topic that continues to come up.
    As for the economy, the reason people claim that the economy is harder off now than it was durring IMF is that now that the during IMF the value of the dollar dropped leaving Koreans who had grown accostomed to purchasing products paid for with dollars like oil, Burberry coats and Gucci shoes at 700 won to the dollar, confronted with paying at one point, almost three times that much got people concerned about spending money. The reason that was not that Miss Prissy Kang-nam has a harder time justifying the Gucci shoes but that the Government effectively lost control of the foreign exchange aspect of the economy to foreigners and put the country in a huge amount of debt. The focus was nationalistic in nature on how to pay off the debt and stay off foreign control. In this case, the exchange rate has gone the other way making Korean goods exported more expensive thus affecting the number that are sold all comming back to hurt profits. The reason you don’t hear anything about it in the news is that from a consumer point of view-it just became easier for Miss Prissy Kang-nam to buy the Gucci shoes and more importantly there is no foreign entity trying to implement its ideas in Korea like there was with IMF. The third aspect is that for all the people that go overseas to study and the parents that support them-it just got alot cheaper-always news. Even if it were to become a news item what would they say-that Bush is an A-hole for supporting (even if it is not “official”) a weak dollar to make up for all his F’d-up fiscal policies-lets hope it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

  • James

    For NK, I think it is just a matter of selling the idea of a unified Korea to China-once they decide that it is more in their interests to have a unified Korea-it will happen and probably not before then.

  • Frenchy

    “one disturbing thing i??ve noticed about the discourse many non-koreans make about korea is the tendency to take a minority or partisan opinion and then attribute it to the entire country” NORA

    So nora are you a non-korean or a korean?
    “koreans went ape-poohpooh when george bush … ” NORA

    Dont koreans do the same thing?
    “so many of you salivating over a war on the korean peninsula. y??all would love that, now wouldn??t ya?” Noolji

    Keep up the trolling nora.

  • usinkorea

    On the potential for North Korea making war again, I think people fall into a trap of expecting a nation to make reasonable decisions. I used to have this argument in college classes all the time. History wouldn’t be written if nations and their leaders didn’t make bad choices.

    I think since the mid-1990s, the greatest chance for NK going to war again were internal. I think there must be some balancing equation between the amount of deprivation in North Korea and the regime’s desire to make war to unify the nation. The more internal pressure, the more war as a last effort might “make sense” to the regime.

    Remember back to the late 1990s when the former top level North Korean defector said North Korea would rather turn the South into a sea of fire than see North Korea go down alone?

    With the USFK in country, the desire to strike out at South Korea is kept in check despite any rising internal pressure, because the regime knows it can’t win at all. It is still dangerous, because if it starts to collapse, I think it will strike out anyway even if only some of the military follows the orders to do so. But, with USFK gone, I think it would be MUCH easier for the crazy regime in North Korea to believe it could take over the South quickly in order to release pressure from the NK people. The NK leadership isn’t as tuned into the real world as we might think. I remember one Korean prof in the US said that he had given a tour in Hawaii to some NK officials and they went to a Korean Buddhist temple. They also passed a church, and the official asked the prof if Buddhism and Christianty were the same thing. There is no telling how many gaps in understanding there are in the NK military and government.

    I would not put my faith in their good judgement when it comes to another attempt to take over the South.

    As someone else noted above, even in thinking outside of Korea, there is considered some possibility if North Korea were to use unconventional weapons (chemical and biological) against South Korea and South Korea was fighting the war alone, the North could win. I think South Korea would win on its own, even now, but I really doubt North Korea believes so.

  • Paul H.

    Good argument US.

    The other side of the coin is that as things are going now, in a crisis the US freedom of action could be seriously constrained by the ROK. To the point of having to absorb a “first strike” in order to gain the political assent of the people of the ROK to use force, and what if we are facing simultaneous crises elsewhere in the world, such as with Iran in the gulf and across the Taiwan straits? The Koreans are only concerned about themselves, we’ve got a lot more on the plate.

    I’m no longer willing to hang USFK out to dry as a “tripwire” any more, particularly now that they and we are the subject of teeth-grinding, clenched-fist anti-American fury on the part of a significant portion of the ROK population. If their political leaders can’t be bothered to educate them otherwise then that’s their problem.

    The ROK is pursuing an effective policy of appeasment right now, propping up the DPRK with very significant amounts of aid. Since money is fungible, just how long is the US expected to essentially subsidize this, with expensive defense funding for the ROK that we sorely need to use elsewhere? 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, 20? I’m sure that if the ROK can put off “unification” for the next 50 years, while we provide free “disaster” insurance for the “duration”, they will be quite happy to do so.

    The DPRK “system” isn’t going anywhere. If we are gone, it’s just as likely that them boys up north will relax sufficiently to avoid going berserk, especially since the most likely result will be that the ROK just steps up the aid flow even more. That may just reduce the likelihood of war sufficiently that the whole outcome will prove to be a “win-win-win” for everyone. And maybe the two Koreas will have their pucker factors enhanced enough to make some actual progress towards a type of real “unification” (as opposed to a phoney-baloney one).

  • non korean

    It is real easy what would happen if USFK were to leave and the US/SK alliance was broken. North Korea would tell S Korea to surrender to NK in 48 hours or it will nuke some city. SK thinks about all those people, and all that “history” the city holds and surrenders to the North. The North marches in.

  • Paul H.

    Well, I’m not saying break the alliance, just bring out the ground troops (unless ROK wants to withdraw from the treaty of course, I think it’s one- year notice, Marmot posted a link to the text a ways down).

    ROK intelligence chiefs advise their President what they really think about DPRK possession of nukes; he and his govt have to decide if they want to really believe that DPRK has the nukes or not, no more “playing both sides against the middle”. If they decide “yes”, they then need to decide “how many have they got, how many do we want to counter”.

    US agrees to leave behind the equivalent amount (or maybe a few more?), deliverable by whatever means ROK wants (missile, aircraft, both?). Nukes remain under US military control until time for delivery, then ROK has to provide targeting and means to deliver. I’m sure US would be glad to train up ROK pilots/ missile crews on proper delivery of “special weapons”.

    You think I’m joking? Not at all, ROK prestige is enhanced, they get to decide for themselves “to nuke or not to nuke; that is the question”. Good idea to pay careful attention to crew proficiency, you don’t want to miss an intended target and have the device go off on the wrong side of the Yalu, “elder brother” USA won’t be held responsible.

    I think we had this type of arrangement with the Turks throughout the cold war if I’m not mistaken. US “special weapons” (nuclear artillery shells) under US command and control, but deliverable by Turkish 155 SP artillery if needed. Never heard that the Turks complained about this arrangment, surely ROK is just as tough as they were/are.

  • nora sumi park

    frenchy wrote:
    ?橫one disturbing thing i??ve noticed about the discourse many non-koreans make about korea is the tendency to take a minority or partisan opinion and then attribute it to the entire country?? NORA

    So nora are you a non-korean or a korean?

    depends on what you mean. as a korean-american, then korean by blood and, to some degree, by culture. but american-born and raised and, for the most part, culturally. there are probably a few people on this list who speak korean far better than i do and ‘get’ korean culture better.

    ??koreans went ape-poohpooh when george bush ?? ??? NORA

    Dont koreans do the same thing?

    huh? i just said koreans do that.

    my point was not that they should or shouldn’t, but that the ‘getting credit for being there’ was important from a national prestige point of view, as military and political allies of the u.s., not just in terms of the bottom line.

    ?橫so many of you salivating over a war on the korean peninsula. y??all would love that, now wouldn??t ya??? Noolji

    Keep up the trolling nora.

    what? so now i’m responsible for what noolji writes, too?! gee, this is a tough crowd.

  • non korean

    Paul. I think it is a wonderful idea. The U.S. could get its troops out and SK would not have to worry about a nuclear threat from their brothers up North and be more secure with future relations with China. Heck I think I am even for SK just having half dozen nukes themselves just as long as they don’t use them against Japan over some rock named Dokdo:)

    Turkey is a good example but I believe the US pulled those nukes out of Turkey, as part of an agreement with the the Soviets not nuclearizing Cuba (Cuban missile crises).

  • Paul H.

    Yes, a great idea, sadly the generals, diplomats and politicians don’t listen to me.

    Just so you know, part of the resolution to the Cuban missile crisis involved the US withdrawal from Turkey of what were called “Jupiter” missiles (short-range (ie not intercontinental), liquid-fueled (took a long time to prepare for firing), nuclear warhead (how big a nuke? don’t know)). Supposedly these were obsolete even for that time period, so it was “no big deal” for the US to give them up anyway, but this gave the Soviet Union a face-saving compensation for the withdrawal of its “short-range” (not intercontinental) nuclear missiles from Cuba.

    Jupiter missiles were separate and distinct from US Army nuclear artillery shells, which could be fired from regular heavy artillery cannon just like regular shells.

    So what did a “Jupiter” missile look like? Good question, I’ve never seen a picture now that I think about it, will have to google to see what’s out there on the net.

    As far as the artillery shells, they were considered “tactical” nuclear weapons, with extremely short range (less than 30 km), and thus not seen as a “strategic” threat in the same way that the longer-ranged missiles and aircraft were (non-“intercontinental” though these latter might be).

    I suppose the idea was that such artillery shells could be used against Soviet ground forces invading Turkey in the event of a general war with NATO. The shells were stored and maintained under strict US military control, though they were physically located in Turkey; thus, they were unavailable for use when the Turks and Greeks were having one of their periodic and traditional episodes of attempts at mutual throat-cutting.

    President Bush (the first one) did away with these nuclear artillery shells as a weapon, in an obscure arms control announcement during his presidential term. So I don’t think these are available in the US arsenal any more, but they were definitely around through 1992 or so.

    So — my proposal would actually be an escalation, a step up, from the Turkish example, but then changing times call for changing methods, not so? After all, it’s not our (US’s) fault that NorK developed its own nukes; indeed, even the most rabid anti-Americans have never accused the USA of helping NorK to get nukes, in the same way they accuse the USA of helping to “arm” Saddam Hussein during the 1980’s.

    No, unlike Saddam Hussein the NorKs did it all on their own. Instead of pouring their energies into economic modernization they choose a classic bit of Stalinism from the 30’s and starved their own people to develop their war machine. So it seems only right that we should compensate “our” Koreans for our withdrawal from the peninsula by making sure they have wartime retaliatory control of some of their own nukes as well, at least for long enough until the ROK can develop its own ones (which will undoubtedly be superior to the older American models).

    As to Dokdo, my idea is that the nukes would remain under US control unless needed for retaliation after NorK “first use” — so could only be armed by US presidential order — so such nukes would be unavailable to the ROK for use in resolving the Dokdo dispute (regrettably? perhaps so, depends on your “point of view”).

    Perhaps NorK could be called in to mediate the Dokdo dispute? They could test one of their nukes on Dokdo, with two benefits:

    a) eliminating all ambiguity about whether or not NorK has an operational nuclear weapon;
    b) eliminating the islets themselves, so they’d no longer be a cause of discord. Both Koreans and Japanese could then fish the surrounding waters together (as soon as the radioactivity went down enough to make the fish edible again), with blessed harmony and smiles returning all around.

  • usinkorea

    Paul H,

    Didn’t the military people generally conclude the tactical nukes were a waste of effort? They fit into the Cold War, because the two camps were doing any and everything to get a glimmer of an edge in the arms race. But once things settled down, I thought the military said the tactical nukes were more of a headache than asset.

    I think I remember something recently about the US looking to develop bunker buster tactical nukes stemming directly from the efforts of North Korea (and Iraq) to negate the US’ advantage in air strikes. I remember hearing one irrate American grad student mentioning the development of these nukes as a sign of the huge sham by the US in its nonproliferation talk — as if the very idea of a low yielding, contained nuclear device was never thought of before. He had obviously never heard of the artillery nukes developed long ago.

    My initial thought on what the US could offer SK as we leave is that we would be constrained by our position in Japan. If North Korea invaded the South, I sure as heck would not want to see the US throw troops back into Korea like we did in the first Korean War. If we are going to do that, then we should stay there now. But, I think it would cause some problems if we also agreed to provide air support from Japan, because it would give NK a reason/excuse to strike at Tokyo. So, I am fairly limited on what kind of military agreement we can make with SK as we leave.