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A detailed plan for how to deal with crises on the Korean Peninsula

Opinions differ on possible North Korean provocations and the outbreak of war on the Korean peninsula. Of course, predictions can differ. However, it is important to remember that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un launched armed provocations against South Korea even before he possessed nuclear weapons.

Moreover, now that North Korea possesses a variety of nuclear weapons, it is more likely than ever that it will launch a provocation using conventional weapons backed by nuclear weapons, although it may not start a full-scale war that would lead to the regime’s destruction.

Accordingly, we must prepare for all scenarios. However, we cannot remain on the defensive forever. The risk is also an opportunity. If the South Korean government pursues a bold, tailored North Korea policy based on an accurate assessment of the political situation as well as early warning and preemptive response systems, it can not only overcome Kim Jong Un’s nuclear threat but even turn it into a chance to transform the North Korean regime and, eventually, achieve national reunification.

Pros and cons of the “two-nation” narrative

The “two-nation” narrative that Kim Jong Un has used to deny the unity of the Korean people and the need for national reunification is a window through which we can see his thoughts about the present and the future. On the one hand, it shows his extreme discomfort with the current situation; on the other, it testifies to his adventurous disposition to forge a new future for his country.

With the “two-nation” narrative, Kim has gained and lost three things. He gained: 1) a justification for tightening internal controls, including blocking the spread of South Korean pop culture; 2) the strength to exacerbate tensions within South Korea; and 3) a base on which to strengthen solidarity with China and Russia. All three are short-term, tangible gains.

The losses will be more far-reaching over time, and they include: 1) Kim Jong Un has ceded the initiative for national reunification to South Korea; 2) he has mistakenly repudiated a long-standing policy of his predecessors that legitimized the hereditary transfer of power in the nation; and 3) he has put pro-North forces in South Korea and abroad in a more difficult position.

“Nation, peace, and reunification” has been North Korea’s trump card in its reunification propaganda strategy throughout the 79-year history of Korea’s division into North and South. The dying instructions of late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il focused on these keywords. But in one fell swoop, Kim Jong Un rejected the infallibility of North Korea’s past leaders. This will backfire on him.

Kim Jong Un’s move has confused North Koreans and pro-North groups in South Korea and internationally. The elections for the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) scheduled for Mar. 10 – when the current SPA members’ five-year terms expire – have remained silent on Kim’s recent pronouncements on Korean unity, and curiously, there has been a continued lack of sensation or rallies to implement these pronouncements. North Korea’s actions thus far have been mainly propaganda stunts – at most, it has destroyed some symbols related to Korean unity and national reunification and edited maps of the Korean peninsula on its websites. Meanwhile, pro-North groups are in disarray as they scramble to praise Kim Jong Un’s new war policy.

How to respond

What should the Yoon Suk Yeol government do? It must now answer the following questions: 1) whether it should uphold the spirit and tenor of the “Agreement on Reconciliation, Nonaggression and Exchange and Cooperation Between the South and the North,” which called on the two Koreas to recognize that their relationship; 2) if it should amend the South Korean constitution, which has designated national reunification as a supreme goal since 1994, to manage national division per the changing reality; and 3) how it should respond to North Korean provocations and psychological warfare.

This writer has always proposed that the South Korean government respond with crisis management to deal appropriately with North Korea’s provocations, promotion tailored to domestic and international audiences, new reunification plans, and campaigns to promote freedom in North Korea, with the starting point of rejecting Kim Jong Un’s “two-nation” narrative as anti-national and anti-historical.

1. Rejection of the “two-nation” narrative

Just because Kim Jong Un has temporarily given up Korean unity and national reunification does not mean that we should do the same. At first glance, the two-nation narrative may seem to be a reasonable proposal that allows both sides to run their regimes without internal interference from the other side. However, South Korea must look at the matter from a historical, strategic, and future-oriented perspective.

That is, given that unity and reunification are serious issues directly related to 1) the identity of a nation with a proud history of 5,000 years; 2) the question of whether North Korean defectors will be immediately recognized as South Korean citizens; and 3) the possible justification for the U.N. or third countries to intervene in North Korea – without South Korea’s agreement – if the regime collapses, Seoul should continue to recognize Korean unity and the need for national reunification.

Accordingly, the South Korean government should maintain that it is the only constitutional government on the Korean Peninsula, that no one can arbitrarily sever the blood ties and history of the Korean nation, and that Korean reunification is a national calling, while at the same time treating North Korea – to an appropriate extent – as a normal country by respecting its official name, establishing official missions and concluding treaties. We could call this a call to “provisionally give partial recognition to North Korea.

2. Strengthen intelligence and tailor responses to provocations

The South Korean military, in close cooperation with the United States, must perfect an early warning system and, if necessary, announce red lines and respond accordingly. At the same time, it must substantiate the system of extended nuclear deterrence provided by the U.S. and, in line with the changing environment, discuss possible “Plan Bs,” including the conditional reintroduction of tactical nuclear weapons by the United States.

The first target of a North Korean armed provocation after Pyongyang defines its territory in its constitution is likely to be attempts to distribute leaflets in the country. Accordingly, the South Korean government must talk to relevant groups beforehand and persuade them to conduct their activities secretly rather than openly and at night rather than during the day – to promote change in North Korea through the exercise of constitutional “freedom of expression” while avoiding giving North Korea an excuse to launch an armed provocation.

3. Public relations activities to win domestic and international sympathy

The government must conduct meetings focused on explaining the need for reunification, including explanations of the security situation, in addition to non-governmental reunification campaigns that will focus on educating people about the reality of North Korea. This requires cooperation with the media. Only such efforts will prevent public insecurity caused by false agitation slogans such as “war or peace.”

To reiterate, there is no other value as important as peace. It is a goal or value that no partisan camp or state can monopolize. Everyone wants peace and works for it. Even war – or the will to wage war – is, along with dialogue, an important means of maintaining peace. Look at Ukraine. Look at the Middle East. A unified national discussion equals security.

4. Preparation of a new unification plan

The new reunification plan being prepared by the Ministry of Unification must also reflect the changed reality. We must have the wisdom to use Kim Jong Un’s will and policies against him while emphasizing the justification for a united Korea and our plan for the future.

To do this, we must add a “stage 0” of “leading change in the North Korean regime” to the existing three-stage formula for national community unification of reconciliation and cooperation, national community and national reunification. We should also change the name of the formula to “Liberal Democracy Community Unification Formula.”

This “stage 0” calls for persistent efforts to implement the five-point strategy of denuclearization, liberalization, marketization, pro-South Koreanism and globalization regardless of whether the DPRK welcomes it or not. The goal is not to bring about the collapse of the North Korean regime, but to improve the lives of North Koreans – at least a little – with a regime that resembles a liberal democracy. Only in this way can the first stage, reconciliation and cooperation, proceed substantively and uninterruptedly.

5. Other ideas for changing the North Korean regime

The South Korean government must make good use of the third Summit for Democracy to be held in Seoul in March. Since the theme of this year’s summit is “Democracy for Future Generations,” the government must use the summit as an opportunity to dispel fears of war on the Korean peninsula and to raise concern among North Koreans who are suffering from the suppression of their right to know.

We must quickly establish the North Korean Human Rights Foundation. If this proves difficult because of partisan differences, we should at least create a Korean-style endowment for democracy, based on the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy, to actively support non-government activities to liberalize North Korea.

We must also create a “Campaign Roadmap for the Transformation of the North Korean Regime.” This will involve the creation of a “Committee to Promote Liberalization in North Korea” with the participation of government agencies such as the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Ministry of Unification, and the Ministry of Culture, and go beyond the current psychological warfare efforts conducted by the military and the National Intelligence Service. We must promote a synergistic effect through a pan-governmental cooperative system, with each agency acting according to its particular character based on a basic plan.

Another possible plan could be a global solidarity campaign to encourage North Korea to abolish its law to “eradicate reactionary thought and culture,” modeled on North Korea’s efforts to get South Korea to abolish its National Security Law.

Separate from these offensive activities, we must also consistently propose and pursue dialogue, exchanges, and humanitarian assistance with and for the North, regardless of the North Korean authorities’ response, to encourage North Korea to become a normal state that follows global standards.

Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler.

Views expressed in this guest column do not necessarily reflect those of Daily NK. Please send any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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March 05, 2024 at 08:37AM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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