Thinking about reunifying Korea is an exercise in voluntary migraine. North Korea is in a horrific state.
Recently we have been told that North Korea may be close to collapse. So even if the western world (under a US led coalition, no doubt) would have any absolutely no ambition to topple the regime there, the world will soon have to deal with this mess. Dealing with “this mess” may be logistically impossible, so it might turn out having to be a collective global effort.
By any standard, “fixing” North Korea is a trans-herculean logistical nightmare. Any comparison with the German re-unification fails on a logarithmic scale. If the US, South Korea would join in a military operation to attack (i.e. “liberate” North Korea), such an operation would itself be next to impossible to resolve or execute. The theme for these kinds of missions “if you break it, you own it”. The rebuilding of North Korea may entail an expense that would stagger the global economy for years. A rebuilding effort for the country would be akin to colonizing mars. I guarantee you, neither South Korea nor the US wants anything to do with this mess. China doesn’t want trouble on its borders either, so nobody is volunteering just yet.
There is clear moral imperative to act, much along the same ethical arguments as one would be compelled to intervene in a family living nearby where the parents are known to be routinely torturing their children, and working them to death in plain sight. But we have to be realistic here. I wouldn’t shed a tear if this government went down, but I have to accept as a human being that even if tomorrow all guilty party leaders and potentates of North Korea would suddenly succumb of a severely painful form of brain cancer, but even if North Korea would resort to attacking South Korea would an all out military offensive, and the North Korean cities would be invaded after having been thoroughly bombed there would be absolutely no rational logistical scenario of resolving this challenge.
The population of North Korea is not mentally equipped to govern itself. These people have been completely brainwashed to regard most foreigners as subhuman. North Koreans can not be “conquered” in any traditional sense since they are so mentally damaged they will not be able to reintegrate or re-educated in to a societal format that would be acceptable to the rest of the planet. This isn’t weird – the same happens to severely abused families or communities everywhere. The whole country suffers from the most severe form of Stockholm syndrome.
I have been speculating with some people about what might be a possible solution, and I am trying to think far outside the box. The country has 24 million people living there. Assuming an appreciable number of these people would survive a conflict, invasion or unconstrained military exchange, the world would find itself faced with the most ornery, implacable and thoroughly xenophobic population on the planet. North Koreans are quite racist, especially when it comes to pale-faced westerners.
After some deliberation it is my conclusion that the most practical (and affordable!) solution for resolving the consequences of a North Korean population would be to take the vast majority of these people away from the country and re-educate (resocialize!) them in a completely foreign context. No doubt this would be deeply traumatizing for any individual North Koreans, and I can only argue it would be somewhat less of a human rights violation than any thinkable alternative. Let’s assume that the part of the developed world that could actually take in an appreciable population of North Koreans would be the European Union, Russia, The United States, some parts of China, and some parts of Australia. There would be no political support in any of these countries for such a measure, unless it would be made very clear such extraction effort would cost substantially less than any hypothetical alternative. There is no way to rebuild North Korea with most North Koreans living in it. If the international community would be left to turn the country inhabitable and modern again, on par with South Korea, then a billion people in the developed world would have to shoulder the burden of patching up this collection of completely broken human beings.
In essence this is nothing less than taking the people of North Korea, viewing these people as children for the time of at least a decade, housing them in a secure and safe environment for that time, patching them up physically, mentally and intellectually, and at the same time unleash the full force of international community to construct somewhat acceptable living conditions for the return of these people – agricultural projects, cities, housing, factories, infrastructure. I’d make a guesstimate that of the 22 million North Koreans about half would thus be forcibly and temporarily relocated world wide. The United States would be temporarily house something like a million North Koreans, scattered all over the country in easily managed communities, where these people would receive language training, proper medical care, professional training and trauma counseling, much as one might literally deal with survivors of a large natural disaster. This process might take several years in the most agreeable cases, and maybe as much as a decade for the worst off. This decade would be sorely needed, as at the same time the International Commmunity would be appointed the task of rebuilding a land laid to waste.
There is a degree of sarcasm contained in this argument – is the imposition of tyranny acceptable to resolve the permanent scars created by tyranny? My heart might say yes. However, if we were to entertain making such sacrifices for North Korea, for what other country might we consider the same degree of imposed charity? What other nations have suffered comparable scars of imposed tyranny, and what would be a similarly arguable imposition of intervention in each case? If Saudi Arabia would fall to a most gruesome civil war, what would be the course of action humanity might be left to take to save the people there?
In the case of North Korea this thought experiment would be to compare severe abuse on a family scale with similarly severe abuse on a societal scale, and translate this to the most well-intentioned and the most affordable communal effort of intervention. What might similar reasonable interventions mean for Syria? Byelarus? The Gaza strip? A radiologically contaminated Tokyo? A Netherlands flooded by a tidal wave? A United States forced into mass-migration by a Yellowstone Caldera exploding? What might we argue should be the responsibilities of the international community on an ever interconnected planet?
* North Korea’s impending collapse: 3 grim scenarios
* The provincialization of Pyongyang is underway
* Why We Won’t Invade North Korea
* North Korean prison camp horror exposed at UN panel hearing
* North Korea’s Prison Camps Are Absolutely Horrifying
* Travelling in North Korea
* North Korea, another perspective
* North Korea close to collapse, says Kim Jong-il’s eldest son
* North Korea’s Nuclear Program
* BBC Panorama documentary about North Korea
* North Korea Cannibals? BBC Film Reveals How North Korean Families Really Survive!
* North Korea (Documentary Film)
* North Korean Film Madness
* North Korean testimony of being forced to survive on vermin and drown babies gets no reaction, UN says
* Interesting Interview
* North Korean Farmers Fear Government ‘Betrayal’ Over Distribution Plan
* Some interesting pics