सीधे मुख्य सामग्री पर जाएं

North Korea’s transformation on peaceful reunification marks paradigm shift in Asia

By John P. Ruehl 
Late 2023 marked a notable transformation in North Korea’s longstanding pursuit of peaceful reunification with South Korea after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un noted the failure of the policy in his end-of-year speech. This sentiment was reiterated during a January 15 meeting of North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), where the country’s constitution was ordered to be rewritten to label South Korea as its “principal adversary.”
Subsequently, public symbols promoting peaceful reunification in North Korea were dismantled and references to it were deleted on state media outlets. Additionally, three inter-Korean cooperation organizations —the Korean People’s Cooperation Administration, Kumgangsan International Tourism Administration, and the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland—were abolished, accompanied by an increase in North Korean missile tests.
Several North Korea experts, including former State Department official Robert L. Carlin and nuclear scientist Siegfried S. Hecker, have sounded the alarm about the growing potential for conflict. Armed with nuclear weapons and emboldened by challenges to U.S. power in Ukraine and the Middle East, Pyongyang might see this as an opportune moment for large-scale aggression. However, the North Korean leadership may believe that abandoning reunification while avoiding war could bolster its autonomy by freeing it from the democratization constraints linked to the reunification process.
North Korea explored various avenues for peaceful reunification in the decades following the Korean war, including Kim Il Sung’s Three Principles of National Reunification in 1972. The 1980s saw more substantive ideas emerge. North Korea’s “Democratic Confederal Republic of Koryo,” proposed two regional Korean governments under a confederal government. Subsequently, South Korea put forward its “Unification Formula for the Korean National Community,” outlining a three-step model of reconciliation and cooperation, formation of a Korean commonwealth, and establishment of a unitary liberal democracy.
In 1991, North Korea introduced the idea of a “low-stage federation” with regional autonomy, which received a positive reception from South Korea. By 2000, a Joint Declaration acknowledged common elements in both North and South Korea’s proposals that fostered an environment conducive to the pursuit of unification.
However, relations between the Koreas began to break down in the 2000s, particularly after the North conducted its first nuclear test in 2006, and have soured further in recent years. Citing the “vicious cycle of contact and suspension, dialogue, and confrontation” and accusing South Korea of using reunification to collapse the North Korean government, Kim Jong Un’s policy shift threatens to undo decades of work.
Apprehension about South Korea and the U.S. maintaining a firm stance on North Korea without concessions no doubt motivated Pyongyang to discontinue reunification efforts. The Biden Administration reversed Trump’s outreach policies to North Korea, while in 2022 , South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk Yeol declared it would designate North Korea as the country’s “main enemy” following North Korean missile tests.
The U.S. and South Korea later launched the U.S.-ROK Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG) in 2023 to strengthen deterrence and cooperation on nuclear and contingency planning, while Yoon stated in December 2023 that a “nuclear-based, powerful Korea-U.S. alliance” would be formed to deter Pyongyang. Additionally, greater military cooperation under Biden among South Korea, the U.S., and Japan may have further incentivized North Korea.
Amid worsening relations with its adversaries, North Korea’s foreign policy is increasingly aligned with its major partners. Russia and China, once occasional collaborators with the U.S. on North Korea issues, have hindered U.S. measures against Pyongyang as their own relations with Washington have worsened. Widespread sanctions on China and especially Russia in recent years have prompted them and other countries to work around the sanctions through increased mutual trade and assistance with North Korea.
North Korea came to rely on China after the collapse of the Soviet Union but has strengthened its partnership with Russia since the start of the Ukraine war. South Korea’s support for Ukraine saw Russia include it in its list of “unfriendly countries,” easing Moscow’s limitations on aiding North Korea’s military. In return for receiving energy, food, and space and weapons technology, North Korea has supplied missiles, artillery, and other weapons to Russia.
Military assistance to North Korea meanwhile allows Russia to raise the security costs for the U.S., South Korea, and Japan, which Russia declared in January 2024 were preparing for war with North Korea. Boosting North Korea’s abilities may distract the U.S. from aiding Ukraine and complicate its efforts to deter increasing Chinese activities around Taiwan and the South China Sea.
Washington has also intensified attempts to sanction numerous countries to a level not seen in decades. The increasing number of countries attempting to circumvent traditional networks may have persuaded North Korea that it is no longer as susceptible to isolation from the global economy as it was in decades past. Utilizing Russia as a conduit, North Korea has already increased engagement with other sanctioned states like Iran and Syria.
In recent decades, the waning of the prospect of Korea’s reunification has also paralleled a global trend. Country unification has become increasingly rare compared to state fragmentation. The last two major reunifications, Germany and Yemen, occurred in 1990, with the reunification of East and West Germany often cited as a model for Korea. But the absorption of the far smaller East Germany by the far larger West Germany contrasts to South Korea’s population being only double that of North Korea.
Familial links between North and South Korea have also dwindled significantly since 1953 and income gaps have widened. Bringing East Germany up to West German social standards has meanwhile cost more than $2 trillion, with lingering cultural differences between them—challenges that will be even more pronounced in Korea. And in contrast to Germany’s relative success, Yemen’s reunification attempts since 1990 have been marred by ongoing violence and instability.
Faced with these realities, growing numbers of South Koreans, particularly younger generations , no longer want reunification with the North, trends that may solidify as the population difference between the two countries may reverse by the end of the century.
Concerns remain that though North Korea may not actively pursue forceful unification, there is a potential for an escalation in destabilization tactics. In 2010, a suspected North Korean missile sank the ROKS Cheonan, a South Korean naval vessel, killing 46 servicemen. Months later , North Korean shelling of Yeonpyeong Island left two South Korean servicemen and two South Korean civilians dead. Although full-scale conflict was avoided, South Korea’s government may now not show as much restraint, and North Korea has increased its shelling near Yeonpyeong Island in recent weeks.
With Washington distracted in Ukraine and the Middle East, it has become harder for it to effectively punish North Korea for missile launches and military posturing. But open conflict or serious escalation might be deemed too risky by Kim Jong Un. While Russia and China may welcome distractions from their own territorial ambitions, a flare-up in the Korean peninsula may be too close to home for Moscow and Beijing.
Recognizing the aversion of major powers to the instability associated with the collapse of a nuclear-armed North Korean government, Kim may choose to test the U.S. and South Korea without the allure of reunification as a bargaining chip. Distracting Washington but steering clear of serious escalation would ensure his long-term rule and is an approach that both Moscow and Beijing could support.
Capitalizing on perceived greater leverage, Pyongyang has reverted to the Cold War-era strategy of playing Moscow and Beijing off one another. Following North Korea’s foreign minister’s visit to Moscow in January 2024, state media invited Putin to Pyongyang, dubbing him “the Korean people’s closest friend,” language usually reserved for China. But in contrast to the later stages of the Cold War, the foreign policy alignment of North Korea, Russia, and China against Washington has made confronting them more formidable.
In 936, the Goryeo dynasty managed to reunify Korea after centuries of division. Today, North Korea’s recent policy shift has halted Korea’s current reunification process, shaping a new chapter in the peninsula’s history. South Korea now faces the crucial decision of upholding its reunification policy and championing pan-Korean nationalism, or abandoning these ideals and more permanently dividing the two countries. Seoul’s decision to downsize and repurpose the Ministry of Unification in mid-2023 offers some insight into the direction it is leaning.
Though the prospect of reunification could return, the joint admission of North and South Korea to the UN in 1991, while still committed to reunification, hints at the early stages of consideration of abandoning reunification as a policy. Committing to the policy reversal will fundamentally alter Asia’s geopolitical landscape and reshape bilateral ties, and already appears to be bringing the threat of conflict closer.
Yet should North Korea’s policy shift solidify, abandoning reunification “theoretically opens the way to diplomatic relations, mutual recognition, and even the establishment of embassies” between the two Koreas. Pyongyang, Seoul, and outside powers could transform the decision to abandon reunification from a crisis into an opportunity—provided collaboration, a commitment to diplomatic resolution, and an avoidance of escalation are recognized as a collective responsibility.
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John P. Ruehl is an Australian-American journalist living in Washington, D.C., and a world affairs correspondent for the Independent Media Institute. He is a contributing editor to Strategic Policy and a contributor to several other foreign affairs publications. His book, Budget Superpower: How Russia Challenges the West With an Economy Smaller Than Texas’ , was published in December 2022. This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute

टिप्पणियाँ

ट्रेंडिंग

हिंदी आलोचना जैसे पिछड़ चुके अनुशासन की जगह हिंदी वैचारिकी का विकास जरूरी

- प्रमोद रंजन*   भारतीय राजनीति में सांप्रदायिक व प्रतिक्रियावादी ताकतों को सत्ता तक पहुंचाने में हिंदी पट्टी का सबसे बड़ा योगदान है। इसका मुख्य कारण हिंदी-पट्टी में कार्यरत समाजवादी व जनपक्षधर हिरावल दस्ते का विचारहीन, अनैतिक और  प्रतिक्रियावादी होते जाना है। अगर हम उपरोक्त बातों को स्वीकार करते हैं, तो कुछ रोचक निष्कर्ष निकलते हैं। हिंदी-जनता और उसके हिरावल दस्ते को विचारहीन और प्रतिक्रियावादी बनने से रोकने की मुख्य ज़िम्मेदारी किसकी थी?

ગુજરાતના સ્થાપના દિવસે યાદ કરીએ ભારતના વિશ્વપ્રસિદ્ધ ગુજરાતી પુરાતત્વવિદ્ ને

- ગૌરાંગ જાની*  આજે કોઈ ગુજરાતી એ કલ્પના પણ ન કરી શકે કે વર્ષ ૧૮૩૯ માં જૂનાગઢમાં જન્મેલા એક ગુજરાતી વિશ્વ પ્રસિદ્ધ બની શકે! પણ આપણે એ ગુજરાતીને કદાચ વિસરી ગયા છીએ જેમણે ગિરનારના અશોક શિલાલેખને દોઢસો વર્ષ પૂર્વે ઉકેલી આપ્યો.આ વિદ્વાન એટલે ભગવાનલાલ ઈન્દ્રજી. ૭ નવેમ્બર, ૧૮૩૯ ના દિવસે જૂનાગઢના પ્રશ્નોરા નાગર બ્રાહ્મણ પરિવારમાં તેમનો જન્મ થયો હતો. જૂનાગઢના એ સમયે અંગ્રેજી શિક્ષણની સગવડ ન હોવાને કારણે તેમને અંગ્રેજી ભાષાનું જ્ઞાન ન હતું પણ પાછળથી તેમણે ખપ પૂરતું અંગ્રેજી જાણી લીધું હતું.

Under Modi, democracy is regressing and economy is also growing slowly

By Avyaan Sharma*   India is "the largest democracy in the world", but now its democracy is regressing and its economy is also growing slowly. What has PM Modi's ten years in power brought us? Unemployment remains high. Joblessness is particularly high among India's youth - with those aged 15 to 29 making up a staggering 83% of all unemployed people in India, according to the "India Employment Report 2024", published last month by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Institute of Human Development (IHD). The BJP-led government did not provide jobs to two crore youth in a year as was promised by Modi in the run up to the 2014 general elections.

नफरती बातें: मुसलमानों में असुरक्षा का भाव बढ़ रहा है, वे अपने मोहल्लों में सिमट रहे हैं

- राम पुनियानी*  भारत पर पिछले 10 सालों से हिन्दू राष्ट्रवादी भारतीय जनता पार्टी (भाजपा) राज कर रही है. भाजपा आरएसएस परिवार की सदस्य है और आरएसएस का लक्ष्य है हिन्दू राष्ट्र का निर्माण. आरएसएस से जुड़ी सैंकड़ों संस्थाएँ हैं. उसके लाखों, बल्कि शायद, करोड़ों स्वयंसेवक हैं. इसके अलावा कई हजार वरिष्ठ कार्यकर्ता हैं जिन्हें प्रचारक कहा जाता है. भाजपा के सत्ता में आने के बाद से आरएसएस दुगनी गति से हिन्दू राष्ट्र के निर्माण के अपने एजेण्डे को पूरा करने में जुट गया है. यदि भाजपा को चुनावों में लगातार सफलता हासिल हो रही है तो उसका कारण है देश में साम्प्रदायिकता और साम्प्रदायिक मुद्दों का बढ़ता बोलबाला. इनमें से कुछ हैं राम मंदिर, गौमांस और गोवध एवं लव जिहाद. 

Laxmanpur Bathe massacre: Perfect example of proto-fascist Brahmanical social order

By Harsh Thakor  The massacre at Laxmanpur-Bathe of Jehanabad in Bihar on the night of 1 December in 1997 was a landmark event with distinguishing features .The genocide rightly shook the conscience of the nation in the 50th year of Indian independence. The scale of the carnage was unparalleled in any caste massacre. It was a perfect manifestation of how in essence the so called neo-liberal state was in essence most autocratic. 

रैंकिंग: अधिकांश भारतीय विश्वविद्यालयों का स्तर बहुत गिरा, इस साल भी यह गिरवाट जारी

- प्रमोद रंजन*  अप्रैल, 2024 में भारतीय विश्वविद्यालयों की अंतर्राष्ट्रीय स्तर पर उच्च रैंकिंग की चर्चा रही। मीडिया ने इसका उत्सव मनाया। लेकिन स्थिति इसके विपरीत है। वैश्विक विश्वविद्यालय रैंकिग में अच्छा स्थान मिलने की खबरें, कुछ संस्थानों को इक्का-दुक्का विषयों में मिले रैंक के आधार पर चुनिंदा ढंग से प्रकाशित की गईं थीं। वास्तविकता यह है कि हाल के वर्षों में हमारे अधिकांश विश्वविद्यालयों का स्तर बहुत गिर गया है। इस साल भी यह गिरवाट जारी रही है।

प्राचीन भारत के लोकायत संप्रदाय ने कुछ परजीवियों की खूब खबर ली: प्रमुख प्रस्थापनायें

- राणा सिंह   भारत में परजीवियों का एक विशाल समूह है जो बोलता है कि “सब कुछ माया है”,  लेकिन व्यवहार में यह समूह सारी जिंदगी इसी “माया” के पीछे पागल रहता है।  प्राचीन भारत के लोकायत संप्रदाय ने इन परजीवियों की खूब खबर ली थी।

नोएडा में मैन्युअल स्कैवेंजर्स की मौत: परिवारों को मुआवजा नहीं, प्राधिकरण ने एफआईआर नहीं की

- अरुण खोटे, संजीव कुमार*  गत एक सप्ताह में, उत्तर प्रदेश में सीवर/सेप्टि क टैंक सफाई कर्मियों की सफाई के दौरान सेप्टिक टैंक में मौत। 2 मई, 2024 को, लखनऊ के वज़ीरगजं क्षेत्र में एक सेवर लाइन की सफाई करते समय शोब्रान यादव, 56, और उनके पत्रु सशुील यादव, 28, घटुन से हुई मौत। एक और घटना 3 मई 2024 को नोएडा, सेक्टर 26 में एक घर में सेप्टि क टैंक को सफाई करते समय दो सफाई कर्मचर्मारी नूनी मडंल, 36 और कोकन मडंल जिसे तपन मडंल के नाम से जानते हैं, की मौत हो गई। ये सफाई कर्मचर्मारी बंगाल के मालदा जिले के निवासी थे और नोएडा सेक्टर 9 में रहते थे। कोकन मडंल अपनी पत्नी अनीता मडंल के साथ रहते थे। इनके तीन स्कूल जाने वाले बच्चे हैं जो बंगाल में रहते हैं। नूनी मडंल अपनी पत्नी लिलिका मडंल और अपने पत्रु सजुान के साथ किराए पर झग्गी में रहते थे। वे दैनिक मजदरूी और सफाई कर्मचर्मारी के रूप में काम करते थे।

दाँव उल्टा पड़ा: राहुल गांधी के रूप में हम एक साधारण इंसान को नायक होते देख रहे हैं

-  अमिता नीरव  संघ औऱ बीजेपी ने राहुल गाँधी पर जो सोचकर ‘इन्वेस्ट’ किया था, उसके परिणाम गंभीर रूप से नुकसानदेह आ रहे हैं। ये थोड़ी अटपटी बात लग सकती है, लेकिन सोचिएगा कि संघ और बीजेपी ने राहुल गाँधी को जितना गंभीरता से लिया, उनकी संभावनाओं को लेकर वे जितना श्योर थे, उतना तो खुद राहुल और कांग्रेस भी नहीं थी।

बिहार के ऐतिहासिक विक्रमशिला विश्वविद्यालय के खंडहरों की परिक्रमा का रोमांचक अवसर

- सुमन्त शरण  कुछ दिन पहले एक सुदूर ग्रामीण अंचल (पीरपैंती)  से तकरीबन डेढ़-दो घंटे की दूरी पर अवस्थित ऐतिहासिक बौद्ध विक्रमशिला विश्वविद्यालय (के अवशेषों) की परिक्रमा का अवसर मिला। विक्रमशीला विश्वविद्यालय की स्थापना पाल वंश के राजा धर्मपाल ने की थी। 8वीं शताब्दी से 12वीं शताब्दी के अंत तक यह विश्वविद्यालय भारत के प्रमुख शिक्षा केंद्रों में से एक हुआ करता था। कहा जाता है कि यह अपने कुछेक अत्यंत अनूठे नवाचार के चलते उस समय नालंदा विश्वविद्यालय का सबसे बड़ा प्रतिस्पर्धी था। हालांकि, मान्यता यह भी है कि अल्प अवधि के लिए दोनों विश्वविद्यालय के बीच शिक्षण एवं प्रबंधन के क्षेत्रों में घनिष्ठ पारस्परिक संबंध एवं शिक्षकों के आदान-प्रदान का सिलसिला भी रहा था। यह विश्वविद्यालय तंत्रशास्त्र की पढ़ाई के लिए सबसे ज्यादा विख्यात था। इस विषय का एक सबसे विख्यात छात्र अतीसा दीपनकरा था, जो बाद में तिब्बत जाकर बौद्ध हो गया। इसके प्रथम कुलपति ज्ञान अतिस थे।