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Reunification at all costs?

Reader comment on item: Korean Delusions [of Appeasement]

Submitted by Joshua Truax (United States), Oct 9, 2002 at 11:27

In the specific case of North and South Korea, there is also one other factor at play that Mr. Pipes does not include: In the eyes of many South Koreans (especially in younger generations who have no firsthand memory of Northern aggression), the desire for Korean reunification trumps all other concerns with respect to the North.

This is actually somewhat understandable. Like the U.S. Civil War, the division of Korea tore families apart across the peninsula. Not only has this made many South Koreans reticent about further hostilities (as this would amount to fighting and killing blood relatives), but it has also strengthened the pro-reunification protest movement, which has shown itself over the years to be exceptionally passionate even by the standards of other nationalist movements. They aren't necessarily pro-Communist or pro-Kim Jong Il, but they demand the reunification of North and South Korea posthaste, regard the U.S. military presence as the primary obstacle to reunification, and are not very particular about what form reunification may take. (In other words, in their view, if the only way to achieve reunification is via Northern conquest of the South, then so be it. Never mind the steady stream of Northerners who risk their lives to defect to the South.)

Even some otherwise moderate South Korean politicians are touched by the reunification-at-all-costs mentality, as indicated when at least one of them condemned President George W. Bush's "axis of evil" speech for including North Korea - not because they don't believe the North is developing WMDs, but because Bush's demonization of the Northern regime represented yet another obstacle to Korean reunification.

So, it would seem that the question of how to deal with North Korea is as serious and as complex as dealing with Iran or Iraq, but it is an entirely different beast.
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