Sunday, April 26, 2020

The Future of the Hermit Kingdom

Photo by Random Institute on Unsplash

Now that the news about the death of Kim Jong-Un's has been circulating online for days, North Korea's future hangs by a thread. Some say that his younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, could take over. But, in a patriarchal and reclusive nation, that's a very tough sell. Is this the perfect time for the two Koreas to reunite again?

Most of us, including me, have been obsessed with the hermit kingdom, all thanks to Crash Landing On You. Viewership about Pyongyang, North Korea tours, and the stories of North Korean defectors on YouTube has skyrocketed. While the Korean drama undeniably romanticizes the peculiar world of North Korea and wrongly depicts some scenes, it nonetheless became a success.

Near Manchuria, China is the Korean peninsula. It is surrounded by the Yellow Sea to the west and the Sea of Japan to the east.  Between the two Koreas lies the world's most heavily fortified border in the world. The DMZ or the Demilitarized Military Zone was established after the Korean War under the provisions of the Korean Armistice Agreement to serve as a buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea. There have been various incidents in and around the DMZ, with military and civilian casualties on both sides. South Korea is fueled by capitalism and free trade, while its northern brother is a totalitarian state, governed by the Kims. The south lacks natural resources, but the north is so abundant of it. In an alternate universe, the two Koreas reunite, and decades after, their economy had grown big and become insurmountable, surpassing China and Japan. North Koreans will migrate to the south, the south will accept them as part of the cheaper labor force. More so, the south will harness the natural resources of the north. But in reality, given its geography and economy, the reunification between the two Koreas is close to impossible.

Geopolitics is also a major key player why it's hard for the two Koreas to reunite. South Korea's biggest allies are Japan and the USA, both in trade and in the military. North Korea's allies, on the other hand, are China and Russia, the former USSR. China always feels uneasy when they're close to the USA. When the two Koreas unite, there's a high probability that the new Korea will lean towards the USA, and not China. Furthermore, another possible scenario would be something like this: China will take over North Korea. When this happens, it will not only violate protocols mandated by the United Nations, but South Korea will never accept this.

In an ideal world, there is only one Korea. United Korea is one of the most powerful countries in the world, a true economic and military powerhouse. But sadly, that world doesn't exist. 

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