Korea — Divided and United?


Even after the proclaimed end of the Cold War and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, when the ‘hot wars’ were limited to intra-state conflicts rather than inter-state ones, the shift in the traditional conception about war was limited. It was believed that with the US-declared ‘War on Terror’ after the 9/11 attacks, the notion of global security had decisively moved away from the likes of the World Wars not only because diplomatic alliances had been forged among the major militarised players, but also because a large-scale war would undeniably be a nuclear one—a possibility all parties strive to avoid because the only result of the same can be the erasure of humanity from the face of the planet. However, this perspective about international conflict continues to be Western-oriented, because many inter-state wars continue to fester despite assurances to the contrary. The US’s war against terrorist outfits has been viewed as the centre of this policy change, ignoring the existence of wars like the Korean War (1950-53) which was on-going till last week, and has been defused to a certain extent in the past few days. The governments of North Korea and South Korea have finally entered into negotiations to devise a peace treaty to formally conclude the Korean War, after surprising concessions were made by aggressive North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Jong-un became the first North Korean leader to step into South Korea ever since the outbreak of the Korean War. Diplomatic outreach from both sides has been consistently maintained over several decades, and similar successful negotiations have happened in the past only to lead to skirmishes at the border, threats about using nuclear arsenal, and violent conflict, from time to time. However, this turn of events has left skeptics confused because they doubt that it will end in fruitful solutions.

Recently, Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim Jong-un has agreed to completely denuclearize the north-eastern part of his country over two years, provided that the US doesn’t wage war against his country. Many experts have viewed this announcement with caution because this is an agreement to dismantle the only known facility, while several more facilities could exist. Thus, a “full, complete, total disclosure of everything related to their nuclear program with a full international verification,”(John Bolton) would be limited, apart from being an obvious act of hypocrisy—because North Korea’s nuclear prowess is painted as a global threat while the US’s nuclear weapons advancement under an especially belligerent President is not limited by any demands. Jong-un has agreed to reverse all his previous claims about setting off nuclear missiles into the Pacific Ocean and at the US, even going to the extent of expressing warmth for US President Donald Trump. This has come in the wake of various expressions of bonhomie evident in how he welcomed South Korean idol groups to perform in his country, how he was surprised by the two clocks in the South Korean Prime Minister’s office and agreed to adopt a common standard time for both the Koreas, and how he claimed to never allow violence reflective of the Korean War to sully the contemporary landscape, again. Is this attempt to improve his international reputation merely a response to strict sanctions imposed by the West?

New Trump advisor John Bolton has been recorded by the New York Times saying that, “We want to see real commitment…We don’t want to see propaganda from North Korea. We’ve seen words. We’ve seen words so far…The North Korean propaganda playbook is an infinitely rich resource.” However, if these words cease to remain empty, this will not only be a breath of respite for the international community which, due to Western ‘propaganda’, views aggressor states as enemy states and the US as a purveyor of justice, but they will also emerge as a source of hope for Koreans divided for years. Their talks about linking the two Koreas by a common road-linkage are only physical manifestations of the desire of the Korean peoples on both sides of the border to unite. While envisioning a common nation-state for them is a far-fetched idea, the possibility that Korean men will no longer be forced into military conscription, or that cultural products could be freely shared across borders, or that separated friends and family will be able to meet, would be much more potent than the North Korean stance in global politics.


— Contributed by Tript


Picture Credits: Loksatta

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