Don’t ignore Seoul’s role in the Korean crisis
Sept. 26, 2018
In your analysis of the North Korea situation, please do not ignore the South Korean element. A unification of the two Koreas has long been a dream of the South, and the possession of nuclear weapons is equally attractive to Seoul as a means to address Korea’s long history of surviving only at the mercy of more powerful neighbors. Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un are certainly moving in the direction of potential unification with lesser concern for the sensitivities of other parties (Japan, the U.S.). China would benefit from unification as it would push the U.S. farther from the homeland and it remains confident of its own capacity to “manage” Korea.
Response from Phillip Orchard
Thanks for taking the time to write in. We’ve written on Seoul’s role quite a bit, including on reunification. How the nuclear issue would be handled is a tricky question; I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that Seoul really wants nukes (though it certainly dabbled in the past), as going nuclear would incur any number of costs that Seoul would rather not bear, but that may be the only way forward. There wasn’t space to get into it in this piece, but I do think what the Pyongyang summit said about progress on inter-Korean reconciliation is just as important as the U.S.-North Korea standoff, certainly for the long-term regional balance of power.