TCS Daily

Sunshine or Stockholm Syndrome?

By Michael Rosen - October 31, 2006 12:00 AM

Denial ain't just a river in Egypt. It also appears to run through Israel and into South Korea.

Let's start with the latter. Despite the apparently successful nuclear test carried out by the minions of Kim Jong-Il, the government of South Korea seems to be intent on continuing its "Sunshine" policy of engaging the North.

In particular, Seoul appears reluctant to curtail its twin cross-border projects with the Pyongyang regime - a tourist resort in Mount Geumgang and an industrial park in Kaesong - despite the fact that these ventures generate revenues for the dark tyranny of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

According to the (not necessarily objective) Chinese Xinhua news agency:

Kim Geun-tae, chairman of the ruling [South Korean] Uri Party, said Wednesday that the inter-Korean projects are not "simple exchange programs, but symbols of peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and a safety device for peace."

"For the U.S., money being sent via the Mount Geumgang project and the Kaesong complex is important. But for us, what is important is that the two Koreas meet and make exchanges," Kim said at a party meeting.

According to South Korea's Unification Ministry, some 40,000 South Koreans travel to the scenic mountain resort in DPRK and pay about 1 million U.S. dollars in admission fees each month. In the Inter-Korean Industrial Complex in the DPRK's border city of Kaesong, 15 South Korean companies pay about 600,000 U.S. dollars a month in wages for their 8,900 DPRK employees there.

These projects are undoubtedly popular and (apparently) financially successful. Yet precisely for this reason, their continued operation is deeply problematic.

Any type of engagement policy with a hostile enemy can yield two possible, and contradictory, results. For optimists, a sunshine approach can effectively buy off the adverse party, convincing them that the economic benefits of behaving nicely are far preferable to the costs of persisting in hostile actions. In an ideal world, an accommodating policy persuades the erstwhile enemy to lay down its arms.

But for pessimists, engagement (or appeasement) only emboldens the enemy, reinforces its misbehavior, and reflects weakness

Unfortunately, accommodation can be most destructive when it both succeeds and fails, in that order. In other words, a Sunshine approach might initially appear to be working while, in fact, the hostile party's cooperative actions mask its ongoing efforts to continue its aggressive conduct. When this happens, the pessimists' worst nightmare comes true.

This is exactly what seems to be transpiring in North Korea. Kim's regime has hungrily swallowed every assurance and assuagement that the U.S., Japan, and South Korea have showered upon it, yet has persisted in exactly those actions - developing intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear weaponry - that engagement was designed to forestall.

The Korea Times put it best in a recent editorial:

[T]he [South Korean] government's move to continue the engagement policy confuses us. Over the past eight years, our North Korean policy has been determined by the engagement policy in the hope of encouraging Pyongyang to renounce its nuclear ambitions. But the North reciprocated with a nuclear test, betraying the South that has offered them astronomical amounts of cash and material assistance. The only remaining option in the face of the nuclear test is resolute punitive actions in coordination with the international community.

Nevertheless, Seoul seems to be doubling down on Sunshine even in the face of these recent developments. In explaining why the cross-border projects will continue, President Roh Moo-Hyun's security adviser told the Korea Herald that "nobody will be able to hurt the North if it continues to foster inter-Korean relations and spread exchanges and cooperation." (Curiously, Roh's government includes Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon, Kofi Annan's successor as UN Secretary-General, who praised the "positive aspects" of these "very symbolic" projects.)

Sadly, this approach is all too reminiscent of the attitude of many Israelis toward their Palestinian adversaries. All of the elements are there: a quixotic faith in "engagement"; initially promising cross-border economic projects that end up reinforcing fissures between the societies; and an unwarranted fear of the "cycle of violence."

Years ago, former Prime Minister Shimon Peres presented his vision of a New Middle East in which Jews and Arabs would collaborate in high-tech ventures and effectively beat their swords into NASDAQ shares. Dreams of Gazan industrial parks and cross-cultural projects like the Jericho casino inspired hope in the hearts of Israelis across the political spectrum, especially on the Left.

Yet when Oslo collapsed and Arafat was definitively shown to be more interested in preserving his own prestige and in carrying on an eternal struggle against Israel than in bringing political and economic well-being to his own people, the fruits of engagement spoiled. Funding and weapons provided by Israel to Palestinian security forces were turned on the donors.

But even as the vast majority of the Israeli public have repudiated the Oslo planners - indeed, the regnant policy for a time was disengagement - many on the Left, including Oslo negotiator and Knesset Member Yossi Beilin and, at times, even Peres himself persist in favoring an Israeli version of Sunshine toward their murderous enemies. Whether Israel exported this attitude to South Korea or vice versa, it has been and will continue to be corrosive to both societies.

The Korea Times concluded its editorial thusly: "Many people here are bewildered at the government's move of continuing the engagement policy as if nothing has happened." Bewilderment, denial, appeasement - call it what you will, but it's a serious problem.

Michael M. Rosen, TCS Daily's Intellectual Property columnist, is an attorney in San Diego.



some kind of symdrome
South Korea is not alike a normal country. It would not even exist if not for the US fighting for it; but would be part of north korea. Not that they appreciate it though. But this is typical of people who have never had to fight for anything, but have been pampered all their lives, maybe like Paris Hilton, and the way the black kid Madonna bought from its father will be. So appeasment seems like a viable option for scared, weak people, people. The same goes for Europe since WW11.

Many in South Korea have relatives in the north. This makes it harder for them to advocate putting pressure on Kim Jung Il by starving his people to death. Israel doesn't have that problem -- few Israelis are related to Palestinians.

so now SK is in charge of starving NK people to death?
"This makes it harder for them to advocate putting pressure on Kim Jung Il by starving his people to death. "

Your mental state is debatable.

Kim starves his own people and NOBODY ELSE IS RESPONSABLE.
Your position on this makes your mental state suspect.

South Korea exists because of a lot more than just the U.S. Or are you unaware that nearly 100,000 of the soldiers in South Korea during the war were from other nations? South Korea exists because of the concerted actions of many, not just the U.S.

It is not a normal country because it was partitioned into two halves by a deal with the Soviet Union. One could just as easily argue that the only reason that North Korea exists is that the U.S. did not have the guts to tell the Soviets to pull out in 1945.

As to lack of guts, newsflash for you. South Korea has significantly more troops defending the DMZ than the U.S. does, and did significantly more fighting and dying during the Korean War than the U.S. did.

Try to think twice before you spout off about a lack of guts. Let's see how brave you are facing a million man army two hours drive from your capital city.

Don't be stupid
Of course South Korea is cautious. So would you be if you had a million man army poised virtually in your suburbs. Your comparison with Israel is utterly invidious. Keep it up, and even I might begin to think that the right wing dinosaurs around this forum have a point when they claim you're anti-semitic.

Partly US/UK fault
For not keeping the USSR out.

The US kept asking for help in the Pacific, but the USSR would not until after VE day. They then started taking what they could before VJ day.

Who is responsible?
OK, Kim Jung Il is a very bad guy. If he were just bad, instead of very bad, there would be no starvation in North Korea. But he is and there is. Many people in South Korea have family members in North Korea who may be starving. They (and others around the world) send food aid to North Korea so that more North Koreans might eat. Cutting of food aid would displease Kim Jung Il and it mean more North Koreans would starve. It is not an easy decision to make.

I'm used to tcsdaily people saying things I think are incorrect (e.g. denying global warming). I'm used to them being offensive (calling me a Nazi for criticizing Israel). I'm not used to people as indifferent to human life as rivenburg.

Blindmen syndrome...
Like the blind Indian wisemen trying to describe the elephant, each of you who've commented on Rosen's Korean post has touched a bit of truth. Dietmar is correct that a large number of South Koreans have made it a habit of bad-mouthing the U.S. and American soldiers stationed there, ColinH is correct in that the U.S. certainly wasn't the only nation fighting the North and Red Chinese during the Korean "Police Action" (although the U.S. was saddled with the lion's share of the United Nation's military committment), Marjon is correct in that perhaps the U.S. and U.K. could have been more assertive in solving the Korean dilemma of Post WWII without dividing the baby, Rivenburg is accurrate in stating that it is neither the South Koreans or the Americans, but the horrendous Communist regime that is starving the North Koreans and even LG is correct in his assertion that many in the South have relatives north of the DMZ and they are loath to add to their burdens by launching an attack to the north (altho I don't get the point of dragging the Israelis into his post.) For what it is worth, it is this right-wing dinosaur's view that we don't owe the South Koreans a thing. We paid our dues to the South a long time ago. If it were up to me, I would have withdrawn our troops years ago. The people of South Korea have made it abundantly clear that we are no longer appreciated (if we ever were.) I say, bring the boys home and let the Koreans sort this one out on their own. If the South wants to embrace the North through appeasement, then that's the South's business, not ours. We should only get involved to the extent that the North develops a nuclear capability to harm us or our other Asian allies. And that should be dealt with by airpower alone. When the North decides to send its troops south,as I think they'd do the moment we departed the scene, we should sit it out.

During the cold war
The North invading the South could have seriously destabilized East/West power relationships.

The cold war is over. While China is emerging as a regional rival, they are already willingly challenged by S. Korea, Japan, and even Tiawan.

N. Korea is rapidly becoming China and to a lesser degree S. Korea's albatross.

It's time to let them find a solution that they can live with, on their own.

Once we start withdrawing troops from the region, we will rapidly find out how S. Korea and Japan really feel about our presence their. If they decide they want us to stay, they will have to pony up more for their own defense. If they agree that it is time for us to go, then we can part as friends.

sputing guts all over the place
So let's say that the US didn't get involved, then you think that some of those others that fought, like the Canadian 'social workers in camoflage', would have gone in on their own? YOu might remember that gen MacArthur actually wanted to win the war, but was not allowed to because of those deals made by politicians with spines of jello, with the resovle to be irresolution, with the conviction to appease. Here's my solution; let the Americans give up their barracks close to the DMZ to the students that are protesting, and let them convert them into student dorms. I like the comment more, below by davesmith.

get used to it
you limp wristed, weak kneed spineless jellyfish.

for a guy who can turn a phrase occasionaly you're ability to convince your self of things that are patently false is amazing and frightening. we cannot let you deluded people back into power.

Kim Ill jong holds his people hostage, are you too stupid to know you are being manipulated by it or does your ideology make you not care?

BTW, blobal warming is NOT more then .03% human caused, you ARE a NAZI for constantly attacking Jews, and my take on politics will continue to annoy you FOREVER.

Sk talk big but start to shake when American withdrawal is put about
when we pulled back from the DMZ last year for the first time since the 50's, the mouthy SK's went silent for a bit & there was much talk from the older SK's about us staying.

Personaly I'm with you for both intelectual reasons and emotional ones.

Intellectualy I see with China's present course, it's logical for the USA to put the problem of NK right where it belongs, in China's lap.

I have access to information about NK most poeple do not.

several things have happened last summer that will blow your mind.
1, kim il jong waited until Hu in China was partialy out of power to disrespect him and defy his orders. Hu was having problems with his coastal provences like Shanghia and had also lost control of the army for a bit. This is over & Hu is back & he's pissed.

2, kim stole Hu's trains & wont give them back.
Hu sends food and other suplies to LIL kim by train, Lil Kim wanted nice new trains so he kept several of Hus & sent the crews home without trains.

3, Lil Kim got pissed at China's intel services bribing HIS military officers so HIS intel poeple bribed a chinese official in China with $300,000 to give up the list of Korean officers that have taken chinese bribes. they then executed them all.

4, LilKim is STILL pissed about bribery thing so he sends 4 military officers in plain clothes over to the border with China, they go into China, on to a chinese military base and try to kidnap a high ranking Chinese military officer. shots were fired, poeple were shot & killed, the 4 got away back to NK but without their target. Hu is REALLY pissed off. This was about ten days ago.

there is more going on then you will EVER read/hear in the MSM or even blogs.

THe Korea's will go on no matter if the USA is there or not, the way this has turned is funny, niether the SK's nor the chinese want to deal with NK's in war or failure. it's REALLY time for the USA to leave and quit taking chinas burden.

on the emotional side I'm fed up with listening to young SK's mouth off about the USA, time to put this problem back in their hands. Certain groups that have been cared for by the USA like children for decades need to start fendng for themselves so possibly they wont have the energy to bad mouth daddy whos paying the bills.

The problem here
is probably hindsight. The U.S. kept badgering the USSR to invade Manchuria so as to tie down most of the Japanese army and prevent reinforcement of home island defences. The U.S. was expecting to have to invade Japan (Operations Olympic and Gymnast) and looking at the potential of half a million casualties. Of course Hiroshima and Nagasaki shortcircuited all that, but no sensible military planner would have relied on that outcome.

So, dragging in the USSR was probably unavoidable at the time, with the resulting consequences to Korea.

LG...I want to apologize...
I should never have implied that you are a Nazi, although I truely believe your views on Israel and its culpability in the mess we call the Mideasts does verge on anti-semitism. But hey, that's just my view. I'm sure you're a nice guy -- misguided, perhaps -- but basically a nice person. So please accept my formal apology. I should be more careful with what I say and really think twice before implying or actually calling someone such a horible thing as a Nazi

I think you play a very important role here on the TCS in that you challenge people like me to express our views in a cohesive way that is understandable to others. That we too often fail and respond in an overly emotional way and say things we shouldn't is part of that challenge.

I'm sure that Rivenburg, for example, is no more indifferent to human life than you or I. And I'm equally sure that several others who hinted that liberals and leftists should be rounded up into concentration camps and tried have let their emotions crowd out their usual good judgement.

Perhaps this medium of the internet is just so damn convenient that it lends itself to writing something stupid and thus go too far. I can't say I will never again let my emotions get ahead of my judgement, but I can say I will try to be more careful and more respectful of you and others I disagree with.

He's correct
Everyone calm down. LG is most certainly correct in his observation the people have a very difficult choice to make. And, as far as I can tell made no pretensions to going beyond that obervation. It is a good one to keep in mind when viewing the decisions of the SK's. Personally, I think, in the end, the SK's need to take up arms against a sea of NK troubles and thereby end them.

Korea for the Koreans...
North Koreans are Koreans just like South Koreans. They are one people who have been very put upon for the past 100 years by the Japanese, the Russians, the Chinese and the Americans. Reunification is necessary and inevitable as far as the Koreans are concernd.

The North Korean dictator is a tool, but there he is. He is not a permanent problem because eventually he will grow old and die. The most troubling impediment to reunificaiton is the possibility that China will (some day soon) effectively annex the North as a protectorate. They might do this to stop the Japanese from amending their Constitution (Article 9) and rearming.

It is critical that the North Korean decision-makers see that there is a choice between throwing in with the Chinese forever or rejoining the South sooner than later. The industrial projects at Kaesong demonstrate South Korean sincerity regarding this option.

South Korea fully understands that any military strategy is bankrupt and that only through working with the North to create wealth will they ultimately prevail. South Korea is just about the best in the world at rapid industrial development.

However, the longer this goes on the more current events play into the hands of Japanese neo-militarists. One thing Korea does not want ever again is to be under the thumb of the Japanese.

Of course, the Chinese are also troubled by the Japanese (it has only been 60 years) and express some anxiety that Formosa (Taiwan) might somehow be returned to Japan. The attached article (2003) is very well written and instructive:

For the South Koreans to cut off their friendly initiatives with Pyongyang at this point would take the only alternative (rapid reunification) that might work out in their best interest off the table. Every other outcome favors the Chinese or the Japanese and the Americans don't seem to be calling the shots anymore.

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