Merry-Go-Round of North and South Korea Relationship
Born in South Korea, this has always been the hot potato throughout my life. During the 80s and 90s, the North was viewed and we were taught that they were the bad guys and trying to kill all of us, so we should always keep our watch on them and be on high alert. Mass propaganda was used everywhere in public and people were accused as spies when they spoke even a tiny bit positively about the North. Speaking highly or even showing curiosity about North Korea was drawn to extreme condemnation. It was a scary time growing up.
Things changed 180 degrees when Kim Dae Jung of the democratic party won the presidential election in 1997. He was the first president from the democratic party in South Korean history and was a very North Korea-friendly politician. He did everything he can while he was the president to build a strong and positive relationship (he called it Sunshine Policy) with our neighbors in the North and he succeeded in doing so. He even won the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize for his works with North Korea.
Things seem to move in the right direction between two separated nations and the increased hopes of re-unification to become a stronger and wealthier nation was the topic in the early 2000s amongst South Korean people.
Then in 2006, North Korea threw a giant wrench to the positive hopes and re-unification dream. They conducted the first nuclear test on their soil. The U.S. and South Korea both knew about North Korea increasing their efforts in the nuclear weapon development, but believed they lacked the scientists and engineers to pull together the actual missile completion. But the first test by the North increased the alert and national security levels in the East Sea by miles. North Korea is now a major threat to the peace in the Far East.
South Korea has numerously attempted to repair and reconcile (more like calming the crying baby) with the North to maintain the peaceful relationship but the North has continuously demanded that U.S troops be out of South Korea, which U.S. and Korea simply could not agree upon. This must have been coming from China and Russia through North Korea as both nations wanted more power in the Far East. Things were not looking good in the mid to late 2000s.
South Korea Government was not helping either. Elected President Lee in 2008 and President Park in 2013 were both from the conservative party and against the building a stronger relationship with the North. They effectively ended the Sunshine Policy — South Korea ended up wasting more than $4.5B between 1997 to 2006.
The current President, Moon Jae-in, much like Kim, is pro-North Korea and did very well during the early part of his campaign to build a positive relationship with the North. Kim Jung Un is a 3rd generation of Kim Il Sung, the self-claimed founder of North Korea. We all saw Kim and Moon shaking hands at the Panmunjom, the gathering place for North and South. President Trump visited this place in 2019 to meet the North Korean leader. Things were looking superb! This has never happened in the history of North-South Korea relations. Maybe the re-unification is near!
Despite all the positive vibes, North Korea continues to conduct missile tests in 2022. North Korea is destroying South Korean assets, further deteriorating the relationship in recent years.
The newly elected South Korean president, Yun, who is also from the conservative party, is notoriously known for anti-North Korea. Things are about to get wild in the Korean peninsula.
With Russia being busy on the European side, and China quietly but surely eyeing Taiwan, is North Korea trying to stir up the Korean Peninsular by more nuclear tests? What Moon has built-in last 5 years just went down the toilet. Incoming President Yoon has a lot on his plate, and with his lack of political experience (he was the head prosecutor before this campaign), he will most likely rely on his top cabinets for many military and foreign decisions. South Korea is likely to try to calm the North, but that hasn’t worked effectively in the last 20 years so why would that work this time around? Nobody knows what the solution is to North-South Korea Relationship, a lot of money was poured in but it seems like we’re back to square 1. I cannot wait to see how this unfolds in the next few years. Yun, who lacks the knowledge and experience in international relations, will heavily rely on his foreign minister and unification minister at building friendships with our neighbors during the most troublesome times in recent history. I wish I can say, get your popcorn ready, but it’s really not going to be fun or exciting in Far East Asia.