Upcoming Challenges for the Two Koreas

            About a year has passed since Kim Jong-un was declared the supreme leader of North Korea. At the moment of Kim Jong-il’s death and the following succession process, experts and scholars expressed mixed feelings about North Korea’s third-generation succession. Many insisted that it was too early to tell the future of North Korea under the new leader. However, after a year of a seemingly stable leadership, some express both a sense of hope and concern for what may follow in the next couple of years. According to JoongAng Ilbo’s news article and research done by the National Assembly Research Service, the North Korean regime may undergo drastic reforms within the next three to four years. This research states that Kim Jong-un will become increasingly pressured to make decisions to accommodate North Korea’s worsening economic system. The report further predicts that Kim Jong-un could face serious internal struggles from the elite group while carrying out major reforms.[1]

The purpose of such research is to inform the incoming government. However, it is difficult to grasp whether or not the incoming government can accommodate each and every prediction. Although President Park Geun-hye has expressed her willingness to meet with Kim Jong-un to achieve “trustpolitik” [2] and increased flexibility, North Korea’s latest rocket launch has already put a further strain on inter-Korean relations. While South Korea would welcome major economic reforms as predicted in the research, the current situation demonstrates how extremely difficult it is to coordinate policies towards a nuclear North Korea. While I sincerely hope that Park’s ambitious goals regarding inter-Korean relations are manageable, the incoming government will be left with very similar problems from the Lee administration that it will need to address, including Beijing-Pyongyang relations, denuclearization of North Korea, and strengthening inter-Korean economic relations.

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Park Geun-hye meeting with visiting Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun

Source <http://koreajoongangdaily.joinsmsn.com/news/article/Article.aspx?aid=2965344&gt;

            It is too early to predict the future of North Korea or inter-Korean relations regarding that matter. However, it is possible that Park administration may have caught North Korea at the verge of major transformation. Whether or not such transformation brings the two Koreas closer to unification is unclear and impossible to predict, but I hope that the incoming government continues to actively engage its citizens in preparation for unification.


[2] Read more about it at: Park Geun-hye. (2011). “A new kind of korea: Building trust between seoul and pyongyang.” Foreign Affairs, 90(5), 13-18.

 

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