All the gear no idea? It’s a dangerous combination when your trying to uphold the distinguished legacy of the most politically deranged and isolated state in the world. Lil’ Kim is yet again trying to re-establish his political relevance, in a time when non-state actors are the primary focus of Western hostilities. Is there an answer to the North Korean problem or has the existence of this wannabe Bond villain become an accepted element of the international political pantomime? In case you can’t quite picture him mud-wrestling with Daniel Craig, here’s three potential solutions, the essence of each being an avoidance of military force:
1. Continued isolation, but nuclear recognition
The North’s solitary ally, China, is perhaps the key holder when it comes to their survival within the international community. It’s principle trading partner and vehicle in financial transactions, it also supplies the country with fuel and food. Ending the 60 year affiliation? They would likely inherit a refugee crisis and have to welcome the arrival of a potential U.S puppet state right next to their borders. Problems of course that they would rather avoid, although this continued association with the ever-unpredictable Kim Jong-Un in itself offers more uncertainty than regional stability. As Washington presses China for support on imposing UN sanctions over the fourth nuclear test, is this once dependable lifeline being progressively cut-off? Recent moves to strengthen relations with South Korea suggest a possible reluctance to support Pyongyang amidst the provocative moves taken under Kim Jong-Un’s leadership. The Chinese question is a key factor to the solving the problem of North Korea. If Beijing pull the plug, and plummets North Korea into almost complete isolation, the lights go out. Simple.
The inability to become economically self-sufficient when your being choked out by neo-liberal global capitalism is self-implied, and something surely Castro would vouch for. Presuming Kim Jong-un made use of the private Western education he received, then surely he already knows this? Like Frank Zappa said: “Communism doesn’t work because people like to own stuff.” However much of a point Kim Jong-Un is trying to prove, undoubtedly he’s only proving his own stupidity.
Through collectively isolating North Korea further, Lil’ Kim will be forced to come to the negotiating table or accept the collapse of his regime. The elephant in the room here, is his nuclear ambitions. So how can they be curtailed? The current approach of demonisation taken by the U.S. is only adding fuel to the fire of hostility. The nuclear program is Kim Jong-Un’s last bastion of self-preservation. Why would he give his insurance policy up? For a death sentence and free admission to the “choose no-nuclear get banged” club?
Savvy to the idea of avoiding the fate of Muammar Gaddafi, who prior to his regime’s collapse, gave up his nuclear program in 2008, Kim Jong-Un would require a different approach. As an alternative to the unlikely event that he would simply post the keys through the letterbox, an approach of recognition would be the most suitable tactic. Something mirroring the Iranian model. A little more carrot and a lot less stick. Sanctions relief, further food aid, economic help and humanitarian assistance. A hamper prize recently offered by Foreign Secretary John Kerry, that would serve as an irresistible offer for a North Korea unable to depend on a Chinese cushion to soothe its economic back-ache.
2. The power of communication
So how do you solve a problem like North Korea? Nominally, the threat posed is not ideological and geographically nobody’s hiding, so presumably it wouldn’t present the same difficulties that the current witch hunt against global terrorism entails. What the international community is up against (and when I say that, I mean U.S. Foreign policy directives) is an isolated state: lost within its own propaganda machine, economically obsolete and ideologically outdated. The second solution to North Korea is not found in B-2 bombers or nuclear arsenals, but communications. The only thing that can truly overthrow the North Korean state is the people themselves. Access to information which dispels the regime’s brainwashing efforts will empower the North Korean people to stand up for their own democratic freedoms. A digital revolution of sorts that has become synonymous with the overthrowing of despotic regimes in recent times. Think the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions between 2010-2011, which via the power of communication and technology were able to bring down regimes that had ruled for nearly 30 years. While a revolution may inherently lead to fatal outcomes, at its grass-roots level, social media and other forms of modern communication can at least be utilised as catalysing forces for pro-democracy movements.
The current generation of young North Koreans are undergoing their own passive revolution. As well as defectors, there is a growing underground black market which exists to supply information from the outside world. Slowly but surely the younger generation are becoming more aware of the lies they are being force fed. They are the first generation to have lived after the ruling of Kim Il-Sung, so perhaps there is less of a moral obligation to remain fiercely loyal and avoid questioning the legitimacy of the state? What is now undeniable, however, is that in a country once founded on the subservience of the collective, the individual now exists.
If the power of communication could be harnessed to enlighten the North Korean people, their collective will would be immovable. Already, many human rights groups are seeking to pursue this avenue in order to combat the regime’s information embargo. Tactics include balloon drops containing DVDs, USB sticks and transistor radios filled full of information about the outside world. Other strategies being explored for future use are things like Google’s Project Loon, which can transport Wi-Fi to remote areas via balloons. By slowly hacking away at the wall of lies and propaganda, the truth about the outside world will eventually be revealed to the masses.
3. Pushing for unification
Although still considered to be unachievable by many and despite recent stumbling blocks, the movement towards unification has made strong progress in recent years. This issue has been engaged with both politically and in popular culture.
The six party talks between the two Korean nations, Japan, Russia, the US and China provide the best environment for constructive talks regarding the question of unification. Their resumption would again render golden opportunities for all parties involved to strive towards the final goal of unification. If the strategy of isolation was further enforced upon the North Korean regime, from a negotiation standpoint, the Six party talks would represent something of an escape route for Lil Kim and Co.
South Korean President, Park Geun-hye is has paved the way for unification by setting up the presidential committee for unification preparation.
“The committee’s mission is to try and forge national consensus among different groups”, states vice-chair Chung Chong-Wook. Although this committee deals mainly with ideas, it does confirm that a mandate exists among the political elite and potential avenues are being seriously considered.
In 2014 K-pop superstar Lee Seung-chul set up the ‘One Nation’ campaign in hope of finally re-uniting the two divided countries. He collaborated with a choir of North Korean defectors in order to galvanise support for a move towards unification. The campaign consisted of a number of TV appearances, talks and a performance on the disputed Dodko islands. Ironically, these are territories which the two countries actually agree on. The chosen location was heralded as “the ultimate symbolic gesture of unification”. By giving unification a familiar face, younger generations can be inspired to make what was once an illusion, become a reality.
So there you have it: three potential solutions to the North Korean problem. And not a whiff of military might. They say Kim Jong-Un is an avid fan of American basketball. Maybe it’s about time he stopped trying to act like such a baller…