So now is the time to start planning for the collapse of North Korea? I suppose it’s going to happen eventually, and a Unified Korea is a threat to no one. So what’s the problem? Here’s as good an explanation as any:
Let’s go back to 1989 once more. West Germany had 62 million people, and the world’s third-largest economy. East Germans numbered a mere 17 million, and by Communist standards, they were quite rich. In fact, the old DDR was the richest Communist nation ever, period, full stop. So while reunification was an expensive proposition, West Germany could afford it without too much pain. Also, East Germans had been under the Communist yoke for “only” 45 years. There were still people alive with some memory of how a civil society functions. Easing matters, East Germans could often watch Western TV, and many were allowed limited travel to the west.
South Korea has fewer than 50 million people, and while they’ve made great strides, their per capita income is still only up to that of modern Poland. They aren’t poor, but they aren’t nearly as rich as West Germany was. In addition, their economy isn’t as mature or robust, as the Asian Financial Crisis of a couple years back showed.
Up north are 22 million of their starving brethren. Before the Communist dictatorship, they lived a brutal existence as virtual slaves of Japan. “Chosen,” as Tokyo called Korea, was annexed by the Japanese Empire 93 years ago. It’s safe to say that there is no one in North Korea with any experience living in a politically modern, free, democratic, or tolerant state. Travel is forbidden. Only a small handful of South Koreans are allowed north. There is only one radio station, and it runs nothing but the foulest sort of propaganda. And according to a story in US News & World Report a few weeks ago, North Korea even has concentration camps bigger than the District of Columbia.
Through no fault of their own, the people of North Korea simply aren’t ready to enter the modern world, and South Korea can’t afford to feed, house, re-educate, and re-civilize them all.
Whether or not there’s a war, when North Korea collapses there’s going to be a humanitarian crisis on a scale the world has never seen — 22 million scared, hungry, and desperate people left without any semblance of anything familiar.
I wrote that, almost exactly seven years ago. And now is the time to start planning?