by Frank Li
North Korea’s dear leader, Kim II, died a few days ago. His 3rd son is now in charge, as Kim III, Kim Jong Un (pictured). There is no better time to talk about North Korea than now, as evidenced by some timely expert opinions. So it’s time for me to chip in my two cents. I will briefly but succinctly answer five pertinent questions as follows:
(1) What’s North Korea?
(2) Will North Korea under Kim III be as crazy as before?
(3) What should America’s Korea policy be?
(4) What went wrong for the U.S. on Korea policy?
(5) What will the Korean penisula look like in 20 years?1. What’s North Korea?
It’s one of the two communist regimes left on earth (the other is Cuba). It’s a living hell: politically repressive and economically miserable, just like China under Mao – been there, done that! Oh, what about those crying faces and tears in the news? They are fakes, mostly! The Chinese know it, as they shed a lot more tears, also mostly fakes, in 1976 when Mao died, which turned out to be the best thing for China over the past few decades, if not centuries!
2. Will North Korea under Kim III be as crazy as before?
No! North Korea under Kim III is unlikely to be as crazy as it was under Kim II. By “crazy,” I mean causing various “incidents” over there, such as attacking South Korea with some artillery shells in November 2010, killing four people and destroying a few buildings.
2.1 Why was North Korea under Kim II so crazy?
There were three main reasons:
(1) North Korea was deeply in trouble, both economically and politically, particularly with a shaky succession plan. Was there a better way to fool your own people than by showing a strong hand to an obvious external enemy?
(2) We, the U.S., gave it good reasons to be troublesome! We stationed troops in South Korea for about 20 years too long – Remember: the Cold War ended in 1989! Most problematically, we held military exercises over there, including at the Yellow Sea, which was provocative not only to North Korea, but also to China.
(3) Who benefited most from these “crazy” incidents?
a. China: Every time an incident happened, China got the calls from the U.S., “begging” for help.
b. The U.S.: Every incident helped justify the continued U.S. military presence over there (as many U.S. war hawks want).
2.2 Why is Kim III unlikely to be as crazy as Kim II?
Here are three main reasons:
(1) His priority will ostensibly be to consolidate his power at home first.
(2) He is hopefully too young and too inexperienced to do anything “crazy,” plus the China factor, to be discussed later.
(3) A new ruler tends to more moderate to begin with. I think the fact that he was educated in the West (Switzerland) should help him act more sanely, too.
3. What should America’s Korea policy be?
Just get out of there! We are no longer needed over there and we can no longer afford to be over there, even if South Korea projects that it needs us.
China has diplomatic relations with both Koreas, and is fully capable of keeping the North in check, if China really wanted to do so. But what’s the incentive for China to do that when the U.S. keeps having a huge military presence in the region and, worse yet, keeps having military exercises at the Yellow Sea?
What about our continued military presence over there to contain China? What a big joke! China is competing with us economically, not militarily. The Cold War ended in 1989!
4. What went wrong for the U.S. on Korea policy?
More specifically, why can’t we simply get out of there more than 20 years after the Cold War ended in 1989? Or more broadly, why can’t we cut our out-of-control defense spending? It’s the political system, stupid!
Today, our defense spending is by far the largest in the world. In fact, it’s more than the next 16 biggest spending countries combined! That’s way beyond the need for defense by any definition! That’s for offense. That’s for naked aggression as the Iraq war! Can we, Americans, be as easily fooled by our politicians as the folks in North Korea by Kim II?
The biggest threat to our national security today is nothing but a bankrupting U.S. economy, to which the out-of-control defense spending has been contributing! The biggest enemy to the survival of the United States is also here at home: the systematically corrupted U.S. political system – The mind-nothing-but-reelection-only career politicians have been destroying America by emptying its treasury! When can we, Americans, recognize these problems and fix them before it’s really too late? Any doubt? Read this: USA in 2012/2016: An Insolvent and Ungovernable Country.
5. What will the Korean peninsula look like in 20 years?
The two Koreas will become one (just like the Germans) within two decades, with the South coming out on the top. Meanwhile, everything is going to be fine, with or without the U.S., because of the China factor, which can be highlighted as follows:
(1) The political system in the North is doomed. The Chinese know it better than anybody else. China favors the South, not only economically but also politically.
(2) If anything bad happens in the Korean peninsula (e.g. famine in the North), China will be negatively impacted most (e.g. millions of refugees from the North crossing the border to China). The same applies to the nuclear weapons in the North! Why should we, the U.S., worry more about them than China? Can we, Americans, still think straight, basically and logically?
(3) China knows the history (and so does Japan): the Koreans can never be conquered!
What about China’s concern over the continued U.S. military presence over there? Not much! Remember: China is a country with extra-ordinary history and patience. The U.S. has been there for more than 60 years already. What difference does it make for another 10 or 20?
On top of everything, the Chinese are too busy making money everywhere, including Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia.
For a comprehensive Chinese view of China vs. the U.S. in this 21st century, read this: Globalization 2.0: A Century for Sale, Any Taker?
It’s time for America to wise up! For example, we, as a country, have simply failed to adapt adequately after the Cold War ended in 1989, which is one reason behind America’s steep decline today. Overall, we have been fooled by our politicians for way too long! Remember this: in theory our politicians work for us. But in practice, they serve themselves and special interest groups (e.g. the defense industry) far better than us! Once again, it’s the political system, stupid!
As for the Korean peninsula (and Taiwan), no Americans, no problems.
About the Author
Frank Li is the Founder and President of W.E.I. (West-East International), a Chicago-based import & export company. Frank received his B.E. from Zhejiang University (China) in 1982, M.E. from the University of Tokyo in 1985, and Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in 1988, all in Electrical Engineering. He worked for several companies until 2004, when he founded his own company W.E.I. Today, W.E.I. is a leader in the weighing industry not only in products & services, but also in thought and action.