Thursday, 28 January 2010
North, South and the bomb
The cold knocks me off but I can't sleep so I decided to write.
Albert recently asked me if the North Korean nuclear project is seen by South Koreans as a common Korean weapon which might be used against Japan.
I have read Huntington articles in Foreign Affairs, but I didn't get hold on his book so far. I cannot really refer in detailed way to what was written about North - South Korea relations in that book, but nevertheless I understand the idea.
There is a certain borderline between generations in Korean society. Young people in their 30's usually consider North Korea as a non-friendly state, or at least totally different country. Some of my Korean friends being asked that question give the very same answers, admitting though that despite anything they are aware that the language there is the same and people think similar as well.
But those who set the course of South Korean foreign affairs are people in their 50's and 60's. They are as well supported by their entire generation. That generation hoped for reconciliation and reunification of two countries after the collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War between USA and USSR. In both countries Japanese occupation left scars which need a lot of time to be healed. Children of people who experienced that invasion were raised with hatred in their minds and hearts.
The very same generation shares the attitude to historic Koguryeo land which is acclaimed by Poeple's Republic of China as historically chinease and which partially is situated in modern North Korea and China. Considering the possibility of reunification with the North, South Korea calls for recognition of historic Koguryeo as a part of long term foreign policy strategy. If it happens one day that the country is unified, it is better to protect interests of the northern sister.
Korea was the first state affected by Japanese colonial system, with it's economy not rich, but the closest. From Pusan to Simonoseki there is only 120 miles, when to Singapore 2800. The country's resources, labor force, agriculture and whatever else has been engaged into war machinery of occupant from the very beginning ( see more at Andrew Grajdanzev, Modern Korea, New York 1941). Korean climate was another reason for military action. It is rather friendly climate, not much struck by typhoons which very often attacked other territories conquered by Japan, with short monsoon season and large number of days with sunshine during the year.
That hatred was even bigger as the pre-occupation Choson state didn't really develop navy or merchandise. It's glory time passed away. Waclaw Sieroszewski says in his book Korea. Land and People. that the ethnic self perception of Koreans was close to none. In 1905 it was the agricultural society dominated by feudal beurocratic aparatus and the rulers either didn't want or had no possibilities to built the modern state. There wasn't any Korean marine, the trade was served by Japanese merchants and boats, and the city of Pusan was by that time divided into rich Japanese settlement and Korean poor ghetto.
That might be partially the reason why the hatred towards Japan is so big, and why the history books say both true and untrue stories about the eastern neighbor from the islands. Both North Korean and South Korean history books. Helplessness of own rulers is not an issue to consciously consider and noone would speak about it loud.
Common sense tells that time would heal every wound if only people don't stop it's influence. Current generation considers Korea on the global map with reasonable aproach. Korean wave makes quantities of Japanese people coming to Korea to study language and culture. Also in Japan, people around 30 think differently and have no Korean resentiments.
It depends on who will take over the political power in two countries within 20 years from now. There is a huge chance that at least South Korean - Japanese bilateral relations will settle down and become if not friendly than at least normal.
With recent fire exchange over the questionable coastline between two Korean states and fierce embrace of communism in the North and not welcoming attitude among the South, two Korean sister states will drift away from each other and definately will not become one within predictable time.