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JUNE 2023

Democratic Pyongyang Is Against Totalitarian Seoul

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A union can only be based on the idea of Kim II-sung

Democratic Pyongyang Is Against Totalitarian Seoul

Written by Aleksandr Khramchikhin; Originally appeared at VPK, translated by Mona Lita exclusively for SouthFront

The situation on the Korean peninsula has a clear tendency to escalate. At the same time, Pyongyang and Seoul are making the unification of the country, which was artificially divided in 1945 their most important political task.

Washington and Beijing is conspiring to overthrow the Pyongyang regime via its economic collapse.

IT is not totally clear why in 1971 Moscow was for the separation of Korea, when it could have pursued it entirely without any problems. Why didn’t anyone divide China, Burma, Philippines and other territories liberated from Japan? Why is it just Korea that isn’t so lucky? As a result, we have a divided nation, the two halves of which, on one hand, look at one another as mortal enemies, and dream of unification, on the other.

The condition of the Armed Forces of both Koreas is known (“Military Industrial Complex”, No. 18-19, 2016). From a military standpoint, they are in a state of strategic stalemate – neither side can capture the other.

All responsibility for tensions on the Korean Peninsula is put on Pyongyang, the consensus for which is global and which is embodied in regular U.N. Security Council resolutions with additional sanctions against North Korea. There is a feeling that current policies are completely counterproductive.

Triple standards

Pyongyang rightly points out the double standards of the world community regarding the endless sanctions in response to the implementation of the North Korean nuclear and missile programs. For example, on January 30th, 2013 the Republic of Korea repeated the northerners’ success by going out into space with a satellite launched with the help of a KSLV rocket (first stage made in Russia). For some reason no one thought of implementing sanctions against Seoul or simply condemn it. It is every country’s right to have space launches. And that means every single one, whether it is a south or a north one. Yes, the technology of launch vehicles and intercontinental ballistics production are closely related (but not identical). But there should not be double standards.

The same applies to nuclear weapons. It is impossible to keep a 70 year old technology confidential. But for some reason, only five countries were allowed to have them (permanent members of the Security Council). Now this is a double standard. But then it got even worse; it turned out that it was possible to successfully implement the principle of “the one that dared is the one that ate”. This was done (if we don’t count the voluntarily bankrupt South Africa) by Israel, India and Pakistan. And nothing happened to them. On the contrary, their international status increased, and even more importantly, their military security increased as well. The possibility of aggression against any of them fell to almost zero. Why doesn’t North Korea have same right to join their ranks? It has now turned not into a double but a triple standard. Even if a far-fetched argument is used that Israel and India are democratic countries, then no one will deny the mortal danger to all humanity that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal presents. But for some reason no one is stifling Islamabad with sanctions, but on the contrary, it is being strongly courted by being given a lot of money and weapons. Moreover, all these “new” nuclear countries are developing missile programs (New Delhi in particular, creates ICBMs with nuclear warheads), Israel and India are launching satellites, but no sanctions are implemented against them and no one even requires it.

On February 12th, 2013 The North Korean Foreign Ministry makes a statement: “In the history of UN, which is more than 60 years, more than two thousand nuclear tests were conducted and nine thousand satellites were launched worldwide, but the UN Security Council has never adopted resolutions that prohibit nuclear tests or space launches”. There is nothing to argue. This unfair punishment does not give cause for a desire to improve but causes bitterness, which is what is happening in reality.

The North Korean “Juche” (“self-reliance”) and “Songun” (“priority of the Army”) have been turned into a caricature with the efforts of Western and South Korean propaganda, which to some extent contributes to very peculiar style of presentation of these ideas by North Koreans themselves. In the meantime, if we release the concept of the communist ideology (which is actually very easy), they are quite normal and completely justified: if the country wants to conduct sovereign domestic and foreign policies, it cannot do it without the “Juche” and the “Songun”. A large part of mankind forgot about that and decided to give up its independence. It is their choice, and no one can deny North Korea the right to do it their own way.

The feeling that the country is being punished for that choice is getting stronger, like that it’s too small to be independent. Pyongyang is not going to be punished for it’s internal policies. And as to not fall into another double standard, there should be punishment for violation of rights of its own citizens, for example, all the Gulf monarchies should be punished and especially the over totalitarian Saudi Arabia. It is necessary to impose sanctions against them, like prohibiting them from selling oil and gas, buying weapons and luxury goods. But for some reason no one is offering that.

Big mistakes

An independent Pyongyang has become completely unacceptable not only for Washington (comments are not needed here), but also for Beijing, which is only interested in North Korea as a buffer and a silent puppet. That is why in the recent years the relationship between China and North Korea is deteriorating rapidly. Almost openly, Beijing is forming alternative authorities on its territory and the North Korean army from defectors of the country. In fact, Washington and Beijing are currently conspiring to overthrow the current regime in Pyongyang via its economic collapse. Together, Washington and China developed the latest project on the UN Security Council resolution discussing a sharp tightening of sanctions against North Korea (adopted on March 2nd). Washington, just as Beijing, is hoping to have North Korea under their complete control. This means that after Kim Jong-un is overthrown, the U.S. and China’s interests will become the opposite of each other, but until then they match.

Russia is absolutely uninterested in such developments, but she was also not ready to single-handedly veto a UN Security Council resolution on sanctions against North Korea (although it tried to delay its adoption). Perhaps this is Moscow’s biggest foreign policy mistake in recent years. It was doubly unacceptable to vote for this resolution since Russia itself is under illegal sanctions. It is always talking about how they are generally counter productive. With regard to the Korean problem, this is completely fair, but for some reason in this case, we are forgetting about the statements we made.

However, Seoul is committing a far greater mistake than Moscow.

It is necessary to recall once again the unique specificity of the inter-Korean conflict – irreconcilable enemies pose unification as a major political goal. This requires a certain approach of a fundamentally different participant behavior from both sides, which is unlike any other conflict. For example, Armenia and Azerbaijan were a part of the same country for a long time, but they do not plan on coming together in the future. Therefore, the cultivation of mutual hatred although not useful, is not completely disastrous. But Pyongyang and Seoul cannot behave this way. The pressure of their hatred separates them from their main goal.

Of course, Pyongyang’s bellicose rhetoric, all the way up to the announcement of the preventive nuclear strike is absolutely unacceptable. North Korea’s authorities should state that they will not apply the first, not only nuclear but also conventional weapons under any circumstances, and all of its military might is created for the sole purpose of self-defense. But it is necessary to understand that Pyongyang is seriously fearful of American aggression, especially since recently there are a few more examples of such in front of him. It can be said that North Korea’s nuclear program originated in Serbia and Iraq. North Korea has every right not to want to share the fate of these countries.

The future is in Juche

Almost nobody outside of the Korean Peninsula is aware of the fact that back in the 70s when Kim II Sung was in power, a totalitarian North Korea offered a completely democratic principle of reuniting the country – on a confederate basis with retention of both parts of the political and economic systems and an annual rotation of the top ranking leadership. Of course, this is a very difficult way, but there are no other options. As so far, Pyongyang has not refused this way. At the last WPK congress in May, Kim Jong-un mentioned again that North Korea is committed to Korea’s peaceful unification and the keeping of each part of the current systems, and Pyongyang will implement the militaristic version of the unification only if there was aggression committed against the country. It is interesting that mainstream media throughout the world has been quoting the second part of this statement, but the vast majority “did not notice” the first.
Alas, but the Democratic Republic of Korea still wants the purely totalitarian integration – the total absorption by North Korea, and in a much more rigid way than during Germany’s unification, with repressions against the whole military and political leadership of the North. Of course, this type of an approach makes for an impossible union. The trouble is that Seoul is playing someone else’s game.

Perhaps, in the XX-XXI centuries, there is not a more impressive “success story” than that which is demonstrated by South Korea. In the first half of the twentieth century it held a role of a poverty-stricken Japanese colony, and in the years of 1950-1951 was completely destroyed by war. The standard of living here in the 60s was the same as in the countries of tropical Africa. Currently, the South Korean economy is among 15 largest in the world and by nominal GDP in 2015, it seems to have bypassed Russia.

And it is not financial bubbles or the service sector, as it is in the West, which is at the heart of their success, but the most powerful, modern high-tech industry, which makes the country much more resilient to a variety of crises. Besides, they have great armed forces. In combat potential and the level of their personnel training, they are at least in the world’s top three strongest countries that do not possess nuclear weapons. The South Korean army is stronger than European by two heads. A failure to conduct an independent foreign policy looks like an absolute anomaly in this situation.

However, Seoul’s behavior is directed from Washington. This was understandable, clear and even rational 30-40 years ago. Today it is totally unacceptable, although unfortunately, it is understandable. At the heart of this phenomenon lie purely psychological reasons. The southerners simply do not believe in their own strength and abilities, and the Americans are doing everything to prevent this from ever happening. At the same time, it is meaningless to complain to the U.S. about this, when they are acting in accordance with their ideological and geopolitical interests.

Washington has to defend the U.S.’ and not Korea’s interests. But Seoul is obligated to protect their own and not strangers’. The people and the government of the Korean Republic should realize that instead of exporting additional million smartphones, it is better to produce a thousand tanks for themselves. And perhaps it is also better to create its own nuclear weapons, and then start talking to Pyongyang on equal footing, without fear and arrogance. If the aim really is to unite the country and transform it in the future into a great power, then it is necessary to take North Korea’s version for unification, no matter how complex and long the realization process will be.

Especially since a convergence will still take place then and the main role will be played by the South Korean economic superiority. But if Seoul continues to wait for Pyongyang to collapse or surrender voluntarily, they will get one of two things. Either North Korea will become a puppet, if not a Chinese colony, or mentally these countries will become so divided that they will not want unification.

The Republic of Korea urgently needs “Juche” and “Songun” ideas. They do not necessarily have to be communist ideas. It is only on this basis that it will be possible to build a single great country.

Aleksandr Khramchikhin,

Assistant Director of the Political and Military Analysis Institute

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