When a mathematician solves a problem for colleagues on a blackboard, he leaves out the most obvious steps, so as not to insult them. I’ve always taken a comparable approach when discussing the North’s unification drive.
Yes, I could have stated explicitly that if South Koreans wanted to be ruled by the Kim dynasty, or were so untroubled by the prospect that they would willingly dissolve the US-ROK alliance, the North would never have needed to develop nuclear weapons in the first place. I haven’t done so, because I’ve always thought that point too obvious to spell out.
Evidently I was wrong. Quite a few Westerners are now fussing over the latest ROK polls, which bespeak a growing aversion to unification, as if they rendered obsolete the notion of a North Korean commitment to subjugating the South!
We’re dealing here with something Schopenhauer recognized long ago, and Freud confirmed (yet which many ignore in their glib assertions of a rational and therefore peace-minded North): if we don’t hold our reason to high standards, our instincts and interests will have their way with it.
As someone who loves South Korea and wants to stay here, I too want the regime in Pyongyang to be all talk and no action. I too want it to be concerned only for its indefinite survival, yet somehow dumb enough to think peaceful coexistence with the thriving South is the way to go. This is probably why it took me until 2010 to understand what I should have understood much earlier.
Sustaining many Westerners’ wishful thinking is the overestimation of young South Koreans’ hostility to the North, and the conflation of it with liberal-democratic, constitutional patriotism. You’d think the acquiescence in the joint hockey team by the people directly disadvantaged would have spoken for itself. The point holds true even if the players reckon on finding the government not ungrateful later on. (In their place I would expect some lowering of the requirements for an athletic achievement pension.) “There are plenty of North-hating young’uns out there,” I’m told, “but unlike their progressive counterparts in 2016, they have other things to do than stand out in freezing weather and protest.” I would agree with that, but this tells us something about the level of their commitment too.
Let’s assume for a moment that young conservatives now outnumber those fervent Moon supporters whose slogan since early 2017 has been, and I quote, “We will do everything our Inny wants to do” (우리 이니 하고 싶은 거 다 해; forming an affectionate diminutive with the last syllable of someone’s name is especially common here in Gyeongsang, Moon’s home region). This doesn’t change the fact that the administration sees itself as executing only the will of the minsim, a candlelit whole from which anyone right of center is excluded almost by definition, or at best considered deluded, brainwashed.
This is nothing new. The nationalist left’s stock response to poll results it deems unfavorable (especially in regard to inter-Korean affairs) has always been to blame rightist propaganda and education, and to pledge to set the public straight. This is how the Moon administration has responded to these polls, which the North is hardly likely to interpret differently.
In my speech last December I stated clearly that no amount of re-education would diminish South Koreans’ support for the alliance or their aversion to unification fast enough for the North’s liking. The polls of the last few weeks — and developments like the “relayed” burning or tearing of Kim Jong Un photographs — only bear me out.
In that same speech I also warned that the young dictator’s impatience would result in efforts to force the Blue House and White House to disagree ever more fundamentally about the proper way to handle him.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this the stage in which the allies now find themselves?