North Korea is a historical relic, destabilizing force, and human rights abomination. The Korean people and the world will be far better off without it.
The good news is that this collapse has the potential to be a win-win for nearly everyone. The North Korean people will end their terrible suffering, North and South Korea will be reunified under South Korean law, potentially following a UN-administered transitional period and referendum, the specter of a rogue nuclear nation at the heart of Asia will be removed, and China will gain a valuable trading partner in a unified Korea and access to Seoul’s high tech economy and northern Korea’s natural resources through high quality rail, road, and communications links. American troops could even be maintained below the 38th parallel to ease China’s fears of encirclement, with the long-term international relations of a unified Korea being up to the Korean people.
As a member of the U.S. National Security Council staff in the later 1990s, I worked with colleagues on plans for responding to the potential collapse of the North Korean government. As a self-induced famine ravaged the country, we considered what we might do when the regime finally succumbed to the inevitable consequence of its own insanity. Almost twenty years later, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is still there and those predicting its imminent collapse have continually been proven wrong. But today, the North Korean madness may well be nearing its endgame. I predict it will be gone within a decade.
The continued survival of North Korea’s government is based on its ability to harness absolute terror against its population, its possession of nuclear weapons, and its access to economic resources. Although North Korea requires all three of these to survive, contradictions between what it takes to secure each will make the regime’s demise all but inevitable over time.
Terror against its people stands at the core of the North Korean system. The UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK reports “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations” including torture, murder, rape, and mass gulags containing over 120,000 people in what the Commission believes constitute “crimes against humanity.” Without deploying terror to control every aspect of people’s lives, the regime would collapse.
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