Future of Asia

Globalism and the Spirit of Panmunjom

Why the world must hope for a positive continuation of the Korean rapprochement.

Credit: Norman Chan Shutterstock.com

Takeaways


  • Half of humanity starkly warns about taking North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un at his word. The other half hopes Kim means it when he says he wants to end the Korean War.
  • If the rabbit gets pulled out of the hat, Trump can count on the Norwegians awarding him (and his two Korean partners-in-action) the Nobel Prize for Peace later this year.
  • If the earth moves in Korea, that could have spill-over effects to other frozen conflicts. At least, it would exert a can-do pressure, even to an area like the Middle East.

Roughly spoken, one half of humanity starkly warns about taking North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un at his word. These people argue that we have seen this movie of alluring promises before.

The other half of humanity hopes Kim means it when he says he wants to end the Korean War, forego nuclear weapons and sign a non-aggression pact with the United States.

Trump’s hopes

Donald Trump surely counts himself among the latter group. If this rabbit gets pulled out of the hat, Trump can count on the Norwegians awarding him (and his two Korean partners-in-action) the Nobel Prize for Peace later this year.

Trump would treasure that less as a sign of (completely unexpected) international validation because of the fact that, in contrast to Barack Obama, Trump would actually deserve his prize. Obama was famously awarded the high international distinction less than nine months into office, largely on the fumes of his election, not anything he had done.

Mind you, the question here is not whether Trump was the root cause of the development. His verbal assaults were certainly a jelling factor that may – just may – have given the two Koreas pause to come to their senses.

Trump’s vanity agenda aside, a positive continuation of the Korean rapprochement should be welcomed globally because it would give the spirit of international negotiation and understanding a vital shot in the arm.

After all, we live at a time where one half of humanity, worshipping nationalism, no longer wants such accommodation – and, quite perplexingly, even most of those who ardently want it no longer believe that it can be delivered in a world that is turning ever more somber.

The particular significance is that the situation in Korea is one of the world’s worst “frozen conflicts.” It has been with us for a long time and there was no real hope, other than among dreamers, for it to potentially come to a constructive resolution.

If the earth moves in Korea, that could have spill-over effects to other frozen conflicts. At least, it would exert a can-do pressure, even to an area like the Middle East.

Pursuing the “Myanmar solution”

More tantalizingly, the Korea rapprochement could have an effect on Russia. The tightening of international sanctions on North Korea, pivotally supported by China, seems to have had an impact on Kim.

The problem isn’t just that he was probably running out of options to feed his people. He and his entourage must also be cognizant of the “Myanmar solution.” The reason why the generals there gave in to holding elections certainly was not that they have become ardent democrats.

Their calculus is far more self-interested. What’s more beneficial to them and their family clans – to be powerful generals in a country that is dirt-poor and has no prospects of ever rising in international league tables?

Or to conveniently convert themselves into the chairmen and CEOs of new Myanmar-based corporations that benefit from international capital streaming in? Swiss and Caribbean bank accounts are much better filled by pursuing the latter option.

Do sanctions have benefits?

The country that ought to ask itself real questions – if the Korean rapprochement proceeds – is Russia. As it stands, sanctions do have effects and, as per Kim, a country can only make progress materially if it plays by international rules.

That may be a wildly optimistic assessment for now, but one must hope that it bears out. Hope why? Because otherwise, the population at large in the countries whose leaders thrive on defying the international community will always be on the short end of the stick.

For years now, we have convinced ourselves that the reality of globalization has made things worse – largely because people could now see how “the other (richer) half” lives. Perhaps the shoe will now be on the other foot.

People living in countries where leaders thrive on defiance must ask themselves about shedding their lethargy and demand a better deal from their patently corrupt elites.

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About Stephan Richter

Stephan Richter is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Globalist. [Berlin/Germany]

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