Thoughts On Making Korea Whole

August 16th, 2012

Recently, I watched an episode of a 2011 historical Korean TV drama, Warrior Baek Dong Soo. Set in the mid-1700s, there’s a scene where a defeated Chinese villain says to a Korean martial artist: “Someone so highly skilled in martial arts…How can he stay in this little Joseon (i.e., Korea)?” The Korean retorts, “It

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About the Author

Mark Barry

Dr. Mark P. Barry is an independent Asian affairs analyst who has followed U.S. - DPRK relations for the past 22 years. He visited North Korea twice and met the late President Kim Il Sung in 1994, and has appeared on CNN to discuss North Korea. From 2005-06, he helped found and direct the Asia Pacific Peace Institute in Washington, DC. He also assisted the convening of the first-ever meeting of legislators from China and Taiwan in Tokyo in June 1989, under the auspices of the International Security Council. Dr. Barry has spoken on U.S.-DPRK relations before the Korean Political Science Association, Korea Institute of National Unification, and the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Hawaii, among others. He received his Ph.D. in foreign affairs from the University of Virginia and his M.A. in national security studies from Georgetown University. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in international relations and global management, and is also associate editor of the International Journal on World Peace quarterly.

Join the discussion

  • Purunhanul

    Thank you so much for this great article. I couldn’t agree with you more on just about all of the points made in it.

    On the South side, the older generation has more immediate responsibility to engage in discussions among themselves and formulate a national consensus on the vision for one Korea on the Korean peninsula eventually.

    Reunification and how to understand and deal with North Korea have been absent in the formal education system in South Korea for a long time. The first 30 years after the war ended, all talks about North Korea in the South Korean classrooms were how bad and terrible communism and North Korea were. In the past 20 years or so, pretty much all topics about North Korea, the Korean War, reunification were absent from textbooks and classroom discussions from what I have heard. Given such lack of information and discussion during formative ages, it is no surprise that most young South Koreans have either no opinion or would rather not think about North Korea and what kind of difficulties the process of reunification would entail.

    This is in part why the old generation in South Korea has a lot of work to do by thinking through and presenting a vision, the whys and hows of reunification to the younger generation. There needs to be a national movement for dialogues and consensus on this and the older generation has the first line responsibility to initiate and lead the discussions.

    All Koreans need to realize and accept that it will take at least next 50 years, if not longer, to achieve true reunification.

    The South Koreans have more responsibilty to think through and prepare for the reunification process because they are economically, sociallly and politically (yes, despite all the scandals and what have you) better off than the North.

    It is easy to keep criticizing the North and lecturing on it to change. North Korea DOES need to change – no doubt about it. But, who is in a better position to do a better job of thoughtful, long-term, comprehensive preparations? It is the South.

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