February 25, 2024

Pyongyang and Seoul: The Political and Business Capitals of a Unified Korea?

The Korea Economic Institute’s recent interview with Professor B. R. Myers, author of The Cleanest Race, is a must-listen. One point he makes clear is that the coming “final victory” the North proclaims to its people is to “bully” (with occasional provocations) South Korea into a confederation in which the North politically subdues the South, yielding a unified Korean state dominated by the North’s elite. Myers says the North ultimately won’t succeed because it will eventually overreach, and the South, no matter who is president, will forcefully respond.

Myers’ depiction of this “final victory” points to an important dynamic in the self-conception of the North Korean state. The problem is that since Kim Il Sung’s demise, North Korea has been too busy trying to survive rather than focus on achieving its ultimate ambition. Regime survival – in some form – has been too pressing a matter. But this DPRK end goal of eventually subsuming the South, a justification for its sacrifices, is too important for regime cohesion to be jettisoned.