The North Korea/South Korea joint participation in the Olympics still puzzles me

I still don’t get the new comity between North and South Korea at the Olympics, in which the two teams will march together under a “unified Korea” flag, some teams have trained together, and the women’s hockey team will even be composed of players from both countries.

I recognize that this is South Korea’s attempt to independently forge some kind of relationship with the DPRK independent of the U.S., and kickstart talks, but I don’t see the point.

First, North Korea will under no circumstances give up its nuclear program, so bargaining for a cessation of that is out.

Second, North Korea will under no circumstances become a democracy or depose its leadership, which has an iron grip on the country. So bargaining for a cessation of that is out, too.

Third, the North will not unilaterally attack the South, for that would be suicidal given that the U.S. would immediately join the fray. Therefore there’s no point in bargaining about that, or about reducing the North Korean military.

Fourth, the military exercises performed by both sides haven’t really posed a danger, so bargaining about that, while it may diminish those exercises, won’t accomplish anything substantive.

Finally, most of the sanctions on North Korea are applied by other countries via the UN, not by the South alone. These sanctions haven’t done anything to ratchet back North Korea’s belligerence or its nuclear program. So even if South Korea liberalized its attitude and behavior toward the DPRK, what would it have to gain? And South Korea’s talks will have little effect on the U.S.’s own military plans.

So long as Kim Jong-un and his minions are in charge, there’s no hope that they’ll cut back on their nuclear program—the thing everyone’s worried about. Their nukes are a huge bargaining chip, but they won’t bargain them away. Nor will they unify with the South unless the South is willing to become like the DPRK under Kim Jong-il’s “leadership”. No chance of that.

I conclude that while North Korea achieved a propaganda victory in the Olympic kerfuffle, the South has gained nothing.

I’m not proposing that the U.S. attack the North, which would kill millions in both north and south. Nor should the UN loosen its sanctions, ineffectual though they are. The only sane strategy is to keep doing what we’ve been doing. That will of course eventually make the DPRK a nuclear power. We can’t stop that.

And I conclude that South Korea has been duped.

65 Comments

  1. Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Clearly North Korea doesn’t want to appear to be anti-humanity isolationistic Country! So it’s a mini-compromise to make the country and it’s hard line leader look good! 🗽👍⚖️

  2. David
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    I agree. I do not know what the South Korean thinking is either cannot see any benefits for them at all. The only one who gains is Kim Jong-Un. I am wondering what will happen if the combined team wins a medal particularly if there is a North Korean on the team. Will Kim Jong-Un appear at the medal ceremony?

    • eric
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

      Well first, I imagine there isn’t a single South Korean opinion about this move, but that many different citizens probably have many different opinions about the wisdom or foolishness of this decision.

      But I think the decision is likely motivated by feelings of sympathy, empathy, and fraternity with North Korean peoples. I’m not sure they are hoping for any concrete benefit, but rather hoping that ‘grapevine’ communications via the olympians will let other North Koreans know “we are here for you.”

      Third, the North will not unilaterally attack the South, for that would be suicidal given that the U.S. would immediately join the fray.

      And then so would China and possibly Russia, and they could conceivably beat us on the ground in a conventional contest due to the huge difference in logistics trains between us fighting on the Korean peninsula and them fighting on it. After all, last time we drove the NK’s back to basically the Yalu River, and then China pushed us back basically to the 38th parallel. Would basically the entire NK army die int he process? Yes. Would we “win?” Not in any real sense. Even if Kim Jong-Un were to die, if the Chinese prevent the US/SK forces from keeping control of the entire peninsula, they’ll just install another dictator.

      Personally I prefer a more radical approach…in the opposite direction: unilaterally declare peace and recognize the country. Offer a full and free trade agreement. Start taking down some (but not all) of the defensive fortifications. Give NK no reason whatsoever to maintain their military stance. Do a “Berlin, November 9 1989” on them. Take away the fear of a US/SK invastion, and just like the East German soldiers, the NK military will be helping it’s citizens defect.

      • Diane G.
        Posted February 8, 2018 at 3:05 am | Permalink

        I was going to suggest the same motives on the part of the South Koreans. In human years the splitting of the two countries was very recent; families were divided and many yearn for even the slightest bit of communication, let alone reunification.

        I like your proposed solution!

      • ichneumonid
        Posted February 8, 2018 at 5:53 am | Permalink

        Yes, couldn’t agree more Eric! Business as usual as restated by Jerry here hasn’t exactly achieved much in the last 50 years,
        so, why not conclude a peace agreement, stop the annual war games on NK’s doorstep and see what possibilities that may open up.

        Can’t be any worse than the current impasse.

      • Liuba
        Posted February 10, 2018 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

        Agree 100 %. Both peoples will have the ‘feel good’ feeling that friendship develops. Don’t like WEIT suggestion that there it’s better to keep the status quo and tension. Countries that develop nuclear weapons do so in fear of those thar already have them.

    • Posted February 19, 2018 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      I personally believe it’s something to do with the South’s politicians in hopes of obtaining votes. Basically, it’s an another preposterous move by politicians

  3. busterggi
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    I think the South just wants to postpone Donald’s war as long as possible. They realize he doesn’t give a damn as to what happenes to their people,

    • Peter
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think the US will be the first to strike North Korea with nuclear weapons.
      From a BBC article:
      “President Trump would have the legal authority to order the [nuclear] strike all the same, against any advice he receives.
      But he’d still need to persuade the military to carry that order out.”
      http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-42065714

      Who in his right mind believes that a first strike against North Korea would be a good idea? Kim Jong-un is a tinpot dictator. Just make sure that he can’t trade his nuclear software and hardwear to other bad hombres. End of story.

    • Posted February 7, 2018 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

      I agree. Trump’s people have spoken of “punching North Korea in the nose”. It would not surprise me if they were waiting for the timing to be right to do it. Trump doesn’t care a hoot for the risk to South Koreans and is only too happy to replace anyone in his team that disagrees with him.

      North Korea is basically telling South Korea that they are better off working with them, not the US. Trump is playing directly into that point of view.

    • harrync
      Posted February 8, 2018 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      I think busterggi is pretty close to right; the South doesn’t want North Korea to retaliate against them if the Donald launches an attack. To paraphrase an old Lone Ranger joke, South Korea is saying: “What do you mean ‘we’, Donald?”

  4. Mark Reaume
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    I agree that the North will think of this as a propaganda win. I think that one could say, wrt the South’s position, is that it has been calculated purely under a domestic political lens (i.e. it has nothing to do with the US). I know very little about their political system so this is just a guess.

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 8, 2018 at 3:17 am | Permalink

      Hasn’t it generally been historically ill-fated for oppressed societies to expose their subjects to free ones? Seems to me NK goes out of its way to severely limit the amount of outside news that reaches its citizenry. I wonder if Kim Jong Un is just a bit too Trumpish himself–if his ego just can’t stand the thought of all the world’s attention being focused on his estranged sister country while he and his nation would be completely ignored? IOW, if he’s not risking the sort of exposure he really doesn’t want his people to have, simply so he’ll have some share of the world-wide publicity focused on SK.

  5. loren russell
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    South Korea simply does not want to be dragged along by the US into a Trumpian bellicosity/war for its own sake.

    The party in power also would like to return to a climate where modest gains like family visits and joint economic zones are possible again.

    Remember, the US relations with China started with ‘ping-pong diplomacy’.

    • gluonspring
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      +1

      I think in these ossified situations any jiggling of the status quo, even micro-thaws in relations, can have unknown effects down the road.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

      I have been of a similar mind regarding the Winter olympics. I have suspected (maybe with an insertion of my own hope) that this is an indirect attempt to introduce a small thaw in relations, possibly later leading to exchanges and trade between the N and S, however modest at first.

      Baby steps.

      • eric
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

        Probably not; Pyongyang was selected as the site for these winter games in 2011.

        Of course, if the IOC selection committee did select South Korea in order to thaw out the bellicosity caused by Trump, then maybe we should put them in charge of more than just the Olympics. 🙂

        • eric
          Posted February 7, 2018 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

          err…Pyeongchang. Mental burp…

        • Diane G.
          Posted February 8, 2018 at 3:21 am | Permalink

          🙂

          However, I don’t think Mark was implying that the motivation came from the IOC, but rather subsequent strategizing on behalf of both Koreas with perhaps influences from other countries…

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Soko knows Kim Jong-un has 10,000 artillery tubes just across the DMZ capable of leveling Seoul in a matter of hours (without his even having to touch his nuclear button), and it knows there’s a grievance-filled lunatic with fears of inadequacy who’s now the leader of the free world. It’s doing what it can to weather whatever time Trump has in office, until some semblance of a state of relative normalcy can be restored. I don’t think there’s anymore geopolitical strategy to it than that.

    • Simon
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

      Much of the Korean arsenal is outdated and their artillery crews are often piss poor. They wouldn’t be able to level Seoul, just do a lot of damage before their own artillery is destroyed by the response.

      There is absolutely no reason to believe that Trump is going to start any major conflagrations. A lot of people appear to be sporting severe cases of Trump Derangement Syndrome. There has been at least one recent president who has shown that they are capable of using military action for personal political reasons. Trump has shown no such inclination yet. Some people just aren’t happy until they can ascribe Satan status to trump.

      • BJ
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

        “There is absolutely no reason to believe that Trump is going to start any major conflagrations.”

        Indeed. Trump is full of bluster, but he has taken exactly zero steps toward starting any kind of war, and those around him are more than intelligent enough to never advocate such a thing.

        Trump’s bluster regarding NK is stupid and egotistical, but it’s of little consequence. KJU is a rational actor and has no desire to start a war with anyone. The entire motivation of the NK government is to keep their hermetic state and their own power alive, and war is an absolute guarantee that these would not be maintained.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted February 7, 2018 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

          Trump’s mindless “fire & fury” bluster at the very least increases the chances that North Korea will misinterpret US intentions and launch its own first strike. Then, we’re off to the races, aren’t we?

          Anyway, Trump’s newfound golfing buddy, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, has put the chances of Trump’s launching an offensive military strike against NoKo at 30%.

          You comfortable with those odds?

          • Peter
            Posted February 7, 2018 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

            Lindsay Graham said that there’s a 30% chance that Trump will start a war against North Korea. That’s what he said. What he really thinks we do not know. If North Korea achieves the capacity to “marry up a missile and a nuclear warhead that can hit America effectively”, so what? It would not change the fact that actually carrying out a strike against the US would be suicidal. The fact remains that waging war against North Korea would lead to hundreds of thousands of dead South Koreans (correct me if I’m wrong believing this). That’s why I deem such war very unlikely, never mind what Graham or anybody else says.

          • BJ
            Posted February 7, 2018 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

            I’m comfortable with Lindsay Graham having no idea whether or not that’s actually true, and simply making up a number.

            I’m not concerned about NK misinterpreting things. Short of physical or radar evidence of an imminent attack on them, they would never launch. War must literally be upon them for KJU, who is a rational actor concerned solely with keeping his power and his country, to launch a military strike.

        • Diane G.
          Posted February 8, 2018 at 3:40 am | Permalink

          “KJU is a rational actor…”

          Um, are you entirely sure of that?

          “Indeed. Trump is full of bluster, but he has taken exactly zero steps toward starting any kind of war, and those around him are more than intelligent enough to never advocate such a thing.”

          Trump tends to fire anyone who disagrees with him and replace them with clueless sycophants. Personally I wouldn’t put a lot of faith in their collective intelligence.

          That said, I do agree that even Trump might be intelligent enough to not go nuclear; perhaps what’s going on here is that it takes a bully to understand a bully and he and KJU might just be savvy enough to know that their respective bombast keeps their adherents satisfied while keeping the rest of the world uneasy–and, most importantly, keeps both of them in the spotlight.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

        “There has been at least one recent president who has shown that they are capable of using military action for personal political reasons. Trump has shown no such inclination yet.”

        Since taking office, Trump has launched failed, fatal raids in Yemen and on the Al-Shabab compound in Somalia, as well as fecklessly lobbed 59 Tomahawk missiles at an airbase in Syria — and the death of the four US Marines killed in Niger as-yet remains unexplained.

        What is the source of your claim regarding the piss-poor condition of North Korean weaponry and troops? Because it contradicts the Pentagon’s own assessment.

        I doubt the people in harm’s way in Seoul are quite as sanguine as you regarding the prospects of North Korean artillery strikes.

  7. Brujo Feo
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    I watch all of this from a rather strange perspective, having been a Taekwon-Do instructor for over 35 years.

    Under the original ITF (International TKD Federation), the highest pattern we learn, for achieving the rank of 7th Dan, or “Sa-Hyung” (Master) is called Tong-Il (that’s an i and an l; sans-serif fonts just show two vertical lines), which is Korean for “reunification.” And General Choi’s (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choi_Hong_Hi) Enclycopaedia makes clear that the reunification under discussion was nothing less than that of the peninsula.

    Which is pretty funny. First the ITF splintered, with the South Korean government underwriting the new WTF (“World TKD Federation.”) They’re the people you see in the Olympic sport, with the V-necked uniforms, having little to do with the martial art.

    Then, after Choi died in 2002, having essentially (by some accounts) given the ITF to the North Koreans in return for being allowed to be buried near his birthplace oof Hwa Dae in the North, the ITF fractured into at LEAST 4 rival organizations, all claiming to be the true ITF. (Of course, all of the ITFs would LOVE to get into the Olympics, participation in which is owned by the WTF.)

    Why this contorted history? To illustrate this: there’s a reason that dreams of political reunification were downgraded to hopes of an ITF/WTF reunification, and finally a realization that there isn’t a snowball’s chance of reunifying the shards of the ITF itself. And the reason is this: it’s bloody difficult to get ANY two Koreans to agree on any common goal, and work on it together for more than five minutes. Doubly so whenever the Olympics are in play. Or at least that has been my observation over a LONG involvement in these things.

    I agree with Jerry that the South has gained nothing. But then, there was never a “South” at the bargaining table. Just a lot of individuals with their own agendas, to be advanced by any means necessary.

  8. Brujo Feo
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    sub

  9. Paul S
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Ala south Korea, I’m publicly civil toward my ex-family, however I do not trust them in any way. Appearing to get along keeps them from overreacting to a perceived slight.

    • Dick Veldkamp
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      I think any contact is probably better than nothing. And diplomacy costs next to nothing. So why not?

  10. Posted February 7, 2018 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on ollipursi and commented:
    Korean tilanteesta ja Olympiasta.

  11. rickflick
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    I think the North feels strengthened by it’s recent success in developing a nuclear capability. From this strength, they want to try to engage with the South to use it’s position of strength to develop a respected position in world affairs.

  12. Randall Schenck
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Part of our problem with all of this is our thinking. We think with our western minds. The Koreans, even the South Koreans can only think with their minds. Some perfect understand simply cannot be found so you can forget that.

    South Korea has no intention of becoming part of or submissive to the North. But they know that a dialogue and continued involvement with the north will eventually break the hold on north and one day change it’s ways. Certainly doing what we have done for the last 50 years and more has not solved anything to any conclusion. This is the third generation since grandpa attacked the south and that did not go well for him.

    Patience and some sanity in Washington is what we need. We do not need to start a war with anyone. If you want to worry just slow down and worry about all those nuclear weapons in Pakistan. A nation with more kinds of terrorist than North Korea ever had.

    • Posted February 7, 2018 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

      “Patience and some sanity in Washington is what we need.”

      Uh-oh.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

        I realize it’s not likely but the reality is, this president has been the one to raise the temperature of this entire business with N. Korea and mostly uncalled for. That is because he does not know even what the definition of statesmen might be. He just shoots his mouth off and acts like a 4 year old. Now, today we hear this child wants a military parade for himself in Washington. He also says let’s shut the govt. down over immigration. The republicans have a total idiot on their hands and apparently, they are all in.

      • Diane G.
        Posted February 8, 2018 at 3:46 am | Permalink

        Lol!

    • BJ
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      Well said. It’s very difficult to understand the perspective of North and South Korea for us. We have not lived with their situation, nor do we have their philosophies (then again, as I mentioned in my comment #15 below, we should be able to see that there is no good reason not to do this even from our own perspective, provided we are analyzing this situation rationally). There are potential benefits, despite their slim chances, but there are no drawbacks.

  13. simonchicago
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    There are numerous families divided by the 38th parallel. The Olympics is a meaningless gesture–allowing families to meet, or even very limited immigration would be an equally meaningless, innocuous gesture that would make people happy. So South Korea could benefit from partial thawing.

    There was an attempt to have North Koreans work at factories owned by S Korea, within N Korea. Again, cheap labor for South, hard currency for the North, a win-win.

    Finally, North Korea’s fear of massive war games is not unjustified. It could be used to mask the buildup to a “decapitating” first strike.

  14. glen1davidson
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    It’s a kind of attempt to reduce tensions that S. Korea has engaged in for decades.

    Basically, it’s done little to nothing (a few joint appearances). Why not keep repeating the ineffective policies of the past?

    Well, the fact is that it seems relatively ineffective at producing either positive or negative effects, so I don’t care much either way. Sort of makes both sides look better, without much being accomplished.

    Glen Davidson

  15. BJ
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Diplomacy takes time, sometimes even decades. If the two countries can continue to take steps like this over several years, it could lead to some thawing of the relations between them. It doesn’t matter if the thawing is significant or minor because any is a success. Of course a venture like this will do little to nothing on its own, but there is no point whatsoever to simply discarding any and every possible joint venture because there’s a 99.999% chance it will be without effect.

    From a utilitarian perspective, I can see no reason for quashing this activity. There are no risks to doing this, but there are possible rewards for each side and their people, no matter how slim the chances of them materializing.

    There is simply no reason not to do this.

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 8, 2018 at 3:48 am | Permalink

      + 1

  16. starskeptic
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Two words:
    Donald. Trump.
    — next question…

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

      If relations do thaw at all between the North and South, count on the Orange One to claim credit.

      • starskeptic
        Posted February 8, 2018 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

        That is a given. As long as it annoys him, I don’t mind.

  17. µ
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Re “North Korea will under no circumstances become a democracy or depose its leadership”

    I was raised in post-war West Germany, and we used to think that East Germany “will under no circumstances become a democracy or depose its leadership.”

    And then everything changed in less than 12 months.

    • eric
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

      Yep, I think East Germany is a good example to keep in mind. With even NK soldiers running through ‘shoot on sight’ zones to try and make it to the south, is there any real question about how NK citizens would act if allowed?

      I don’t think we even need to depose KJU to make it happen, either. Drop the barriers through “capitulation”, and the result will be exactly the same as if they were dropped through US/SK coercion. Do a Brer Rabbit on him. “Oh Kim Jong Un, you beat us with your nuclear threat! Puuhhhlease don’t force us to dismantle the DMZ and begin normal trade with open borders with you!!! Why, it would cost us millions to supply all your people with internet service, you can’t demand that from us!!

  18. Pierluigi Ballabeni
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Both countries already marched together under a unified flag at the olympic games in 2000, 2004 and 2006.

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 8, 2018 at 3:50 am | Permalink

      Yes, this is traditional.

  19. Heather Hastie
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    BJ (#15 above) is correct imo, but there’s more too.

    1. South Korea wants closer diplomatic relations with the North because many families are split up and want to meet again.

    2. A war does not have to be nuclear. The biggest threat to South Korea is the North’s conventional weapons. They are more likely to be used, and Seoul could have hundreds of missiles land before the US fighter jets even scramble. The North has mountain ranges that go across the peninsula. The missiles are hidden in them. They could be rolled out and fired and land in 45 seconds, and rolled back in. Even if the air force get air borne (they may be bombed themselves) they couldn’t get around behind those mountain ranges and successfully hit the missiles, while being targeted themselves, with much success.

    3. Kim Jong Un wants to be accepted into the international community. The reason he wants nukes is both because he thinks he needs them to maintain power (and he’s probably right about that) and because it makes the international community take notice of what he says. The South would like the relationship with the North to be less belligerent.

    4. It takes time to build trust, and diplomacy is based in trust. This is just a first move. Other things will come. Someone had to make the opening move, and South Korea were really the only ones who could. North Korea only feels confident enough to do this because of their nukes.

    Jerry’s right that Kim Jong Un will never give up his nukes. But we’re never going to get to an environment where a future leader of North Korea might consider it without a diplomatic relationship.

    This is the first step on a journey of a thousand miles.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      I think what the south wants eventually is for the North to give up on Kim Jong Un. The oppressive dictator can only last as long as the people allow. They will never learn anything or attempt anything unless the light gets in. The south wants to be the light.

      Additionally, I do not see the North attacking with or without Nuks. They know it will all be over for them if they do. All the tough talk and Nuks are for his people and his survival with them.

      The idea that we draw a line in the sand or dirt and say, WE CANNOT ALLOW N. Korea to obtain Nuks is silly. They have them. So what.

      • Posted February 7, 2018 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

        Agreed, except for the part about “as long as the people allow.” The people don’t get to allow anything in that country.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted February 7, 2018 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

          Sure, and I suppose the people of England were always going to live under a King. Or the Soviet Union and all it’s satellites were going to stay under communism. Revolution sometimes takes a long time but it usually comes from within and usually because the current system is so rotten that anything is better. Do not kid yourself, the people will eventually be the ones that make change.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

        Yes, that first paragraph in particular is something I should have included in my list. At the moment a majority of the people of North Korea see Kim as a living god. Closer relations with the south will make the people see that the rest of the world isn’t like Kim makes them out to be. When enough see that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes, that will be probably the most significant thing to happen. Then Kim will have to change (unlikely) or will be gone.

        I don’t see the North attacking either, but I also think that someone like Trump could be goaded into what he thinks is a limited strike, and that will start a full scale war.

        And yes again to the red line thing. Trump has drawn several red lines that he’s going to have to back down on, and one is allowing North Korea to have nukes for the foreseeable future.

    • Posted February 7, 2018 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      Agreed, except that it’s not really the first move. As another commenter already pointed out, they have participated in the Olympics jointly several times. Up until recently, they have participated in joint economic ventures involving North Korean workers coming to South Korea.

      Doing business with North Korea seems like a far better way to go than Trump’s chest thumping. Economic sanctions won’t work as Kim Jong Un doesn’t care about starving his people and there are too many ways they can cheat. The more ties they have with the rest of the world, the less they have to gain by attacking. In fact, it’s the best philosophy for all countries of the world.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

        Yes, but all that stuff was gradually stopped by the current Kim, and it’s important to start it again.

        And I agree completely with your second paragraph. It’s frustrating that so many think aggression will make things better.

  20. nicky
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    I’m not so sure South Korea is not gaining anything.
    – It shows that it values ‘all of us are Korean’.
    – It signals there is no ‘deep hostility’ (whether true or not) and that Seoul should not be leveled.
    – It might show to a limited number of North Koreans the South is not that bad.
    – It might facilitate some family reunions/ meetings.
    – it might offer some support to those leaders in the North that are not very happy with the present situation.

    It is probable that sooner or later the DPRK will change from within (who thought the Eastern Block would desintegrate so quickly?). A friendly and accommodating South will be helpful for those, now dithering, people in power. So I think that there are definitely some benefits to the South, even if not directly tangible.

  21. Matthew North
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    The only comity between North and South Korea is the desire of regular Koreans to come together. The North Korean regime in power, however, has one, all encompassing and overriding goal. To stay in power. And they’re willing to let the North Korean people starve to death for that purpose.

  22. Stuart A Milc
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    This is my thoughts (maybe its wishful thinking). Years ago my Dad told me a story about Russian soldiers rolling into Budapest. The moment was probably the revolution in 1956 but I’m not 100% sure on that point as this conversation happened more than a couple of decades ago. At any rate, he was barely out of his teens at the time and was demoralized by seeing Russian occupiers. My grandfather though had a slightly different take. He told my father that the moment was the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union. His reasoning was that the Russian soldiers, who were about my Dad’s age, were one of the first generations that really knew nothing other than Soviet communism. He was sure that they would see how the other side lived and go back to Russia wanting the same things. I’m hoping the games have the same impact on the North Korean contingent.

  23. Lizard Breath
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    The last time So Korea hosted the olympics and refused to share the limelight with No. Korea, No Korea blew up an airliner full mostly of So. Koreans. http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-korea-olympics-threat-20171218-htmlstory.html

  24. Brian salkas
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    This is not some kind of strategic plan. This probably has more to do with the south having sympathy for the north. They do a hell of a good job separating an evil dictator form the victims who live under an oppressive regime. And also what Lizard Breath said also might unfortunately be true.

  25. Posted February 8, 2018 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Cogent summary of the N / S Korea Olympic dance. I’m baffled. I’m a frequent visitor to S Korea, and – from a personal perspective – I don’t know anyone in Seoul who considers this sensible or pragmatic.

  26. Posted February 8, 2018 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    I think of this as an exercise of “soft power” on the part of SK – show the NK people that SK are not complete enemies, that that they can do things together. And maybe, someday, that thin end of a wedge will change things for both sides, hopefully for the better for all.

    Those who think this doesn’t do much – would you have said the same for shared activities with the two Germanies?

  27. Paul Dymnicki
    Posted February 8, 2018 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Dam your logic sir

  28. Posted February 9, 2018 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    I agree with most of your points. An exception: “Fourth, the military exercises performed by both sides haven’t really posed a danger, so bargaining about that, while it may diminish those exercises, won’t accomplish anything substantive.” Actually the military exercises pose considerable danger. If an exercise is misconstrued as an attack, or an airplane goes off-course accidentally, or somebody jumpy makes an error, one one country deliberately “pushes the envelope” during exercises in a way that the other country decides is unacceptable, such exercises could easily lead into war. Minimizing that risk is hugely important.

    Also, a reason you didn’t consider: SK is very sentimental about the possibility of reunification with NK. Many families were split down the middle; people on one side of the border have close family on the other side. The younger generation doesn’t feel this as strongly, since they don’t remember those relatives; but there are still a lot of older people who care very deeply about it and have reunification fantasies. You could say that that is unrealistic, and I would agree; my point is only that that is a motivation for this “joint participation” stuff that you didn’t consider.


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