January 29, 2018

"Experts and recent surveys describe a profound shift in attitudes in South Korea, where reuniting the peninsula, and the Korean people, was long held as a sacrosanct goal."

"These days, younger South Koreans in particular are far more likely to see the idea of reintegrating their prosperous capitalist democracy with the impoverished, totalitarian North as unrealistic and undesirable. 'I personally wouldn’t welcome reunification because it would create a burden for us, as we would have to help rebuild the North Korean economy,' said Park Min-cheol, 22, a college student. Young Koreans say they are more concerned about pressing domestic issues — like unemployment, and whether they can live as well as their parents did — than the enormously costly, complex and hypothetical task of reunifying with the North. The reunification of Germany in 1990 serves to some as an example of how arduous, and expensive, rejoining two very different societies can be, and the economic gap between the two Koreas today is much wider than it was between East and West Germany. In polls, fewer respond to the old appeals to common ethnic heritage...."

From "Olympic Dreams of a United Korea? Many in South Say, ‘No, Thanks'" (NYT).

65 comments:

Kristian Holvoet said...

See also: German Reunification.

rehajm said...

Forget the evonomic burden- how about trying to introduce all those brainwased citizens into a modern world?

Original Mike said...

Looks like North Korea waited too long.

Greg Hlatky said...

And in the case of Germany the two halves had some basic shared culture and understanding.

Why would the South want to take over an impoverished, stunted, parasite-riddled North? Their ethnicity is commin, nothing else.

Sam's Hideout said...

My recollection is that at the time, economists thought the way the West German government chose to reintegrate East Germany was especially expensive. As I recall, one of the early economic decisions was to do an instant unification and exchange the East German Mark for the West German Deutshemark at wildly inflated rates (prior, the East German official exchange rate was one for one, the black market rate was about 10 Marks per Deutchmark, at unification the West German government exchanged one for one for most individuals and at worst two for one for most commercial accounts). The exchange was a massive subsidy (some sort of subsidy was surely inevitable) but the instant unification meant that pretty much all east german industry became instantly uncompetitive.

Perhaps some actual plans could be devised with much lower estimated costs instead of the relative panic that happened in Germany.

Kevin said...

You may not be interested in Korean reunification, but Korean reunification is interested in you.

DanTheMan said...

We need to figure out a way to get NK to go to war with China. No more nuclear lunatic Kims.

Ralph L said...

Powell's Pottery Barn rule:
The Chinese broke it. They can buy it.

steve uhr said...

Very sad. They will give it them a standing ovation at the olympics before sending them back to the torture chamber.

YoungHegelian said...

Well, with this poll, it's now official: absolutely no one else on the planet cares if the North Korean people live or die. Sad.

May God have mercy on their souls, because it doesn't look as if anyone else will.

Kevin said...

Young Koreans say they are more concerned about pressing domestic issues — like unemployment, and whether they can live as well as their parents did — than the enormously costly, complex and hypothetical task of reunifying with the North.

Sounds like the North is kind of a shithole.

Kevin said...

They should just elect a North Korean to run the combined government and oversee the project.

They will have no qualms about taxing the rich to help the refugees.

It will be the moral thing to do.

Birkel said...

Let's imagine how the rest of the country will feel about reunification with Connecticut, Illinois and California after those three Leftist Collectivist states cannot pay their own bills.

I'm thinking "steve uhr" will feel it is sad.

Kristian Holvoet said...


Young Koreans say they are more concerned about pressing domestic issues — like unemployment, and whether they can live as well as their parents did — than the enormously costly, complex and hypothetical task of reunifying with the North.

Sounds like the North is kind of a shithole.



And that boomers, gen Xers and get Yers millennials aren't up to the heavy lifting of running a country.

Not a surprise, we've had decades of evidence.

But the millennial snowflakes may be uniquely unsuited to serious governance. Pity people living through the next 30 years. It may be a for shadowing of the Christian Tribulation.

Michael K said...

German reunification was botched because the unions insisted that the East Germans should not present a low cost manufacturing society like Poland with German culture. I invested quite a bit of money on the theory that was rejected and it cost me a lot.

It cost Germany more.

steve uhr said...

Birkel, even for you that's a pretty stupid comment.

stever said...

If they follow the California Model, they will let them slowly emmigrate to the South and bring their policies with them. In time everyone will be broke but nonetheless very smug.

Curious George said...

Greg Hlatky said...
....Why would the South want to take over an impoverished, stunted, parasite-riddled North? Their ethnicity is commin, nothing else."

Because those Norks can party!

n.n said...

No mention of Nazis, bigots, anti-immigrants? #WhyNotNYT

Think of the DREAMers. The problem is obviously in South Korea, not North Korea.

In fact, this is a cause for a social justice adventure. A cause for a shitshow and to open an abortion field in South Korea.

Do we have an ambassador up to the challenge of a sodomy session and summary abortion?

Bad Lieutenant said...


Blogger steve uhr said...
Birkel, even for you that's a pretty stupid comment.


You know, Steve, I was going to defend you, but you beat me to posting. That was very much in advance of anything idiotic you might say. But you have to ask yourself, how have you got yourself the name, on this blog, of a schmuck who says stupid stuff all the time? I encourage you to contemplate this.

cubanbob said...

Can't say I blame the young South Koreans. Cuba is far less bad than North Korea and Cuba will need at least fifty billion and thirty years to get to what it should have been.

jwl said...

I taught english in south korea twenty years ago, my school focused mostly on university students. One of classes I taught was kids who were already bilingual but just wanted to keep up their language skills.

Anyways, that class was terrific for me to learn about Korean culture, history, arts .... and I remember class one time talking about Korean reunification and none of the students wanted to reunite with North because of how fcuked up it is and how much work and money it will take to fix. Apparently North Koreans were stigmatized by South Koreans since 1960s as otherworldly and dangerous, one kid brought in book of illustrations and cartoons from South Korea where North Koreans were drawn as ogres or somesuch.

Freeman Hunt said...

Does not wanting to reunify mean that they don't want North Korea to be liberated? Perhaps they want the country to be liberated and then to exist as a separate free country.

narayanan said...

so why did the North readmit the South into the Union?

Freeman Hunt said...

"Actions like Mr. Kim’s executions of his own uncle and his half brother have also made the regime look brutal and grotesque."

Made it *look* brutal and grotesque?

Bay Area Guy said...

The Communists wrecked and enslaved North Korea. In contrast, the US saved and protected South Korea. So, yeah, reunification would only work if the Norks could raise their game to South Korea standards.

Seeing Red said...

The SorKs are in a tough spot, but the generations that want it are dying out.

Balfegor said...

and whether they can live as well as their parents did

Their parents . . . actually had a pretty hard life. If you're looking at 20-somethings, their parents are, in all likeliood, late-40s to early 60s. That means they were born somewhere between the late 50's and the early 70's. South Korea up through the 60's was desperately poor and badly governed. Look at this chart of GDP per capita (select "max" to view the time-series since 1960). In 1960, GDP per capital was less than $1,000 in 2010 USD. Even in 1980, per capita GDP was less than $5,000, and the government, with the backing of the Carter administration, was shooting people in the streets.
That downward dip in the late 90's is the Asian Financial Crisis, which was devastating to Korea -- it wiped out peoples' savings, destroyed some of the great conglomerates that dominate the Korean economy, and threw a generation of salarymen -- the fathers of today's cossetted millenials -- out of work and into unemployment. The country took out a gigantic $58 billion IMF loan, but instead of flopping around uselessly like most IMF loan recipients, people melted down their family treasures to help the country repay the loan years ahead of schedule.

Their parents sacrificed for the Fatherland. They didn't have an easy life at all.

And on some level, that's probably one thing the young are reacting against -- that Nazi-style ethno-nationalistic propaganda has been drummed into their head since they were young, but they saw that it didn't protect their fathers when the Asian Financial Crisis hit. They saw the sinking of the ferry Sewol, where greed and government incompetence led to the tragic deaths of three hundred people, mostly young students. They see the impudence of wealth all around them, the conspicuous consumption of the royal families of the great conglomerates, and the airs put on by the professional upper middle classes. The upper classes a generation ago all went through military service with the commoners (even if they usually ended up as Katusas or whatever); their children all get exempted by hook or by crook (hum hum). Korea is still quite racist, but not like it was a generation ago. The sense that Koreans are all in it together is dying, if it isn't already dead.

Balfegor said...

Re: jwl:

Apparently North Koreans were stigmatized by South Koreans since 1960s as otherworldly and dangerous, one kid brought in book of illustrations and cartoons from South Korea where North Koreans were drawn as ogres or somesuch.

They do have a distinctive accent, which gets caricatured on TV often enough that I can recognise it (or at least the lazy caricature of it). But I don't think they're caricatured as otherworldly and dangerous, at least not anymore. I'm trying to remember the name of the TV series -- it's really gross and crass -- but there was a funny scene where one of the characters is an extra in a Korean war drama, playing a North Korea, falls asleep on set, and then has to make his way home, in costume, by bus. The hysterical reactions of people on the bus (including some South Korean soldiers on leave, whom he berates for sloppiness) are played entirely for laughs. If anything, the media portrayal tends to undercut the sense of North Korea as a real threat. Although the fact that I mostly only watch sitcoms and comedic dramas may be why I have that impression . . .

Seeing Red said...

What does the North have to offer the South?



Saint Croix said...

those damn millennials are everywhere

even in Korea

possible book titles

Shut Up I'm Looking At My Cell Phone

I Am Reporting You To H.R.

That Sucks You're Starving But What About Me?

The Mini-Me Generation

Saint Croix said...

Don't Make Me Tweet You To Death

Saint Croix said...

At Least I Know How To Work Snapchat

Freeman Hunt said...

The young people have grown up with NK as an enemy that is constantly threatening them. I can see how they might want a free North Korea but not want reunification. It's been over seventy years.

The Cracker Emcee Activist said...

"See also: German Reunification."

The crimes of the DDR against it's people are, by all accounts, nothing compared to what the Communists have done to the Norks. There'll be a heapin' bloodletting up north before there's even any thought of reunification.

n.n said...

What does the North have to offer the South?

Labor, environmental, and regulatory arbitrage.

Also, millions of unassimilated immigrants to gerrymander the vote and raze Seoul.

Balfegor said...

Re: Seeing Red:

What does the North have to offer the South?

Cheap labour that already speaks their language.

Anonymous said...

Narayanan:

They never left the Union. They just thought they did.

Yancey Ward said...

The Korean countries don't have to be reunited. Germany didn't have to be reunited. Just because two countries speak the same language and have a border doesn't imply the need for reunification. In fact, I think the South Koreans would be immensely foolish to allow such a thing.

Fernandistein said...

Seeing Red said...
What does the North have to offer the South?


Sexual harassment.

Skirting up-skirt territory with this one.

AJ Lynch said...

So does this mean the South Koreans are nationalists and racists just like Americans who want secure borders and reduced immigration from 3rd World countries.

Darrell said...

If they reunite, I hope they choose a Communist from the North as the new president. Worked for Germany with Merkel.

Balfegor said...

Re: AJ Lynch:

So does this mean the South Koreans are nationalists and racists just like Americans who want secure borders and reduced immigration from 3rd World countries.

If that is your standard for "racist" and "nationalist" then haha, no, South Koreans are so far beyond that, they broke the scale. Here is a map of the countries most and least welcoming to foreigners -- note that Korea is in solid red, as one of the least welcoming countries for foreigners. When I picked up that Washington Post article googling just now, I was actually looking for a different global survey that asked people something slightly different -- I think it was how comfortable they would be with foreigners living nearby them. I recall China being a shade more welcoming, and India being a shade less welcoming, but South Korea remaining -- of course -- solidly in the least welcoming tier.

Balfegor said...

Ah, here is the one I was looking for. China actually is a lot more tolerant in this one. And Korea is not quite in the least tolerant tier -- here, they're in the 30-39% band. As in, somewhere between 30% and 39% of Koreans would not want someone of another race as a neighbour (on visual inspection, it looks like only India and Jordan break the 40% barrier, but . . . ).

Also of interest -- China as a whole registers as a lot more open to living next to someone of a different race than Hong Kong does. It's not quite clear from the WaPo map, but the South China Morning Post tells me that according to the survey a whopping 71% of Hong Kong residents would not like to have people of a different race as neighbours. Hong Kong is, of course, a very diverse city, unlike most of the respondent countries, and many if not all the respondents probably have lived by people of other races. So this response is perhaps not all that surprising. But of interest.

n.n said...

A philosophy engenders but does not determine a character. However, there is a prevailing character alignment, even in the absence of uniform character.

Balfegor said...

Reading the WaPo explanation there, I think SCMP got it wrong -- apparently Hong Kong was in the 20-29% tier, not 70%+. Still more hostile than China proper or Korea, but not 70%!

Balfegor said...

Sorry, wait, no. Per the corrected data, Hong Kong is less hostile to foreigners than South Korea. Sorry!

David said...

The reunification of Germany, though difficult and expensive in the short run, was a political master stroke and will benefit Germans for a long time to come.

Of course the Germans did not have 1.4 billion Chinese next door, or any other government set on dominating them.

Static Ping said...

It is somewhat difficult to consider how difficult it will be to unify North and South Korea. South Korea is an advanced economic power with a well educated population and an imperfect but functional republic. North Korea is essentially a country level cult with probably the majority of the country living in a pre-industrial culture and little if any exposure to the outside world. The only silver lining I see is the North Koreans have been trained to do what they are told to such an extent that the South Koreans could probably force a reunification agreement upon them that would gradually joins the halves together. It would be roughly on par with an occupation treaty like after the WWII. You get the sense that adult North Koreans would never be allowed to vote but their children will franchised eventually.

Rusty said...

"What does the North have to offer the South?"
Nothing but expenses.
An ill educated, sick and malnourished population that will cost the south precious treasure for decades to come.

readering said...

I read that North Korea should no longer be categorized as a Marxist-Leninist state. It is intensely racialist, with an anti-foreigner ideology closer to Nazism. Some in the South apparently look with some admiration on this aspect of the Kim dynasty regime.

readering said...

Indeed, Wikiepedia lists N. Korea as former communist state:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communist_state

Ron Winkleheimer said...

I don't know where they got the idea that reunification was a long held sacrosanct goal. Back in the early 90s when I was stationed there you could talk to plenty of young Koreans who weren't too eager to reunify. And they gave the same reasons. In addition to the economic reasons though, you also have the fact that North Koreans have been extremely traumatized by their government and are actually pretty weird. Most of them are likely suffering from complex PTSD.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complex_post-traumatic_stress_disorder

Integrating them into modern Korean society is going to be an incredibly difficult task. I expect that when reunification comes SK will be doing their best to prevent millions of refugees from swarming south.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

@readering

The political ideology of NK is Juche.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juche

Balfegor said...

Re: Ron Winkleheimer:

I expect that when reunification comes SK will be doing their best to prevent millions of refugees from swarming south.

Fortunately for them, they have possibly the most heavily fortified barrier in the world between them and North Korea. Trump would weep tears of bitter envy, were he to gaze upon the miles and miles of fences, walls, and landmines that guard the South. All South Korea has to do to prevent millions of refugees from swarming south is exactly what they have done every day of every year for the past sixty years. The infrastructure is already in place.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

The infrastructure is already in place.

Yeah, but its the NK government that is keeping them from swarming to the south. Is the SK government going to order its soldiers to open fire on people seeking food? Will the soldiers do so? Those barriers are only useful if armed men are willing to kill to prevent them being breached. I'm thinking that SK will need to airlift massive amounts of food and medicine to the north and repatriate anyone who does manage to get to SK.

Original Mike said...

Blogger Birkel said...”Let's imagine how the rest of the country will feel about reunification with Connecticut, Illinois and California after those three Leftist Collectivist states cannot pay their own bills.”

The next time the Dems own the federal government, we’ll all be paying for their pension deficits. We are living on borrowed time.

Balfegor said...

Yeah, but its the NK government that is keeping them from swarming to the south. Is the SK government going to order its soldiers to open fire on people seeking food?

They just need to leave the minefield in place. Which, practically speaking, they will probably already do because it is expensive to find and remove mines. And then leave Panmunjom as a controlled border crossing. Maybe build a higher wall. There is another crossing by Kaesong, I think (which I have never seen), but from photos, that one looks like it's an entire complex of barbed wire fences and so on, which could also be left in place.

As for whether, in extremis, South Korean troops will fire on North Korean civilians, um, yes, I do think South Korean troops would fire on North Korean civilians. I mean, the army isn't what it was back during the Korean war, where they massacred tens of thousands of South Korean civilians to prevent the emergence of a fifth column. Or even what they were in 1980, when the US detached a number of Korean units from their command so they could go suppress the rebels in Kwangju. But it's not that hard to imagine.

In practice, though, they would probably just use riot shields and clubs on refugees, the same as the police do on demonstrators (and demonstrators do on police). Brutal, but mostly nonlethal.

The Godfather said...

If I were the South Korean government, and NK wanted to unify, I'd say "Bring me the head" of whatever Kim was then in charge in NK. Then bring me ALL your nuclear warheads.

Then we'll talk.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Those barriers are only useful if armed men are willing to kill to prevent them being breached. I'm thinking that SK will need to airlift massive amounts of food and medicine to the north and repatriate anyone who does manage to get to SK.

1/29/18, 3:32 PM

Pretty sure ROK soldiers will kill whoever they are pointed at.

Cheap enough to send 'em food. 25.37m Norks. At 3 McD dollar menu items a day, 3 McChicken for every Nork, 1440 kcal/day is $75m/day, $27.375bn/yr. And they'd get a volume discount. And it wouldn't be processed foods but rice and such at probably a tenth of that cost. ROK can pay $3bn/yr to keep the rabble out.

Or... Airdrop the food over the borders with China and Russia, and see what happens ;)

Balfegor said...

Re: Bad Lieutenant:

Forget McDonalds -- give them Chocopies! You know it's what they want.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Where are chocopies on this list?

http://efficiencyiseverything.com/calorie-per-dollar-list/

For frills they gotta give up something.

Jupiter said...

What a bunch of fucking idiots. North Korea has an immense collection of artillery sited and ready to destroy Seoul in a couple of hours, with millions of casualties. They are now in the process of adding nuclear weapons to the mix, so as to double or triple the casualties in a tenth of the time. And these little twits don't want to have to pay to end that threat? They'd rather save their money and buy a second cell phone. So they can post fotos of the first few explosions to FaceBook. Before the Internet goes down.

Jupiter said...

In any case, we will be happy to help them fix the shithole the Chi-Coms turned half of their country into. Of course, that's the real problem. The Chi-Coms like things pretty much the way they are.

Rusty said...

Jupiter
That's the other problem. NKoreans have no modern skills. If one of them has a cell phone it means that they are from the privileged caste. They don't have HD TVs, no personal computers. No credit cards. For all intents and purposes the vast majority of NKoreans are illiterate in modern culture. Seoul might as well be "The World of Tomorrow" to them.

One of the defense intelligence agencies did a survey of the likely condition of NKorean material and personnel a few years ago. The defecting soldier proved the predictions right. The rank and file NKorean soldier is a poor physical specimen and for the most part half the ordinance that the North has aimed at Seoul is in poor condition or doesn't work at all. Kim has placed all his military spending in his nuke basket.