When the North Korean government collapses, which is going to be sooner rather than later, what will integrating the North and South cultures be like?
Based on what I’ve seen, I don’t expect too much difficulty. The reason is that both the people of the North and South are largely anarchic.
Let me explain what I mean. In the South, a lot of business happens without the government ever knowing about it. Cops don’t exist for a lot of people. Your reaction when someone steals or someone breaks a law that injures you is not to run to the police, but to either move on or extract justice another way.
Granted, there are limits. You don’t just go out and kill someone. You do, however, appeal to the street. That is, if someone cheats you, you loudly proclaim their guilt in a public forum where plenty of people can hear and see.
For the most part, this system largely works. From what I know of Korean history, it’s worked for a very, very long time. It doesn’t matter who is at the top of the system of government, it doesn’t even really matter who is at the bottom, the people really don’t care and will largely manage themselves.
From the limited videos I have seen of North Korea that were smuggled out of the country, I have a great hope for the North Korean people. For the most part, their culture is largely the same as the South Korean people’s culture. Sure, they don’t play Starcraft, their principle needs are not being met (mostly food, clothing, and shelter), but they have that sense of street justice.
The two images that stand out in my mind are one, the open-air markets being conducted, more and more, in the open. The other is an ajumma (middle-aged woman, likely a mother) berating a uniformed police officer. The open air markets are run by the ajumma for the ajumma. And they remain open because the police and state fear the ajumma and their brand of street justice.
The images of starvation and suffering, death and otherwise breakup of people’s families is heartbreaking. If it is true that starvation is wide-spread, then we have ever moral reason in the universe to invade North Korea sooner rather than later. The reason is simply because we have food, and we want to distribute the food, and the only thing standing between us is the North Korean government. Is it immoral to eliminate a violent gang that prevents people from distributing food, or is it more immoral to allow the gang to continue their ways?
However, starvation and suffering are easily remedied. It’s a matter of distributing food, clothing, and shelter. As a country and as a society and culture, we have plenty of experience with this. We can saturate North Korea with food in a matter of days, provided we were given the freedom to move about and build as we needed. Over time, we can help the starving develop skills to work productively in society, most likely in the growing or distribution of food.
The prison camps that dot North Korea are also another moral argument for invasion. I can’t imagine that we live in a world where people are allowed to be tortured and killed simply for disagreeing with their government.
Some propose that we allow North Korea to correct itself by subversively transporting arms and munitions into the countryside. They believe North Korea is better off like Afghanistan than what it is today. Perhaps North Korea could even become like the Old West.
I don’t understand this thinking. Korean people simply don’t think or act that way. Their culture doesn’t favor violent overthrow of their own government. If anything, it would take someone outside of their cultural norms to lead such a revolution, and that someone would be considered all but psychotic by the people who follow. You don’t have to look very far in their history to see this pattern.
If anything, I believe the North Korean people are waiting for their situation to change, just like they waited for the Japanese to fall, or the Mongolian occupation to end, or for the evil kings of history to die. Amidst the oppression and cruelty of the Chosun dynasty, after all, there were a few benevolent kings and leaders, such as the Great King Sejong and General I Sunshin.
If anything, it is up to the Americans to lead the Korean people to throw down the Kim Ilsung dynasty and replace it with something more agreeable, much like they did to the Japanese.
I think this is why the Koreans really don’t care when North Korea acts up. They secretly hope they have to do nothing about it but follow the lead of a great leader.