The ICAS Lectures


The Dynamics of the Political Future of the Korean Peninsula

Jong-ho Ri

ICAS Fall Symposium Prologue

September 13, 2019
Congressional Atrium CVC 200
United States Capitol Visitor Center
United States Congress
Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

Biographic sketch & Links: Jong-ho Ri

[Editor's note: This paper was translated from Korean into English. sjk]

The Dynamics of the Political Future of the Korean Peninsula

Jong-ho Ri

1. Introduction

The Korean Peninsula is facing a crisis now. Of course, there is no doubt that Kim Jong-unís reckless nuclear & missile provocations are worsening the situation on the Korean Peninsula. However, whatís more serious is that President Trump does not trust President Moon Jae-in & his administration.

The U.S. presidentís perspective is that the Moon Jae-in Administration does not share the U.S.- Republic of Korea (ROK) alliance strategy and common values, and that the Moon Administration is not doing enough of its role on the Korean Peninsula. The Moon Administration says the "ROK-U.S. alliance" is strong, but the Moon administration is too devoted to North Korea and China.

Thus from President Trumpís perspective, it appears he determined that the Moon administration is no longer useful for the U.S.ís Northeast Asia security strategy. He pointed out that the combined U.S.-ROK military exercises to protect South Korea are a complete waste of money to Prime Minister Abe on August 24, 2019.

Also, President Trump is pressuring South Korea to pay five times more of the defense cost sharing than now. Prime Minister Abe is also pressuring the Moon administration by removing South Korea from its export white list for not adhering to the agreement between the two countries.

Around the same time, Kim Jong-un tested missiles multiple times and threatened South Korea by saying it is a direct warning, and criticized president Moon with harsh words and curses. Meanwhile, taking advantage of the worsening South Korea-Japan and South Korea-U.S. relations, Chinese and Russian military aircraft violated the KADIZ (Korea Air Defense Identification Zone) & the Russian aircraft entered ROK airspace over Dokdo.

The simultaneous pressures and attacks are brought about by the incompetent leadership of President Moon Jae-in.

The current crisis on the Korean Peninsula is more about South Korea than about the sanctions on North Korea. The Korean Peninsula has a bitter history of incompetent leadership inviting foreign invasions and losing the country. It appears that history is being repeated now on the Korean Peninsula.

2. Three reasons why President Trump doesnít trust president Moon Jae-in

First, President Trump sees the Moon Administration leaning too much toward North Korea, and not sharing the U.S.-ROK alliance strategic interests and values.

Moonís slogan is "People First." But North Koreaís Juche ideology also states "People are the master of everything and decide everything." North Koreaís constitutionís first paragraph, section 3 also states "Democratic Peopleís Republic of Koreaís Ďpeople-centeredí world view." Thus, Moonís values ironically reflect North Koreaís Juche ideology and constitution.

The South Korean president and the majority of the key figures in the Blue House, the South Korean government, and the ruling party believe in the Juche ideology and were anti-U.S. activists, so they directly confront the values in the constitutions of South Korea and the U.S.

Therefore, the Moon administration cannot respond strongly to North Koreaís nuclear & missile provocations and remains silent on North Koreaís human rights violations. Theyíre only devoted to removing the sanctions on North Korea and giving economic aid to North Korea.

The Kim Jong un regime has conducted numerous nuclear and missile provocations in the past few years. This year, North Korea tested three types of short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) 20 times. It even warned that it was aiming at South Korea.

Because South Korea has a strong defense capability, if North Korea shoots one missile, then it can respond by 10 folds and the bombers can fly to Pyongyang and stop North Koreaís provocations.

However, Moon intentionally does not respond strongly to North Koreaís missile provocations and doesnít even attend the National Security Council meetings. He is revealing his identity. He diverts the publicís attention by using the media to portray that North Korean provocations are aimed at the U.S.

Furthermore, Moon servilely begs for peace by saying "Caution, as if handling a fragile glass and walking one step at a time, is needed."

North Koreaís nuclear and missile provocations are direct threats to South Korea.

Thus, the U.S. president tells the Moon administration that if thereís war, it would be on the Korean Peninsula and the short-range missiles that North Korea keeps testing are not threats to the U.S.

President Trumpís position expresses his disappointment with President Moon Jae-in, who is devoted to North Korea. Itís also an expression that he doesnít trust Moon.

Second, the Moon administration is devoted to China, and that is shaking the foundation of the ROK-U.S. alliance, strategic interests, and values.

As Xi Jinping extended the duration of his power and China became a dictatorial country, with imperialism and expansionism, a new Cold War has arrived. Xi Jinpingís authoritarianism is reviving the tyrannical and closed era of Mao Zedong.

The Republic of Korea is an ally of the U.S., but in this turbulent era, those in power in Korea are mostly composed of pro-China personnel, including President Moon Jae-in.

Thus, the Moon Administration decided to adopt the three Noís that China has been demanding, as South Koreaís basic foreign policy position, and is implementing them.

The three Noís are 1) No additional deployment of THAAD on the Korean Peninsula, 2) South Korea will not join the U.S. missile defense system, and 3) No South Korea-U.S.-Japan security alliance.

This is a serious act that violates the sovereignty of South Korea and the United States, and itís a betrayal that runs counter to the security interests and values of the alliance.

The Moon Jae-in government, which is subservient to China, has not yet fully deployed the THAAD, which the U.S. brought to Seongju Base (South Korea) in 2016 to defend South Korea against North Korean missile attacks.

Additionally, Lotte Group, which provided the land for the THAAD base in South Korea, has been kicked out of China with significant losses due to the Chinese government's suppression and boycott. However, the Moon administration has not even protested.

Furthermore, the Moon Jae-in administration's decision to end GSOMIA with Japan is in line with the three Noís policy of not forming a military alliance with Japan, and is a deceitful attempt to destroy the South Korea-U.S. alliance.

The THAAD in South Korea and GSOMIA defend the life and property of the Korean people and protect the U.S. troops and their families in Korea.

The Moon administration's acceptance of Chinaís three Noís undermines South Koreaís sovereignty and the U.S.-South Korea alliance and the shared strategic values. It also is a dangerous act of succumbing to China.

Third, President Trump feels that President Moon and his special envoys, to serve their own political purposes, betrayed him and Kim Jong-un, while playing the middle men going back and forth between North Korea and the U.S.

It was reported on August 24 in a Japanese newspaper that President Trump told Prime Minister Abe that President Moon is an "untrustworthy person" and that "Kim Jong Un also doesnít trust President Moon." Also it was reported that President Trump also said, "South Korea's attitude is too unreasonable. It's not wise."

If this is true, then this is a serious problem. Trump and Kim Jong-un may have discovered, after their three meetings, that the Moon Jae-in administration exaggerated and lied about acting as a mediator.

Perhaps because of that, President Trump and Kim Jong-un both criticize the Moon administration and say they do not trust the Moon government at the same time. North Korea says unspeakable things about South Korean officials and said, "We have no more to talk about with South Korean officials, and we donít even intend to sit down face to face."

In light of these, Moon Jae-in is shunned by both the U.S. president and Kim Jong-un.

3. How should North Korea denuclearize?

(a) North Koreaís nuclear weapons. What is the problem?

Kim Jong-un regards the nuclear weapons as a means for his survival and for permanently holding on to power. Therefore, as long as Kim Jong-un exists, denuclearization of North Korea can never be realized.

The North Korean dictator has an ambition to hold onto power for at least 50 more years, and pursued nuclear weapons development for three generations for regime survival.

Therefore, denuclearization of North Korea should not be approached with a "common method," but with special methods.

North Korea's nuclear weapons are a direct threat to South Korea, which has a political and economic system that competes with North Koreaís. Without North Korea's denuclearization, nuclear dominoes will occur in many countries, including Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, and China will be directly threatened as a result.

North Korea is well-connected in the Middle East. In particular, North Korea's nuclear weapons, missiles, and technology could fall into the hands of Middle Eastern countries and terrorists, threatening Israel. The terrorists can threaten the U.S. This is not some distant future.

For these reasons, the countries most threatened by North Korea's nuclear weapons (& proliferation) must boldly remove them. Trying to denuclearize North Korea with talks is foolish.

(b) What are ways to denuclearize North Korea?

We must scientifically diagnose that Kim Jong-un will never give up nuclear weapons and devise a new and special way that is appropriate for the North Korean regime to denuclearize. There are, then, five ways. Here are my personal thoughts.

First, employ psychological operations in North Korea to inform the people in North Korea that Kim Jong-unís obsession with the nuclear weapons development only turns all of North Korea into a nuclear disaster and that they are suffering from sanctions due to the nuclear weapons development.

To North Korean society, where external information is blocked, leaflets and USB sticks are the most effective means to inform the people in North Korea about the risks and injustice resulting from pursuing nuclear weapons development.

Second, let people know through leaflets and USBs that if Kim Jong-un does not give up nuclear weapons, there could be preventive strikes, which will cause fear. There should also be a (information) manual given to the generals and elites, so that even if there are preventive strikes, it doesnít expand into a war.

Third, the threat of psychological operations and preventive strikes would place fear in the minds of the military generals that things could really go wrong under Kim Jong-un, so they can become an instrument that destroys the stronghold of a cruel dictator, who is facing crisis.

Psychological operations are a very effective method that can yield victory without spilling blood. Currently, the international sanctions and Kimís terroristic control are creating dissatisfaction about Kim Jong-un and agitation and disorder in North Korea.

Fourth, give Kim Jong-un the goal and deadline of denuclearization, and if he does not execute it, then denuclearization of North Korea should be completed in a short time by selective preventive strikes.

Fifth, in solving North Koreaís nuclear weapons issue, it is important for the U.S. to establish a vision and strategy for a post-Kim Jong-un contingency situation.

After Kim Jong-unís death, how should we cooperate with the next regime? How will the nuclear weapons, facilities, and materials be managed? We need to prepare now.

If we donít, then the North Korean elites can look to China. The U.S. needs to conduct operations to win over the North Korean elites and generals now, and to show them the vision of their future and unification, and make them friends of the U.S.

I think this is the most effective and efficient way to denuclearize North Korea.

4. Political Future of dynamic Korean Peninsula

(a) Political future of the Korean Peninsula if the U.S. forces leave South Korea

The Moon Jae-in administration, on the surface, says the "ROK-U.S. alliance" is strong, but behind the scenes, it is systematically creating an atmosphere for the U.S. military withdrawal. The Moon administration destroyed GSOMIA with Japan, thereby destroying the foundation of South Korea-U.S.-Japan military cooperation and military alliance, as demanded by Chinaís three Noís. The Moon administration is also rupturing the U.S.í Indo-Pacific strategy. Additionally, it has not completed the deployment of THAAD, which has arrived in South Korea in 2016, and has been at the Seongju Base for three years. This is also per Chinaís demand.

The Moon administration is making numerous justifications for the U.S. military withdrawal: Early OPCON transition; early return of the U.S. military bases; defense cost sharing issue; calling the U.S. ambassador to the Foreign Ministry to complain. If the Moon administration continues its pro-China and anti-U.S. policies, then the U.S. military withdrawal is a matter of time.

On the other hand, President Trump also determined that the Moon administration is inconsistent with the U.S. strategic interests and values, so heís pressuring South Korea to pay more of the defense cost share and expresses that the U.S.-ROK combined military exercises are a waste of money, which maximizes the justification for withdrawing U.S. troops from Korea.

If the U.S. military withdraws from South Korea, there are two possible scenarios.

First scenario: If the U.S. military withdraws, the insecurity causes South Korea to face an economic crisis. Stock prices fall, foreign capital leaves, and the value of the Korean won falls dramatically, which puts companies at risk of bankruptcy. Taking advantage of these opportunities, the Chinese government approaches South Korean economy like a Tsunami and will be out in full force buying these distressed South Korean companies. In the end, South Korea quickly folds into the economy of China, South Koreaís GDP plummets, unemployment spikes, and the people fall into poverty again after decades of economic advancement. It would be too late then for South Korean people to curse President Moon and the jusapa, and lament and regret.

Second scenario: If the U.S. military withdraws from South Korea, reckless Kim Jong-un continues to intimidate South Korea with nuclear weapons and missiles, and invades South Korea within a year, like North Vietnam did (in the 70s).

The Moon Jae-in government proposes a compromise with North Korea, and Kim Jong-un demands unconditional surrender. The angry South Korean citizens and soldiers rise up and fight, and ruthless Kim Jong-un is willing to use nuclear weapons against military bases and go on the offensive and advance to South Korea and unify Korea under his rule. At that time, the Moon Jae-in administration, fearing nuclear weapons, declares its unconditional surrender.

In case of war, North Korea has a rear area of China and Russia that provides weapons and war materials, but South Korea has no such rear area for supplies without Japan and the U.S.

Kim Jong-un occupies South Korea in 10 days and declares Martial Law, and conducts massacre, and quickly seize South Korea by implementing his plan of placing both the Korea Workersí Party and the Peopleís Committee (executive part of the government) in each province in South Korea and appointing chairmen for both organizations in each province.

Meanwhile, the airports and ports are blocked due to Martial Law, preventing Koreans from getting rescued. They become boat people refugees and emigrate to Japan, the U.S., and the Philippines.

The Korean-American community and Americans from various political and other fields, who canít just watch the tragedy, along with pro-U.S. groups in South Korea send an SOS to the U.S. president and the U.S. Congress for help. As a result, the U.S. conducts a large-scale operation to rescue South Korea, purge North Korean leadership, unify the Korean Peninsula under the leadership of those pursuing freedom, and reestablish a strong alliance again to protect the security of Northeast Asia. The United States then controls and manages North Korea's nuclear weapons and nuclear materials, and cooperates in bringing about a unification government.

(b) Ways to overcome current crisis in South Korea.

The Jusapa faction in South Korea has usurped the power of the government with hypocrisy, lies, and plotting, and is attempting to destroy the U.S.-ROK alliance. Itís pushing the Korean Peninsula into a crisis.

In order to overcome the crisis and rectify the situation on the Korean Peninsula, it is necessary to replace Moon Jae-in's socialist government early and the freedom faction must take power.

In order to do this, a timely method is for the U.S. government to expose the scandal of the Moon administration breaking sanctions and giving North Korea billions of dollars in slush money in exchange for South Korea-North Korea summits. This could be a fatal blow to bring down the Moon government.

Additionally, the shadowy hands of the Moon Jae-in administration also helped South Korean companies and banks illegally buy North Korean coal, and oil companies, ships and banks that illegally provided hundreds of thousands of tons of South Korean oil at sea to North Korean ships. The UN and the U.S. should enforce strong sanctions against them.

This issue can also be a catalyst to bring down the Moon Jae-in government by disclosing its illegal acts of violating sanctions against North Korea. It could be an opportunity to overcome the current crisis on the Korean Peninsula.

(c) What is the way for Korea to unify?

The Korean Peninsula has a long history of 5,000 years, but it has been divided for the last 75 years. This is the only remnant of the Cold War in the world. Hundreds of thousands of South Korean and North Korean troops still face each other across the DMZ.

As such, without unification, conflict continues and nuclear threats never go away. Thus far, there have been numerous assertions on the Korean Peninsula that preach the justification of unification, such as "Let's drive out foreign powers and unify independently", "Unification is a jackpot," "Peaceful Unification by ourselves" and "Unification by federation."

Thereís even a claim in Washington that the U.S. troops should withdraw and South Korea and North Korea must fight to unify, like Vietnam. And that may happen if the stakeholders in South Korean societyóthe people, the elected leaders, the military, the judges, the police, the press, businesses, etc.--cannot do their jobs. But that could be a terrible, bloody war.

Nevertheless, I insist that Korea should be unified into a liberal democracy and market economy, which has proven its superiority as a result of over 70 years of experimentation by the Korean people. This is because the liberal democracy in South Korea with the Kim dynasty in North Korea, still confront each other on the Korean Peninsula.

Korea is not unified, not due to foreign powers, but due to the ambition of the North Korean dictator seeking permanent power. The North Korean constitution specifies the Korean people as Kim Il-sungís and Kim Jong-ilís people (minjok) to legally justify the permanent power of the Kim family. So how can South Korea and North Korea unify and create a free democratic system?

The Kim regime, which is a fanatical religious group, can only be maintained in closed spaces. Therefore, the Kim dynasty regime in North Korea has enforced a closed-door policy for 75 years, obliterating civil liberties and human rights.

Therefore, the 25 million oppressed Koreans in North Korea are envious of the freedom and prosperity of South Korea and desperately hope to be liberated as soon as possible.

But their earnest hopes are blocked by a cruel dictator. Under that system, people should not know about the prosperity and freedom of South Korean society. South Korean films, dramas, music, and publications are all forbidden, and if found, the possession and watching are considered crimes.

This is the reason why the Korean people have to break down the dictator's stronghold and free the North Korean people who long for freedom, and this is the main reason why South and North should be unified with one system and one ideology.

First, the central headquarters for free united Korea should be brought to the U.S. and the vision and strategy of unification should be presented. It is also necessary to operate a unification fund and support the struggle for the liberation of Koreans in North Korea to achieve the sacred feat of unification.

We should make a vision and model for the future government of a unified Korea and prepare durable security and economic strategies that fit the geopolitical position of the Korean Peninsula with the U.S.

In addition, we should demonstrate leadership by finding more talented people from Korea and elsewhere to grow them into leaders to help achieve the great task of unification.

Second, since the Korean Peninsula has historically been a contested area for world's great powers, Koreans should use their historical experience as a background to strengthen international solidarity with the U.S., which values freedom and fundamental rights, and go forward with the U.S. in pursuing a unified Korea and its future.

The Korean people should strengthen their own capacity, and at the same time, closely cooperate with the U.S. government and Americans from various walks of life to participate together in the unification of the Korean Peninsula.

Third, the biggest obstacle to the unification of the Korean Peninsula is North Korea's dictator, who denies liberal democracy and market economy and tramples on North Korean people's freedom and human rights. Therefore, we must organize and mobilize all Koreans to struggle to free 25 million Koreans in North Korea from tyranny.

To do so, we must strengthen the local stakeholdersí capacity for freedom-based unification, and conduct psychological operations with the U.S. against North Korea to inspire Koreans in North Korea to grow capability to oppose and support them materially, psychologically, and spiritually. With the capability, they can destroy the dictator themselves and we can help them to achieve liberation and unification.

Thank you.

This page last updated September 15, 2019 jdb