Tuesday, July 20, 2010

After the Cheonan Tragedy : the Juche, Sunshine, or China Line ?

I've been often asked what I thought about the sinking of Cheonan, a South Korean navy ship, presumably by a North Korean torpedo.

The Cheonan tragedy logically raised the issue of succession wars around the ailing KIM Jong-il, who himself played similar nasty tricks to secure his daddy's job (back then, a commercial plane destroyed).

Actually, I mostly consider it as collateral damage from internal tensions within North Korea, between the usual 3 main local lobbies, and particularly the first two :
- what I call the "Juche Line" : die-hard partisans of independence from China, Russia, and of course Western powers starting with the "puppet regimes" down South. From KIM Il-sung to KIM Jong-il, the path has narrowed to a dead end and the position is absolutely not sustainable. The "strategy" or lack of can be summed up as "tricks and treats" : show me the money / dough / rice or else...
- the "China Line" : collaborators for whom the only sustainable way for NK regime is to sell the country to China, play their infamous Northeastern Project, accept their Hanschluss (see for instance "
Great Wall of China - Anschlussing Korea (continued)")
- the (shrinking) "Sunshine Line" : "doves" (or the closest breed you can find that side of the DMZ) for whom the best case scenario would be a reunification with the South in the long term, with small and careful steps on the way, and a progressive evolution of NK politics, economics, and society.

Over the past few years, the change has been spectacular : the LEE Myung-bak government put an end to the Sunshine Policy, putting Jucheists off balance, but precipitating North Korea altogether into the arms of Beijing.

The Cheonan incident confirmed the trend, with very significant changes :
- new tone in Beijing, new vocabulary : a cold reception for KIM Jong-il, and a way of presenting North Korean issues as internal affairs. De facto, North Korea is now considered as a part of China, its rulers must report to Beijing, Beijing is legitimate for everything regarding national politics and security.
- tighter economic ties have been knotted between Beijing and Pyeongyang to compensate for the ones severed with the South.
- the trip of CHANG Sung-taek and KIM Jong-un one year ago in China was obviously very profitable for Beijing : KIM Jong-il's brother in law and son apparently joined the "China Line", isolating more than ever the ailing dictator. CHANG lost a rival in a convenient car accident and created an alternate FDI agency visibly very pro-China, and the now official heir apparent seems to be willing to play the role the big neighbor expected him to play : a DENG Xiaoping-like reformer moving the country (sorry : "the region") closer to "motherland" China.

Meanwhile, in the South, ultra-conservatives fuel mutual hatred on which they thrive, misusing the 60th anniversary of the war and the 100th anniversary of the Japanese rule to actually undermine the nation and help their counterparts in China and Japan. Uncle Sam ? The US want "no drama" in the area, and some would almost be glad to leave it up to China instead of risking more commercial skirmishes. The US-SK joint navy operations, initially planned in the Yellow Sea, have been diplomatically moved to the other side of the peninsula. Gates and Clinton are to visit the DMZ today.

Sadly, the Cheonan tragedy is about North Korean internal politics or, as seen from China, Chinese internal politics.

I don't think now is the time to reactivate the Sunshine Policy as it was, but severing the few positive links was definitely an ideal gift to China.

Seoul Village 2010

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your comments and remarks. Also for your patience (comments are moderated and are not published right away - only way to curb the spam, sorry). S.

books, movies, music