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 ILC2021-8 Session 5 - Presentation of  Dr. Yevgeny Kim

I thank the moderator Mrs. Moffit for giving me the floor.

Dear conference participants!

I would like to express my point of view on the main topic of our discussion.

First of all, I would like to note that 28 years ago, in 1993, I had a chance to speak in Seoul to the participants of one seminar of the members of the Consultative Committee for the Peaceful Democratic Unification of Korea (which is a constitutional body formed by the President of the Republic of Korea).

At that time, I said that their hopes that, ok, Kim Il Sung dies and the North Korean regime collapses and the country's rapid unification takes place, are not feasible, because the North Korean regime will not collapse until its own Gorbachev appears there. I also said that there will be no unification of Korea for at least the next 30 years.

In 2011, after the death of Kim Il Sung's son, Chairman of the State Defense Committee Kim Jong Il, I also said that the DPRK regime would not fall. I can also say today that there will be no unification of Korea in the next 15-20 years.

Why? Neither the Republic of Korea (ROK), nor the United States, nor the DPRK have a basis for unification and there is no correct strategy for unification.

And there is no basis for unification, because ideologically and politically, the regimes of the ROK and DPRK are at antipodes and they will not be able to agree on the socio-economic, political, moral principles of the future united state.

In addition, the unification strategy implemented by the ROK envisages, no matter how much it is denied, the absorption of North Korea by South Korea. And in this, the strategies of the Republic of Korea and the United States coincide.

At the same time, if the Republic of Korea is in favor of coexistence with North Korea for a certain period, then the United States proceeds from a strategy of destroying not just the regime, but the DPRK state itself.

This task is not realizable either now or in the foreseeable future. Moreover, South Korea considers a military-political alliance with the United States to guarantee peace in Northeast Asia, as well as the unification of the two Koreas, although the Republic of Korea is now categorically opposed to the military method of unification.

From the viewpoint of North Korea, unification is presented only as the creation, at best, of some amorphous form in the form of a confederation, with two independent Korean states with different political and socio-economic systems, independent from each other. It may be the beginning of rapprochement and unification, but not unification. A Confederation is a rather loose association and can and most likely will disintegrate.

The question arises: what to do? What ideas, principles can help unification?

Can religion help? On the Korean Peninsula, the existing world religions cannot become the main force of unification, if only for the simple reason that there is no one religion uniting society in South Korea, and North Korea is an atheistic state.

Nationalism could become a unifying force. Nationalism is quite strong in both Koreas, but nationalism in the Korean states has different a vector of development. In addition, it must unite people living in different states who have different allies, different vectors of development, which is practically impossible. By different vectors of development, I mean the so-called democratic and authoritarian world. As you know, now certain political forces have announced the rallying of the democratic world in the struggle against the authoritarian world. The ROK and DPRK in this sense belong to different worlds. Moreover, democracy often leads to the fragmentation of society, and not to cohesion.

Then what ideas and ideals can unite? Maybe a new religion? But the emergence of a new world-class religion was only possible during the period of slavery and feudalism. Now there is neither one nor the other. A post-industrial, digital society is unlikely to be able to create a new world-class religion. Yes, and at the national level, this is difficult to implement, although the possibility of the emergence of such religions cannot be denied.

It is possible that customary law will help. In the case of both Koreas, these could be the ideas and norms of Confucianism, especially since in the two parts of the Korean Peninsula, the norms of Confucianism are quite stable and largely regulate social relations. But this, too, is still a reflection, not a reality, because South Korean society is moving further away from Confucian norms and moving towards Protestant morality.

You can try to find a common language with calls for human rights, but this also cannot be done, because North Korea perceives any attempts to deal with human rights in this country as interference in its internal affairs.

And these human rights themselves are now in many cases in conflict with the fundamental norms of democracy. For example, any democracy, actually as the rule of the people, is the rule of the majority. But current human rights norms require enhanced and even preferential protection and affirmation of the rights of minorities, including different minority groups.

Therefore, most likely it is necessary to look for ways to unite Korea not in some ideological and political concepts or strategies, but in a simple formula of a phased, long-term process of establishing cooperation in the field of economy, trade, and then in economic cooperation, including multilateral projects of both Koreas with involvement of other countries as well.

And as a result of the gradual leveling of living standards, the gradual convergence of living conditions, living standards, the nation's unification is possible. But this requires one most important condition: the political elites must work out a way to implement such a project and independently implement it.

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