Capitalism key to resolving Korean conflict successfully

By Chris Giglio

Opinions Editor

North Korea’s shelling of the island of Yeonpyeong last week has tested U.S. policy in the region.  The United States must honor its long-time defense alliance with South Korea in a way that does not provoke a nuclear-powered state with close ties to China to further hostile action.

So far the response from both the United States and South Korea has been one of military deterrence.  We’ve seen deployment of more weapons to the island of Yeonpyeong, a promise from South Korean president Lee to retaliate for any future aggression and the deployment of a nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carrier to the region.

In many ways a military response is justifiable.  Could you imagine if the United States was bombarded by artillery?  Furthermore the latest attack follows the sinking of a South Korean naval ship, which killed 46 sailors and which is widely blamed on North Korea.

Still, while a military response is justifiable and should definitely play a role, it is not what will ultimately solve the problem.

What needs to be addressed is the backwards, quasi-communist ideology in North Korea that has been forcefully entrenched by the Kim regimes.  This past summer I had a glimpse of this ideology when I visited the North Korean World Expo pavilion in Shanghai.  In this pavilion, meant to display the countries’ cultural achievements, I saw Cold War era films of marching soldiers hailing the “Dear Leader” as a divine ruler. The Kim Regime has proposed that North Korea stands under constant threat from a barbaric and chaotic outside world.  Because of the “ideological education” and repressive measures put in place, many, if not most, North Koreans believe this mantra despite the years of famine and violence they have been subjected to.  The key lies in changing this perception, thereby eroding the government’s justification of its often irrational and violent actions.

There are many ways to begin implementing this change but the most effective way is to promote the quasi-capitalist system that is already slowly beginning to emerge in North Korea.  Because of the extreme poverty North Korea faces, it has recently allowed people to begin selling products in the streets, and the police no longer crack down on illegal markets.  This is a small step in the right direction, but if further promoted, a quasi-capitalist society like the system in China could open North Korea to the world.

The hope is that this would both alleviate the extreme poverty in North Korea and begin to challenge the established principles in the country.  As revealed by Wikileaks earlier this week, China has much to gain by stabilizing North Korea and should therefore be willing to promote these measures.  With Kim Jong-Un set to succeed his father, this may be the perfect time to institutionalize change in North Korea.

By having a more balanced response to North Korean hostility, we can prevent an escalation of violence and help kick-start a very troubled State.

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