Sunday, November 1, 2009

Seoul and Washington hammer out OPLAN 5029

Yonhap is reporting that the US and South Korea have drawn up plans to deal with regime change in North Korea, an even that looms even larger than before given the precarious state of Dear Leader Kim Jong-il's health (Korea Times story here; Korea Herald story here).

From AFP:
It dictates how to respond case-by-case to such emergencies in North Korea as a civil war, an outflow of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), a mass influx of refugees or a natural disaster, Yonhap said.

Under the plan, the United States assumes the role of eliminating North Korea's WMDs, including its nuclear weapons, while South Korean troops play a leading role in most other parts, it said.
That kind of division of labor whereby the US grabs the nukes and any other WMDs laying around and the ROK military does everything else probably makes the most sense. The US could be a polarizing force, at least initially, and next-door neighbor China might not be as willing to let a ROK-US force move into its buffer state if it thinks Uncle Sam's forces will be a heavy and lingering presence.

North Korea, for its part, isn't too happy about Seoul and Washington talking about how to deal with its rotting corpse, and Roh Moohyun's administration acted out of sensitivity to that:
North Korea has strongly protested at US-South Korean discussions of contingency plans which it denounces as preparations to invade the communist state.
Such discussions had been suspended under the previous liberal Seoul government which feared such a plan could infringe on its own sovereignty.

Yonhap said the discussions resumed after conservative President Lee Myung-Bak took office last year, with the plan completed recently.
Given the two irreversible trajectories of Kim Jong-il's drive to develop nukes and his health prospects, it would be foolish to not be making plans for what to do if a post-KJI North Korea suddenly flew up on the radar.

One of my major concerns — and I don't know where to go to see if this is being addressed — is how former DPRKers will be protected from opportunistic evildoers once uppercase North Korea becomes lowercase northern Korea. At the very least, I feel, they should be given title and deed to the homes they live in, particularly outside of Pyongyang. Making them instant land owners instead of tenants will go a long way toward insulating them from the buffeting that will come later.

At the same time, it might be necessary to keep both erstwhile ROKers and DPRKers from migrating to the other side — northerners coming south in droves to get work and southerners going north to take advantage of less sophisticated former communists, possibly even stripping them of their land and other property. Think senior citizens harassed by scammers or perpetrators of phishing schemes.

At some point, an equilibrium of sorts may work itself out. Northerners won't want to be too far from their families, and the land and resources of the north could lead to job creation north of the 38° that puts a damper on massive migration to the already overcrowded south.

I just hope I'm not the only one thinking about this stuff.

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