One Korea?

The Atlantic recently asked a group of foreign-policy authorities about the future of North and South Korea.

What is the likelihood that North and South Korea will continue to reconcile and normalize relations over the next five years?
54% Somewhat likely

“The leadership of North Korea seems to [now believe that] it is in its interest to risk destabilizing pressures from opening up to South Korea in order to gain the economic benefits that ‘normalization’ provides. South Korea seems to believe that [normalizing relations would] lessen the chances of a cataclysmic collapse of the regime in the North. As long as both sides accept this cost/benefit exchange, some form of normalization will continue—barring a sudden internally driven political upheaval in the North.”

“Each side has strong, albeit different, incentives to try to move the process along.”

“There is now a consensus in South Korea that closer economic and political relations is in their interest. While the conservatives and progressives might dispute how quickly to move, the direction is now beyond question.”

“It depends mostly on whether we keep to the deal and are prepared to live with difficulties and ambiguities. We've got to buy time for this non-war track to work.”


“Whatever the government in South Korea, there will be continued efforts to reconcile the Koreas. It will be the pace and structures of incentives and disincentives that will change depending on government not the fact of trying to make progress.”

“Neither has better options given that little Korea is surrounded by three big guns.”

“Highly likely—and the U.S. should stay out of the way!”

“But progress will be slow. Depends on North Korea’s willingness to get rid of its nuclear capability.”

“South Korea has been in high appeasement mode for the past decade, and North Korea enjoys being appeased. What savage dictator doesn't?”

“There is an increasing incentive on the part of the North to improve relations with the South. As its economic dependence on the South grows, the need to continue to interact with it will grow as well.”

“Reconciliation and normalization will not occur overnight, but three conditions make the peninsula ripe for a gradual improvement in relations over the next five years: the nuclear deal and better relations with the U.S., the increase in economic linkages with South Korea, and the more determined engagement of China.”

“Yes, but that is based on the phrase 'will continue to.' If it is to fully reconcile and normalize, then it is unlikely.”

“I see no evidence in South Korea of serious controversy over the goal of reconciliation. The momentum is likely to come from the South.”

“It is highly likely that there will be further progress on tension reduction and regular exchanges over the next five years. Even if the conservatives win the upcoming election, it is unlikely that the current strategy of engagement will be reversed. It is likely, however, that a conservative president will be somewhat more demanding of reciprocal action by the North.”

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