Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

If North Korea Falls

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

If North Korea Falls

Article excerpt

THE SOURCE: "The Long Goodbye: The Future North Korea" by Robert D. Kaplan and Abraham M. Denmark, in world Affairs, May-June 2011.

OVER THE LAST 50 YEARS, Northeast Asia has been transformed from a remote backwater devastated by war into the crossroads of the 21st century, economically, politically, and militarily. One vestige of the old days remains: North Korea. Impoverished and isolated, it is nevertheless the keystone on which the fragile architecture of the region's power relations rests. A North Korean collapse--a possibility but not a certainty--could drag China, South Korea, Japan, and possibly the United States into conflict. Robert D. Kaplan and Abraham M. Denmark, both fellows at the Center for a New American Security, warn that these powers are not prepared for the challenge.

It's a fool's errand to predict whether or when the regime of Kim Jong Il or his son will fall apart. The country faces severe challenges at the same time that North Koreans have gained more access to the wider world. Mobile phones have become popular, Korean-language broadcasts of Voice of America and Radio Free Asia are available 24/7, and there is a black market in pornography and South Korean soap opera DVDs. Yet despite increased media availability, many people are so poor that some are said to be surviving on little more than grass. But the regime has withstood decades of extreme poverty. Could the Arab Spring affect North Korea? "It would be more likely ... to spread to the next galaxy," says one unnamed expert. …

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