North Korea in Transition

By Chong-Sik Lee; Se-Hee Yoo | Go to book overview

10. From National Unification to State Unification: A Realistic Design for One Korea

RHEE SANG-WOO

Koreans have suffered from national division for four decades. During that time, families have had no word from or about their loved ones left beyond the demilitarized zone (DMZ). No Koreans are allowed to travel across the military armistice line. Not even mail travels between the two Koreas. For North and South Koreans alike, the other side is farther than the moon.

In 1945, when the Korean peninsula was occupied by the Soviet and the U.S. armed forces, Korea was territorially divided. In 1948, when the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) were established in the South and the North respectively, the Korean state was divided. Finally, in 1950, when North Korea invaded South Korea, war divided the Korean nation.

Koreans yearn for reunification. Both North and South Korean governments pledge to achieve unification: to unify the Korean community under one government. The forms of the unified government configured in their minds are, however, completely different. North Korea wishes to install a Leninist state where the proletariat has political power to carry out a socialist revolution throughout Korean society. South Korea will accept only a liberal democratic government that guarantees the basic human rights of all members of the society regardless of their societal background. North Korea will not concede the proletariat dictatorship for unification, while South Korea will not sacrifice liberal democratic values even for unification. Thus despite frequently reiterated plans for unification advocated by the two governments, no progress has yet been made toward unification. And as long as the two sides stubbornly insist on their ideological positions, there will be no way to formulate a unified government through negotiation, since there is no room for compromise.

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