A Publisher’s Insight On The Korean Peninsula

EDITOR’S NOTE: Times Publisher John Derby knows firsthand about North and South Korea — and their people, land and history. Derby lived in South Korea as a journalist for almost two years in 1960 and 1961. His job was to cover the military news from Seoul to North Korea during the “Conflict.” Last year, he returned after decades to see what changes had taken place.

By JOHN M. DERBY
June 14, 2018

The people of South Korea have achieved amazing results in the past 57 years. There is a tendency to lump Koreans with all Asians, however, they have a different nature.

They are a gentle people, who have been dominated by the Japanese and the Chinese. The split of their country was only possible with the help of the Chinese Communists.”

Many of the people would like to see the country reunited, as many South Koreans have family in North Korea and vice versa. North Korea is only divided from South Korea due to dictators who use force to maintain their control of the north.

Almost half the people in North Korea have some connection with the government. For a small country, the military is the major employer and also the major benefactor. Most people live in poverty, and fear losing what little they have.

The latest efforts to bring the two countries back together has much support, however, South Koreans are aware of the problems in the north, and are leery of what will happen once the two countries are joined.

South Korea is not totally without corruption and past presidents have been accused of using their office to benefit themselves. South Koreans are well educated and have much freedom of thought and action. They have used that freedom to take action against the government many times.

This action is often lead by the students.

South Korea does not trust North Korea and with good reason because North Korea has attempted to invade South Korea many times even since the main war was over. The Demilitarized Zone has been riddled with tunnels — one of which was large enough to allow 40,000 men to cross into South Korea in one day along with equipment and ammunition.

North Korea continues to be aggressive toward South Korea, and the recent use of missiles is just the latest case. The country’s aggressiveness has also been directed at the United States.

In the past, the United States has offered deals to North Korea if it behaved itself, and that may have led to their thought that by threatening other countries they could get what they want.

This time, Trump has said in effect “no deal.”

It may have been what has brought Kim Jong Un to the negotiation table. However, no one is fooling the other. Trump knows the history of North Korea and the way it has negotiated in the past, only to threaten again.

The situation in North Korean has become more desperate now. The United Nations has approved sanctions which cut off some of Korea’s ability to trade.

United States has shown that countries like China have allowed under the table trade with Korea and pressure has been put on China to stop allowing it. The Chinese are a key player in the negotiations.

North Korea has very little resources of its own so without trade, it is in a very poor economic situation.

As President Trump goes to the negotiation table with Kim Jong Un, there may be some deals which he can make.

One is to offer to reduce the U.S. military presence now in South Korea. We don’t need all the men and women there to protect South Korea, and if Kim Jong Un is willing to stop all production and use of nuclear weapons then that is something we could offer in return.

There are also the economic sanctions which have been imposed by the United Nations. While Trump does not have the power to speak for other countries, he could persuade them to drop some or all of the trade sanctions if North Korea agrees to shut down all nuclear weapons production and use.


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