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Beyond Aggression

Beyond Aggression

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Published by Andres Aguilera
A brief commentary on North Korea by Andres Aguilera
A brief commentary on North Korea by Andres Aguilera

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Andres Aguilera on Oct 19, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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10/19/2010

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Beyond Aggression:
Considering alternative scenarios to the status quoBy Andres AguileraKorea UniversityGraduate School of International StudiesThe world is changing; it has already changed dramatically in the last couple of decades;the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Gulf Wars, 9/11, the “Global War on Terror”, therise of China, the election of an African American President to the White House, just toname a few. However, not many things have changed in the tense situation of the KoreanPeninsula; the inter-Korean conflict feels so anachronistic, belonging to a long-gone ColdWar.In fact, it seems the situation has reached new levels of hostility and aggression with theescalation of the nuclear proliferation issue, the abandonment of the Six Party talks andthe recent tests of missile technology all by the North (not to mention the seasonal brawlsand complaints
1
), these events have sent potent shockwaves to the security structure of Northeast Asia.Given the multiple complexities of the issue at hand, the lengthy and tiring conflict, thenuclear component, the current stalemate situation and the high level of uncertainty andunpredictability shown by the North Korean regime, a wide set of scenarios need to bedepicted not only as thought experiments
2
but as risk mitigation strategies to handle
black swans
or
 fat tails
3
 
that may appear in this process
.
 On this matter “
Shaping the Next One Hundred Years: New Methods for Quantitative, Long-Term Policy Analysis
” by Robert J. Lempert
et. al
provide some insight on the issue:
scenario-based planning is designed precisely to grapple with this multiplicity and unpredictability. Scenario-planning can crystallize the understanding that the long term future
1
The exchange of fire by the North Korea and South Korean Navies in late January 2010, or thedenunciation by North Korea of the annual joint military drills between South Korea and the United States.
2
A thought experiment is considered as the testing (examination) of a hypothesis without the actualexperimentation but imbedded in strong theoretical rigor.
3
The idea of black swans or fat tails implies the occurrence of highly improbable events but withsignificant consequences.
 
may be very different from the present, and it can also help decision makers choose strategiesbased on this recognition
.”
4
 Bringing this analysis model to the North Korean case there is a fairly recent SpecialReport by the Council for Foreign Relations titled “
Preparing for Sudden Change in North Korea.”
5
 
One of key developments in the news is Kim Jong-Il health conditionand the implications of this issue in the case of 
Sudden Change
in the North Koreanregime. This report devised three scenarios for change: 1) managed succession; 2)contested succession; 3) failed succession. However the authors doubt that politicalchange might come from below: “
There are certainly good reasons to be skeptical about the possibility of fundamental political change in North Korea, certainly through a “people-power”type social movement that have toppled dictatorships elsewhere. The country’s cult-like politicalsystem, its relative geographical and political isolation, the
 absence of any real civil society
 , and repressive state control all clearly
 reduce the impetus and opportunities for change from below
.”
 The first scenario described as managed succession implies a smooth transition in powerfrom Kim Jong-Il to a handpicked successor; no evident internal struggle and nosignificant change in the regime’s posture. Some media sources have speculated thissuccessor might be Kim Jong-Un (Kim Jong-Il’s third son).The second scenario depicts a contested succession, basically struggle of power betweencompeting factions or individuals. This scenario may imply the eruption violence andunexpected consequences like regime change but not necessarily in a desired direction,consequently creating internal instability.The third scenario is a failed succession, sending North Korea to a failed state condition(if is not already one?) with dire humanitarian consequences for its population andcreating tension all over the region, especially in the Chinese border.But no interested party wants North Korea to fail. The costs, risks and challenges are justtoo big for all the players.
4
Lempert, Robert J.
Shaping the Next One Hundred Years: New Methods for Quantitative, Long-TermPolicy Analysis.
RAND, 2003. Online athttp://www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1626/  (Accessed October 19, 2009)
5
Stares, Paul B. and Joel S. Wit.
Preparing for Sudden Change in North Korea.
Council of ForeignRelations, January 2009. Online athttp://www.cfr.org/publication/18019/preparing_for_sudden_change_in_north_korea.html(AccessedFebruary 25, 2009)
6
Ibid, page 3. (boldface included by me)

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