These acknowledgements were written for the 165,000 word original draft of this manuscript. Some scholars recognized below have been squeezed out of this draft due to space constraints. However, I include them here because they each played an important role in influencing my analysis.
In my efforts to understand the central problems surrounding the extended Korean civil war and the related geopolitics of East Asia, I have benefited from a formidable list of luminaries and scholarly influences. Several thinkers who have identified the value of unconventional wisdom were helpful in formulating my initial thesis, as I too was uncomfortable about the current state of conventional wisdom in academic, policy, and political circles. Indeed, the cautious mentoring of skeptical iconoclastic thinkers promotes analytical integrity over capricious capitulation to established norms of dubious distinction.
In this regard, I wish to express my gratitude for Joshua Cooper Romo’s The Age of the Unthinkable: Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us (2009), Philip Bobbett’s The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History (2002), Phillip Tetlock’s, Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know? (2005), and David Rothkopf’s National Insecurity: American Leadership in an Age of Fear (2014) and Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World they are Making (2008). I wish to appropriate special appreciation to Robert Blackwill and Jennifer Harris’ War By Other Means (2016); this volume offers similarly critical geoeconomic policy advice to America in these challenging times.
The scholars I have listed above offer extraordinary insights that resonate with what I have intuitively understood but found difficult to articulate. These independent thinkers provide an invaluable assessment of the geopolitical and geoeconomic successes and failures of our times. Their analytic efforts help us to think outside the box—to see the world differently—and offer vastly important contributions to contemporary scholarship.
It became evident early in my research that to understand the Korean problem I would need to learn a great deal more about security competition between the United States and China, since North Korea is a geopolitical wedge issue between these great powers. I have benefited from an avalanche of newly published books on China and the Sino-U.S. relationship. Although there is no consensus among scholars on where this competition will lead, the world’s most important bilateral relationship seems inextricably bound to developments in Korea.
Among this panoply of scholars of all sorts of theoretical commitments and sizes of concern, there are political scientists who see China as a significant future threat to U.S. interests. Aaron Friedberg’s A Contest for Supremacy: China, America, and the Struggle for Mastery of Asia (2011) provides an incisive analysis of Sino-U.S. relations through perspectives similar to his mentor, Samuel Huntington, who wrote The Clash of Civilizations: And the Remaking of World Order (1996), and the offensive realist and conflict thesis of John Mearsheimer, as formulated in his magnum opus, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (2003).
Michael Pillsbury’s long view in The Hundred Year Marathon: China’s Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower (2015) contends that military hawks are currently in control of Chinese foreign policy and they are set on seeking revenge for past colonial and wartime transgressions by replacing the United States as a hegemonic power. David Shambaugh’s China Goes Global: The Partial Power (2013), Larry Wortzel’s The Dragon Extends Its Reach: Chinese Military Power Goes Global (2013), and Denny Roy’s Return of the Dragon: Rising China and Regional Security (2013) are each suspicious of Chinese intentions and distrust the China Dream. Seth Cropsey’s somewhat polemical Mayday: The Decline of American Naval Supremacy (2013) argues that China’s military modernization challenges the United States to build more submarines and other weapons of the sea and sky in order to retain naval supremacy.
Forecasts about the absolute or relative decline of U.S. power and influence in the world have long been a topic for geopolitical analysts and celebrity pundits. Paul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000 (1987), Kishore Mahbubani’s The New Asian Hemisphere: The Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the East (2008), Martin Jacques’ When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order (2009), and Fareed Zakaria’s, The Post-American World (2008) argue U.S. hegemony is waning, and that its unipolar moment may soon be over.
Countering these declinist sentiments are Josef Joffe’s The Myth of American Decline: Politics, Economics, and a Half Century of False Prophesies, Peter Zeihan’s The Accidental Superpower: The Next Generation of American Preeminence and the Coming Global Disorder, Joseph Nye’s The Future of Power, Bruce Jones’ Still Ours to Lead: America, Rising Powers, and the Tension between Rivalry and Restraint (2014), and Michael Beckley’s seminal article in International Security, “China’s Century? Why America’s Edge Will Endure.”
Other China scholars and publicists are pessimistic about Beijing reforming its autocratic political-economic system. James Mann’s The China Fantasy: Why Capitalism Will Not Bring Democracy to China (2008), Richard McGregor’s The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers (2012), and John Bryan Starr’s Understanding China: A Guide to China’s Economy, History, and Political Culture (2010) each dispute the popular prediction that the influence of Western pluralism will push or pull the CCP to adopt more democratic political principles and liberal reforms such as freedom of the press and of the Internet, or to comport more fully to international norms and standards.
And there are apologists who do not see China as a serious threat to the international system of order and who portray China merely as a rising state evolving to share an ever larger role in global affairs commensurate with its economic success. These scholars contend that the U.S. should adapt graciously to its rise. Hugh White’s The China Choice: Why America Should Share Power (2011), Edward Steinfeld’s, Playing Our Game: Why China’s Rise Doesn’t Threaten the West (2010), Andrew Nathan and Andrew Scobell’s, China’s Search for Security (2012) fit mostly into this appeasing category.
And there are scholars of reassurance who do not see China as a full-fledged revisionist state like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, but who take a cautious balanced approach, like Henry Kissinger’s On China (2011), Joseph Nye’s, The Future of Power (2011), Susan Shirk’s China: Fragile Superpower (2007), James Steinberg and Michael O’Hanlon, Strategic Reassurance and Resolve: U.S.-China Relations in the Twenty-First Century (2014), Lyle Goldstein’s Meeting China Halfway: How to Defuse the Emerging US-China Rivalry (2015), Thomas Christensen’s The China Challenge: Shaping the Choices of a Rising Power (2015), and also Bruce Jones’ Still Ours to Lead. These books offer in-depth analysis, contribute to a moderation thesis, and provide specific levelheaded and sometimes creative policy advice.
Each of these scholars mentioned above has fostered insight into China and provide a better understanding of how and why Beijing might continue to resist or begin to assist in searching for an answer to the Korean partition.
I would be remiss if I did not mention my gratitude to an array of scholars for their eclectic assortment of influential publications: beginning with my esteemed mentor, Marvin Harris’ Cultural Materialism: The Struggle for a Science of Culture (1969), Michael Pettis’ The Great Rebalancing: Trade, Conflict, and the Perilous Road Ahead for the World Economy (2013), Ha-Joon Chang’s Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism (2008), Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think (2012), Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams’ Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World (2010), and Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence has Declined (2011). These creative luminaries have made pioneering contributions to our understanding of political and economic problems, and perhaps the fate of humanity.
Among books particular to North Korea, Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland’s Witness to Transformation: Refugee Insights into North Korea (2011) stands out, and is of supreme value because it looks through an economic lens and employs insights from informant interviews, while asking and answering questions relevant to materialist principles of social and political causation. Victor Cha’s The Impossible State: North Korea Past and Future (2012) is a helpful guide to North Korea because of its rich political, historical and analytical breadth, but lacks a solution to the problem or a plan of action. Bruce Bennett’s Preparing for the Possibility of a North Korean Collapse (2013) is informative and Patrick McEachern’s Inside the Red Box: North Korea’s Post-totalitarian Politics (2010) clarifies an important piece of the puzzle, while Jonathan Pollack’s No Exit: North Korea, Nuclear Weapons and International Security stresses the growing nuclear danger, but these books have a narrow reach and offer no ultimate solution. Scott Snyder’s China’s Rise and the Two Korea’s (2009) is primarily descriptive and offers an unproductive idealist explanation without a solution.
Andrei Lankov’s North of the DMZ: Essays on the Daily Life in North Korea (2007) and The Real North Korea: Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia (2013) are rigorous, deeply wise, and informative, but still there is no specific path drawn to induce unification, except a dimly lit hope the dissemination of more information will lead to an eventual domestic uprising. Chung-in Moon’s, The Sunshine Policy: In Defense of Engagement as a Path to Peace in Korea (2012) proposes a renewed trust-building engagement policy that would take at least a generation to achieve positive results in the form of a political confederacy.
One book deserves special citation; Hyug Baeg Im and Jae Ku’s Mongering North Korean Democracy for Inter-Korean Peace: Democratization in North Korea and Inter-Korean Peace (2015) provides a creative and sensible two-state pay for peace solution that may be as plausible as my one-state unification solution.
Several history books have provided valuable background material: Don Oberdorfer’s The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History (1997), Bruce Cuming’s Korea’s Place in the Sun: A Modern History (2005) and The Korean War: A History (2011), Paul French’s North Korea: State of Paranoia (2014), Jin Wung Kim’s A History of Korea: From the ‘Land of the Morning Calm’ to States in Conflict (2012), Sheila Miyoshi Jager’s Brothers at War: The Unending Conflict in Korea (2013), and Hazel Smith’s North Korea: Markets and Military Rule (2015). But of course it is a dubious claim that history will define the future.
Most other books treat North Korea as a sensitive field anthropologist would, composing long ethnologies rich in detail, historical context, and full of interesting anecdotes, with some analysis, but without theories or solutions. Ralph Hassig and Kongdan Oh’s book The Hidden People of North Korea: Everyday Life in the Hermit Kingdom (2009), John Everard’s Only Beautiful Please: A British Diplomat in North Korea (2012), Felix Abt’s A Capitalist in North Korea: My Seven Years in the Hermit Kingdom (2014), and Suki Kim’s Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Songs of North Korea’s Elite (2014) fit into this category. Although these descriptive books are sometimes heartwarming and often enlightening, especially Daniel Tudor and James Pearson’s North Korea Confidential: Private Markets, Fashion Trends, Prison Camps, Dissenters and Defectors (2015), none of these authors offers a solution to the problem.
Then there is the activist human rights syndicate, composed of people who take the higher ground and who write narrowly about human rights without proposing a practical solution. Nevertheless, their contributions are critical because they provide the moral imperative necessary to awaken abstract minded social scientists to the fact that real people are suffering and dying. This genre includes David Hawk’s publications with the United States Committee for Human Rights, including Hidden Gulag: The Lives and Voices of Those Who are Sent to the Mountains (2013), the White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea (issued annually), and a slurry of emotionally gripping prison camp suffering and escape books, including Kang Chol-Hwan and Pierre Rigoulot’s The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag (2001), Blaine Harden’s Escape From Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West (2012), Kim Yong’s Long Road Home: Testimony of a North Korean Camp Survivor (2009), and most recently, Sandra Fahy’s Marching Through Suffering: Loss and Survival in North Korea (2015).
Everything I know about China, the Korea problem, and the seen and unseen forces that will converge to influence geopolitical outcomes has been obtained from the scholars I have listed above, and many others whom have gone unmentioned. It is how these pieces are put together that give this manuscript its character and perspective, and whatever quality it obtains. With an open mind, creative resolve, and a geoeconomic approach, I think we can change the world and Stop North Korea before it is too late.
* * *
Conventional analysts are usually right, until they’re not. Without deep analysis, some imagination, and of course, scientific theory, it is impossible to accurately see into the future. One of my favorite unconventional soothsayers is the economist Dean Baker—who incidentally predicted the U.S. housing bubble and the global recession that followed from the signs and signals he observed beforehand. Baker regularly and tactfully admonishes the media and conventional experts who do not or cannot think outside the box. Baker notes:
“Almost none of the experts saw the 2008 collapse coming. Almost all of them dismissed the idea that there was a housing bubble and even the few that grudgingly acknowledged the possibility of a bubble insisted that it could not have much consequence for the economy. Given the devastation wreaked by the collapse of this bubble, this failure is comparable to weather forecasters missing Hurricane Katrina… I don’t mean failing to recognize the full severity of the storm, I mean missing the hurricane altogether and forecasting nothing but blue skies for the day it hit.”
My argument in this book is similar to Dean Baker’s. The cloistered clustered compact of the political science, international relations, the policymaking establishment misadvises our political leaders because these scholars suffer from a crisis of institutional imagination. This is a structural cultural problem and has nothing to do with the integrity of the individuals who reside inside these honorable institutions. This problem is compounded by unprecedented economic globalization and a communication revolution—the effects of which have not yet been fully realized or appreciated by the political science community and have been all but ignored by those who formulate and conduct foreign policy. Unfortunately, in spite of good intentions, this phenomenon has the potential to result in outcomes as dire and devastating as those suffered a century ago.
This problem is compounded by unprecedented economic globalization and a communication revolution—the effects of which have not yet been fully realized or appreciated by the political science community—and have been all but ignored by those who formulate and conduct foreign policy. Without deep analysis of the present and an imaginative extrapolation into the future, North Korea policy is often designed from flawed inputs for an immediate result without regard for its longer-term impact.
Upon returning to Seoul after a week of meetings in Washington at the end of February 2016, Korea expert Andrei Lankov observed: “It seems that most analysts in the U.S. do not have a clear idea about what they want to achieve in the region in the long run. There is a consensus that a nuclear North Korea is not acceptable, but very few are willing to think beyond the nuclear issue.” This book is intended to help rectify this situation.
Although their inclusion in this list in no way suggests they agree with my arguments or the contents of this book, I have had many helpful interactions—some extensive, others brief—with the following individuals who have either aided my mission or helped form my perspectives:
- Russell Bernard, Marvin Harris, Tracy Yung (Inha research librarian), Andrea Lankov, Hyug Baeg Im, Jae Ku, Lord David Alton, Georgy Toloraya, Yong-Ho Kim, Miroslav Nincic, Irina Korgun, Torbjørn Lindstrøm Knutsen, Joseph Nye, Galina Hale, Frank Jannuzi, Kiejoon Pak, Richard Haass, Jared Diamond, Denny Roy, Philip Bobbit, Chung-in Moon, Stephan Haggard, David Kang, Marcus Noland, Richard Chadwick, Nina Tannenwald, Marianne Hanson, Martin Jacques, Bill Bishop, Lee Jung Sang, Ha-Joon Chang, Dean Ouellette, Subin Kim, Hallie Shin, Jacqueline Chang, Bo Min Kim, Sunyoung Lee, Byong Ju Park, Byung-Joon Cho, YT Jung, Ji-Soo Kang, Jay Hyun, Young Hoon Song, Euikon Kim, Jae Il Lee, Jung-Yong Lee, Young-tae Jung, Mansu Kim, Sanghyo Yook, Sungho Lee, Hyo Soon Lee, Shen Dengli, Xu Zhang, Carlisle Owen, Krzysztof Ploetzing, Roy Losey, David Satter, Eric Shogren, Matthieu Barbier, Flurin Domenig, Harry Iverson, Jack Blatherwick, and Steve and Michael Pliam.
This book was also made possible by a research grant from Inha University.
Of course this book would not have been possible without the patience and persistent care of my loving wife Beata (Ph.D. theoretical physics) and the continually inspiring joy of watching our natively trilingual pre-teen son Tomek grow up in this bountiful land of the morning calm.
 Dean Baker, Blog, Center for Economic and Policy Research, January 31, 2016.