Saturday, 3 January 2009


I've got A MAJOR news for you. Korea's reunification is not needed since it's already there for everyone to see.
I can imagine nobody is believing me but, really, that's too bad. Because if we just have a look at the Korean weather forecasts, it seems they know something we (I mean you) don't.

Here's a photograph of a recent (december 2008) KBS1 weather forecast:

And here's another one from MBC:

What do we see?
Well, it's clear to me that they are showing us the truth, ie. Korean reunification is something that's already happened. It's just that most people don't care about the (Korean) weather forecast, or they would be aware of this historical event (I suspect that's due to the fact they've been terribly wrong lately).

For those of you who don't see my point here(among those happy few who dare read me), let us be more precise.
As everybody can see on these photographs the forecast concerns the whole of the Korean peninsula, not just the southern part, which is supposed to be South Korea (official name: The Republic of Korea). There are no mentions of North Korea anywhere on the map, even though several temperatures in the part that corresponds to North Korea are clearly indicated.

In other words, the weather forecast acknowledge the physical existence of the North, as the northern part of the Korean peninsula, but does not seem to acknowledge its political existence. I haven't checked the weather forecast on all Korean channels, but I suspect it will be similar.

It becomes even more interesting if we have a look at maps appearing in books edited by Korean publishers (no need to mention I am not referring to North Korean publishers).

A little book that is regularly published and whose title is, ironically, "Facts about Korea", offers a few maps of the country. If you browse through the book you will get the following map of Korea:

This map is neither a map of the physical features of the Korean peninsula (ie. mountains, rivers, etc.), even though the main mountains are indicated in some sort of symbolic way, with nice little drawings, as well as rivers and some plains, nor a political map, or we would have more indications than just country names and Seoul as the one and only city around. But one thing is for sure: although neighboring countries are visible (China, Russia), North Korea is nowhere to be seen.

Other maps in this book offer the same view, with a recurrent feature that is the absence of the Northern neighbour.

Now, it could be that I was just unlucky and picked the wrong book. So I decided to enjoy a stay at the Kyobo bookstore (the biggest bookstore in Seoul), and browse through other books, and maps of Korea (by (South) Korean publishers, a very important point of course) to make sure I was not hallucinating or having preconceived ideas about what I had been suspecting for many years but had never taken the time to go and check up.

I suppose all of you already guessed what was the result of this little survey and you would be right (because you're all clever): there is NOT A SINGLE MAP of Korea that mentions the existence of North Korea (I should have mentioned her official name: Democratic Popular Republic of Korea).

And you will find me naive, but I found that, truly, AMAZING!!!

I mean, I discussed on many occasions the possibility of a future reunification between the North and the Sough with friends (Korean or not), family and Professors, and not once did this AMAZING fact come up.
I explanation is that it's too obvious for them even for this fact to come to their mind.
Another explanation is what is commonly call "brainwash". y'Know what I mean?...

Hey! My intention here is not to be unkind to Koreans (I'd rather not or my wife will take revenge on me). But there must be a right explanation.

A bit later, as we were discussing various things with some friends, the topic came to my mind and I asked around. One person told me that this was not surprising for the very simple reason that the Korean constitution stipulates that the territory of the Republic of Korea comprises the whole of the Korean peninsula!

To make things clear and unquestionable, let me quote here the article this person was referring to. I've got my own collection of books on Korea and a few of them do have the Korean constitution translated in English. So here it is:
"Article 3 - The territory of the Republic of Korea shall consist of the Korean peninsula and its adjacent islands."
For those interested in reading the Korean consitution in its entirety(!!), just follow this link to the Constitutional Courts of Korea.

Right. We're starting to see things a little bit more clearly here.
Since the CONSTITUTION of South Korea itself includes a non-recognition of the Northern communist entity (because by including the totality of the Korean peninsula it subsequently makes impossible the existence of another political entity sharing the same area), it's somehow logical they would not care about mentioning it anywhere.

Or not?

Well, if it were in a country with more freedom of expression(ie. more than Korea), you would expect at least a handful of publishers to acknowledge the existence of North Korea in a few maps, at least for the sake of facts, because nobody can deny the de facto existence of North Korea. The reality on the ground is different, and here is why.

Apart from the part about the territory that is written in stone in the constitution (see above) and that prevents an ideological and even legal recognition of the North political existence, there is another law that is at the centre of this problem. It is called the National Security Act.
It is basically an anti-communist law that exists since 1948 and that has been used over and over again to restrict freedom of expression in Korea ever since. This law is used to counter any activity that is pro-communist, pro-North Korea etc, and that could "endanger" South Korea.
Since its application and interpretation is very wide, it can be used in a lot of different cases and is very practical for governments who whish to limit citizen power and have a free-hand at doing what they want. Those interested can have a look here at an English version (could not find an offical English version - maybe not a coincidence?) or here for the Korean version (the courageous ones!).

Throught the combination of these two laws, one constitutional, one making people criminals and traitors, it is therefore not surprising to observe the total absence of maps even only mentioning North Korea, because it might imply a potential condemnation for the publisher (condemnations include jail sentence and, in theory, even death penalty).

This problem of non-recognition of North Korea as a political entity is very serious for many reasons. The most important one being probably that if there is any hope to reunite the North and the South, I cannot see how it can possibly be done since it does not make much sense wanting to unite one part with another that does not exist.

This absurd position obviously does not make sense for the successive Korean governments either, because they have been trying to negotiate for many years on several fronts with North Korea, notably during the six-party talks with both Koreas (South Korea and the one that does not exist), The US, Japan, Russia, China and Japan.

I cannot see such a paradoxical situation leading to any kind of serious rapprochement between both Koreas. As long as the fundamental tenet of South Korea's existence (its territory being the whole of the Korean peninsula) is there, the only way through which reunification could be achieved would be through war or total disintegration of the North. And that is not going to happen any time soon.

Until the presidency of Kim Dae-jung and his Sunshine policy of rapprochement towards the North, I believe the only strategy of reunification that led the successive Korean governements had been a policy of reunification through "assimilation". Certainly the only valid policy when we consider the article 3 of the Korean constitution...

In adddition to that, the newly acquired status of South Korea among rich nations often means that the attitude of the South Korean government can easily become patronizing. Needless to stay that that is insulting to North Koreans in general and, in the end, counter-productive to any attempt made to improve diplomatic relationships (which, in theory, cannot exist).

Like many other things in Korea, this situation is paradoxical. That is the heritage of the cold war, of course, but present and future Korean governments had better understand they have everything to gain from recognizing North Korea existence and giving more freedom to the people. They are not going to be able to achieve much by staying in a state of denial.

That is all for this post.
Oh! There's one thing I'm not too sure of, it is who, concretely, can be held guilty under the National Security Act. It surely depends on the context. Will I have to face the death penalty for writing what could be considered anti-government posts? Am I a threat to South Korea? Hu Hu...Quick, let's press DELETE!

Oh! And before I forget... HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice read!
Just a little note on the side. I don't know if you noticed that until the whole Dokdo-issue broke out, there was not mention of this island on the Korean weather forecast (say about 4 years ago). But watching the weather forecast these days, they always mention Dokdo! Maybe for the eagles that planning a weekend-away?