North Korea/South Korea: U.S. Policy at a Time of Crisis
War is looming on the Korean peninsula. North Korea has declared that it possesses nuclear weapons. The United States is tightening an economic noose around the country in an attempt to force a regime change. The Bush administration is also keeping a military option on the table, a prospect that terrifies all the countries of East Asia, particularly South Korea. A terrifying spiral of tensions has resulted. The aggressive stance of the U.S. government has hardened North Korea's position and threatened rapprochement between North and South. North Korea, meanwhile, is desperate to develop a deterrent that will prevent the Bush administration from following the Iraq scenario with a campaign of aerial bombing.
The Korean peninsula, divided for more than fifty years, is stuck in a time warp. Millions of troops face one another along the Demilitarized Zone separating communist North Korea and capitalist South Korea. In the early 1990s and again in 2002–2003, the United States and its allies have gone to the brink of war with North Korea. Misinterpretations and misunderstandings are fueling the crisis. "There is no country of comparable significance concerning which so many people are ignorant," American anthropologist Cornelius Osgood said of Korea some time ago. This ignorance may soon have fatal consequences.
North Korea/South Korea is a short, accessible book about the history and political complexites of the Korean peninsula. The first section is a snapshot of the current crisis. The second and third sections put these current developments in a political and economic context through an exploration of the history of the Korean peninsula and the worldview of the leadership in the North. The fourth section concentrates on the shift in emphasis in U.S. foreign policy from engagement under the Clinton administration to containment under the Bush administration. The fifth section expands the author's focus to look at the regional dynamic and the U.S. policy of "gunboat globalization" that seeks to expand U.S. economic and military influence in East Asia. The conclusion explores practical alternatives to the current policy that build on the remarkable and historic path of reconciliation that North and South embarked on in the 1990s and that point the way to eventual reunification.
"[A] lucid, hard-hitting overview." —Selig Harrison, The Nation
"Feffer's analysis is the most reliable, balanced report available on the Korean 'threat.'" —Chalmers Johnson, author of Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire
"Northeast Asia is the world's most dynamic economy, with rapidly developing industry, high technology, rich resources, and half the world's foreign exchange reserves. South Korea's social and political achievements are no less remarkable than its spectacular economic growth. Peaceful integration of North Korea into the region, along with desperately needed internal changes, are essential for further progress. The alternative could be military confrontation with frightful consequences. The tasks ahead are not easy ones, but they are feasible. The U.S. role will surely be critical, and it is of the utmost importance for Americans to understand the issues, their background, and the prospects. John Feffer provides a deeply informed and lucid account of all these matters, full of insight, pointing the way to constructive solutions that are within our grasp." —Noam Chomsky
"A masterful, informative, eminently accessible look at the Korean crisis; especially valuable is John Feffer's discussion of what animates North Korea's stance vis-a-vis the US. Feffer's elucidation of the historical forces and social attitudes that have shaped Kim Jong Il's regime shows that far from being irrational or psychotic, Kim's actions have a logical consistency grounded in a well-founded mistrust of US intentions and agendas. I highly recommend this book." —C.S. Soong, host of Living Room, KPFA (Pacifica) Radio in Berkeley, Ca.