Nonsense, horsefeathers, and idle musings from a decade in South Korea (2002-2012).

06 June, 2013

Escape from Camp 14 and the Myth of 'One Korea'

By Aaron
06 June, 2013

Fantasy vs. Reality

"The curious task of economics," F.A. Hayek noted, "is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design." In the following piece, which is now available at Korea Business Central, I lay out my skepticism of central planning and of nation-building in the context of Korean reunification. Longtime readers will recognize some of the themes.

Here's the opening:

Tensions on the Korean peninsula, always at a low simmer, have once again come to a boil in recent months with the North Korean military threatening yet again to turn Seoul into a sea of fire and the South promising retaliation for any hostile actions. Even as most South Koreans yawn and go about their lives, and as Korean President Park Geun-hye and U.S. President Barack Obama issue the standard calls for dialogue and deterrence, it is worth remembering that the tense stability on the Korean peninsula will not last forever.

North Korea specialists largely agree that, whether through war or implosion, the North Korean state will eventually collapse, leaving South Korea to make good on its long-held promise of reunification. But should reunification be the goal? This is the question that, perhaps inadvertently, Blaine Harden’s book Escape from Camp 14 raises.

Most readers of Escape from Camp 14, an account of Shin Dong-hyuk’s life in and escape from North Korea’s worst prison camp, will be drawn in by the sheer human drama of a story containing all the plot points and character complexity of a classic adventure tale. Yet, while Camp 14 follows one man’s struggle for freedom, it also has much to say about the nature of “Koreanness,” the future of the Korean peninsula, and the potential folly of reunification.

Read the rest here.

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