South Korea’s Rude Awakening
North Korea's recent nuclear test and rocket launch have finally convinced South Koreans that their bellicose neighbor will never abandon its nuclear ambitions. As the country cuts remaining ties with the North and adopts a new strategic stance, it will need the firm support of the international community.
DENVER – On February 10, South Korean President Park Geun-hye announced that she would respond to North Korea’s recent nuclear test and rocket launch by closing the Kaesong Industrial Region, the last major effort at inter-Korean cooperation. In response, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un seized all South Korean assets in the region, giving the 248 managers living there only a few hours to pack their personal belongings and leave.
Shortly afterward, a member of South Korea’s National Assembly explained Park’s decision to me. “There is a new paradigm here,” he said. “No one believes anymore that the North will ever give up its nuclear weapons.”
It will take some time before the full meaning of this new paradigm comes into focus. In the meantime, one thing is clear: South Korea is headed into uncharted waters, where it will require the support of the international community.