News

Voice of America 5/1/97

NORTH KOREA/ EVOLUTION OR COLLAPSE?

BYLINE=MAX RUSTON
DATELINE=NEW YORK
CONTENT=
 
VOICED AT:

INTRO:  AS NORTH KOREA FACES THE THREAT 
OF FAMINE AND ECONOMIC COLLAPSE, ITS FATE 
IS CAUSING INCREASING CONCERN IN THE 
INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY.  THERE IS 
LITTLE AGREEMENT OVER HOW THE COUNTRY 
WILL COPE WITH ITS PROBLEMS.  BUT, AS WE 
HEAR FROM V-O-A'S MAX RUSTON IN NEW 
YORK, EXPERTS DO AGREE ON ONE POINT, 
THAT NORTH KOREA POSES AN INCREASING 
THREAT TO THE STABILITY OF NORTHEAST ASIA.

TEXT:  AT A DISCUSSION ON NORTHEAST ASIA,
SPONSORED BY THE NEW YORK-BASED ASIA 
SOCIETY, EXPERTS OUTLINED A SERIES OF
POSSIBLE SCENARIOS FOR NORTH KOREA'S 
FUTURE.  ONE OF THOSE SCENARIOS INVOLVES
THE IMMEDIATE COLLAPSE OF THE NORTH 
KOREAN GOVERNMENT, A DEVELOPMENT 
SOME EXPERTS THINK IS INCREASINGLY LIKELY.

BUT, PROFESSOR ROBERT SCALAPINO OF 
THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AT 
BERKELEY, A WELL KNOWN SCHOLAR OF 
ASIAN POLITICS, SAYS SUCH A 
DEVELOPMENT COULD CREATE MORE 
PROBLEMS THAN IT RESOLVES.

     /// SCALAPINO ACT ///

IMMEDIATE COLLAPSE IN MY VIEW WOULD 
EXACT A VERY HEAVY PRICE ON THE SOUTH
(KOREA) AND INDIRECTLY ON OTHERS.  
TWENTY-THREE MILLION PEOPLE ... HALF 
YOUR POPULATION ... A MISERABLE 
ECONOMIC LEVEL.  BUT BEYOND THAT 
THE 23 MILLION PEOPLE WHO HAVE ONLY 
KNOWN THE STALINIST TYPE POLITICAL 
SYSTEM WOULD BE INJECTED INTO SOUTH 
KOREA'S SOMEWHAT FRAGILE DEMOCRACY.
VERY DIFFICULT.

         /// END ACT ///

ANOTHER SCENARIO DISCUSSED AT THE 
ASIA SOCIETY WAS THE POSSIBILITY THAT 
DETERIORATING ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL
CONDITIONS IN NORTH KOREA COULD PROMPT 
THAT COUNTRY TO ATTACK SOUTH KOREA IN
A LAST, DESPERATE GRASP FOR SURVIVAL.

PARTICIPANTS IN THE ASIA SOCIETY 
DISCUSSION, MANY OF WHOM HAVE TRAVELLED 
IN NORTH KOREA AND TALKED WITH THE
COUNTRY'S SENIOR OFFICIALS, SAY THEY 
CONSIDER THAT DEVELOPMENT AN UNLIKELY 
ONE.  THEY SAY NORTH KOREAN LEADERS
APPEAR TO BE AWARE THAT SOUTH KOREAN 
AND UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES WOULD 
RECIPROCATE ANY ATTACK AND INEVITABLY 
WIN SUCH A WAR.

PROFESSOR ROBERT SCALAPINO SAYS STARTING 
A WAR WITH THE SOUTH WOULD BE THE 
EQUIVALENT OF AN ACT OF SUICIDE BY THE 
NORTH KOREA STATE.

     /// SCALAPINO ACT ///

MY OWN FEELING IS THAT LEADERS DO NOT
KNOWINGLY COMMIT SUICIDE ON BEHALF OF 
THEMSELVES AND THEIR PEOPLE VERY OFTEN.  
IT IS A RARE OCCASION, IF IT EVER HAPPENS.

         /// END ACT ///

MR. SCALAPINO SAYS AS FAR AS HE CAN 
TELL, NORTH KOREAN LEADER KIM JONG-IL 
HAS THE LOYALTY OF THE MAJORITY OF 
NORTH KOREAN PEOPLE.  BUT HE SAYS THAT 
LOYALTY WILL ERODE IF MR. KIM DOES NOT
SUCCEED IN IMPROVING THE COUNTRY'S 
ECONOMY AND LIVING CONDITIONS.  THAT 
NECESSITY, HE SAYS, PUTS PRESSURE ON 
MR. KIM TO CARRY OUT ECONOMIC REFORMS 
AND POSSIBLY EASE UP ON POLITICAL
RESTRICTIONS.

FORMER JAPANESE AMBASSADOR TO THE 
UNITED STATES NOBUO MATSUNAGA AGREES 
THAT THE SITUATION IN NORTH KOREA IS 
POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS AND DIFFICULT 
TO ASSESS.  MR. MATSUNAGA, NOW AN 
ADVISOR TO THE JAPANESE MINISTRY OF 
FOREIGN AFFAIRS, SAYS THE BEST ACTION 
FOR THE REST OF THE WORLD IS TO WAIT 
PATIENTLY FOR NEW DEVELOPMENTS 
IN THE NORTH.

   /// MATSUNAGA ACT ///

SO WE HAVE TO WATCH CAREFULLY AND 
WAIT AND SEE HOW THINGS WILL DEVELOP
THERE.  OF COURSE WE WOULD LIKE TO 
BE HOPEFUL THAT A SOFT LANDING OF NORTH 
KOREA WOULD BE REALIZED BECAUSE WE FEEL 
THAT WILL BE THE ONLY WAY FOR NORTH 
KOREA TO BE A RESPONSIBLE PARTNER, TO 
PLAY A RESPONSIBLE ROLE IN THAT REGION, 
SO THAT WE CAN BE ASSURED OF SECURITY
AND PEACE.  BUT FOR THAT WE NEED TO 
WAIT I THINK.

      /// END ACT ///

MR. MATSUNAGA SAYS THE LEADERS OF 
NORTH KOREA -- PARTICULARLY THOSE IN THE 
MILITARY -- APPEAR TO FAVOR ISOLATIONISM 
AT THIS TIME, WHAT HE CALLS A HARD-LINE 
POLICY.  BUT HE SAYS WITH TIME, THE 
COUNTRY COULD BECOME MORE FLEXIBLE 
AND WILLING TO CHANGE.  HE SAYS SOUTH 
KOREA, JAPAN, THE UNITED STATES AND
OTHER INTERESTED COUNTRIES NEED TO BE 
READY TO BECOME MORE INVOLVED AT THAT 
TIME AND HELP NORTH KOREA ACHIEVE 
WHAT HE DESCRIBES AS A SOFT LANDING.
(SIGNED)

NEB/NY/MPR/LSF/LWM

01-May-97 4:30 PM EDT (2030 UTC)
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