Robert E. Kelly on the German-Korean unification parallel

Here is part of the abstract from his 2011 paper:

Internationally: today’s external patron (the United States) of the free Korean half is weakening, while the external patron (China) of the communist half is strengthening. The opposite was true of the United States and West Germany, and the Soviet Union and East Germany, in 1989. Today’s northern patron (China) is trying to push further into the Asian continent, while yesterday’s eastern patron (the Soviet Union) was looking for an exit from central Europe. Chinese peninsular intervention is therefore easier, while U.S. support for South Korea’s unification terms will be more difficult.

Yes, that is the Robert E. Kelly, the one with the Korean wife and (at least) two children.  Here is more Robert E. Kelly on Korea.  Here is the video version.


Feminists have already denounced the kids video as an example of the Patriarchy:

If I were that woman, I would have been annoyed that most assumed I was the nanny. And when The Patriarchy goes out of its way to screech even louder than The Feminists, it comes off as childish. "We're the backlash to the backlash!"

I myself wondered why the early coverage (Friday) of this video referred to the woman as a nanny and not his wife. I just assumed someone had investigated and confirmed that she was in fact a nanny. But nope, it turns out that, gee, an Asia expert has a Korean wife. How could anyone have possibly known? That's the only problem I saw with it. And to be fair, I don't think anyone would have made the nanny assumption to be intentionally be offensive, just out of ignorance.

If I were that woman, I would have been annoyed that most assumed I was the nanny.

Most didn't and with regard to those who did, the smart money says she's not such a prickette that she'd waste any ire on the issue.

You underestimate my cuckoldry sir! I rank at least a Cucknel!

> Paul Joseph Watson

> Guy who is openly terrified to leave his own house because there are fireworks on New Years Eve in Sweden

> Look at these other people over there who get offended by everything

"fireworks on new years eve in Sweden. "

Be careful, you might jinx it, causing another riot.

Not really. I have seen several of this style:

It is too easy to read everything you believe on the internet.

as wise as you are here albatross, the crazy view made it to the front page of the BBC website (how outrageous that people assumed the woman in nanny role was a nanny)

Ugh. Watching all the big media sources spend their credibility on clickbait to get ads is just depressing.

This blog is more Cuckbait than clickbait. It certainly does bring in all the cucks

Kind of sad to be famous for your children crashing your Skype conversation. Worse, there are probably any number of pushy mothers hiding in the wings, waiting for the right moment to push their toddlers into their father's board meeting.

It is a strange world where North Korea is so pathetic and crippled that no one dreams of it collapsing. It is a national-level version of the corporate poison pill defense. I assume that North Korea's friends are behind a part, probably a large part, of former-President Park's trouble. Despite the people of North Korea suffering so much, South Korean intellectuals have always had this weird soft spot for them.

"I assume that North Korea’s friends are behind a part, probably a large part, of former-President Park’s trouble. Despite the people of North Korea suffering so much, South Korean intellectuals have always had this weird soft spot for them."

They probably forced her to make corrupt dealings. By the way, the Brazilian left insists that the CIA hired and trained the judge who indicted former president Lula and is investigating Mrs. Roussef's administration scandals because the gringos want Petrobras' oil. Thankfully, no politician is to blame because the devil forced them to do whatever it is they insist they haven't done.

When she was elected no one had a problem with a little corrupt dealings. It is not as if anyone thought Korean politics was clean. She is a very rich woman for the daughter of a man who spent his entire life in public service.

The mob came out on the street, all at once, as if it was orchestrated. At about the same time she annoyed the North Koreans.

It matches what happened in Brazil. Mrs. Roussef was elected twice even after being a part of the Petrobras council which directed the shading dealings at the company, and Mr. Lula was re-elected after a scandal of purchase of Congressmen's votes. Suddenly, in 2016, people took to the streets. Even businessmen who were more than happy to fund Mrs. Roussef and Mr. Lula campaigns (her 2014 run is suspect to have received more than US$ 40 million dollars of non-registered donations from just one company) were now eager to see her and the other leftists removed. One may think what one wants about the left social programs and economic policy (it was reasonable in the first half and awful in the late years), but anyone that thought Dilma and Lula were clean after, say, 2005 at the latest is naïve. I do not think Brazilian businessmen are naïve. Same for the Justice System - it has only recently become interested in political corruption. However, I, unlike our left, don't need to postulate the existence of foreign devils plotting to suck our oil from under our feet. People who always opposed the left (and were demoralized by the failure of the latest right wing administrations and the apparent success of the left administration or are ready to support any fovernment as long as thwy can make money with their political connections) finally got the excuse they needed to act without looking like sore losers - and the point is, as suspect as the outrage seems to be, the scandals are real and the crimes were commited.

As for South Korea, if they really have enough North Korean sympathizers to corner a president... Well, it is democracy in action, I guess.

"At about the same time she annoyed the North Koreans." It is hard to say when the North Koreans are annoyed and when they are just being fanciful. I remember they making some hurtful remarks I cannot repeat here about President Park a lot of time ago.

The mob came out on the street, all at once, as if it was orchestrated. At about the same time she annoyed the North Koreans.

It's doubtful the Korean legislature and appellate courts are cat's paws of Kim Jong Un.

Obama is the force behind the mob on the street. :-)

He has tenure. He's extensively published in a couple of subdisciplines of political science. He has children. He has a handsome wife about a dozen years his junior, who, Korean aversion to miscegenation notwithstanding, consented to her children being given Anglophone names. I doubt he's all that sad.

And he would have gotten away with it if it weren't for those meddling kids and their mother.


If you have meetings from your home office and you have kids, stuff like this can happen. It has no deeper significance than that. Good for him that he's able to work from home and be around for his kids when they're this small.

Koreans are anti-miscegenation except when it comes to "real white" men and women. Real white means northern europe and usa. Russians, Eastern Europeans and South Americans (sorry, Thiago!) don't count as "real white". If you are "real white", you are awesome.

As I understand, almost all Koreans, not just intellectuals, have a soft spot for the Kims, because Koreans are strongly racist (or ethnocentric, if you prefer), and (i) deeply resent their dependence on the U.S. and (ii) admire anyone Korean who appears to be standing up to non-Koreans, especially white ones.

"because Koreans are strongly racist"

Anyone would rather leave their children to inherit a share of North Korea, despotic, poor, and nasty as it is, than to leave their children non-racist France. Better to have a bad country of your own than to be cleansed and dispossessed of your homeland by foreigners because you didn't have the common purpose to defend it.

It would be less charitable and more accurate, I think, to state this as "North Korea directs most of their propaganda at the South, and it has an effect." The daffy stuff Westerners see coming out of the DPRK is a comparative sideshow.

The "we never bent the knee to the foreigners" line is indeed central to both the North's self conception and their propaganda efforts in the South. Oddly, there is deeper historical precedent for this in the conflict between the old Go-Goryeo and Silla kingdoms on the peninsula.

Hmm, on the one hand, the French are batshit crazy, and their vaunted revolution produced nothing but a military dictatorship. On the other hand, where is the Tolstoy of the Koreans? All in all, as one who prizes the life of the mind, I would rather leave my children a share of the French inheritance. But reasonable minds could differ on that one.

I understand people who would rather be oppressed by their own than ruled benevolently by others. But it is even better to live on your feet, or to be a live lion, or, best of all, to serve the secret fire of the universal truth. I fear that the racism (aka ethnocentrism) of my Korean brothers and sisters (I know them, because I am an evangelical) will occlude this truth from them.

Who's the Tolstoy of the French? He was Russian.

Point being that there isn't a France to leave to them. Births in France will be 75% African and Maghrebi by 2040 or soon thereafter and rising rapidly. After thousands of years, the French nation's very last generation is being born in the 2010s. Today's French children will live, until they're forced to emigrate by the new masters, in a France dominated by foreigners.

That will not happen to North Korea.

Can't read the paper. Isnt the situation different, though? I thought most South Koreans weren't that jazzed about reunification (except for the threat of nuclear annihilation, naturally)? And North Korea is a pretty big headache for China, too.

What's the logic behind Korean unification anyway? Other than the nation/state disease that says bigger is always better. There's probably people in South Korea that would favor that country being split into two or more countries. In the case of Germany, it was only unified for a short period of time to begin with. There's nothing inherently wrong with duchies and principalities.

Duchies and principalities have traditionally been run by Dukes and Princes. North Korea is run by the Kim family.

Every decent person should want it to fall. The people of North Korea have suffered like nothing in European experience.

It is just a shame that it is impossible to cope with the consequences of a collapse given the damage inflicted on the North by the Kims.


No decent person .......

makes US policy

The people who make it a habit to utter sulphurous remarks about 'US policy' aren't decent people either, and they're usually insufferable in public discussion to boot.

And those throwing shoes are just ungrateful louts, clearly.

"And those throwing shoes are just ungrateful louts, clearly."

Hmmm, I wonder what would have happened to a North Korean throwing shoes at the Premier of China?

"Bigger is better" is not a 'nation-state disease'. Neither Yugoslavia nor Soviet Russia were nation-states.

Yugoslavia was originally meant to be a nation-state, just as much as Italy or Germany. It just turned out that speakers of south Slavic languages don't actually have all that much in common other than language. Who knows. Had it not been for WWII exacerbating national divisions, and the Communists making it worse by putting an oppressive lid on any sort of national aspiration or history, the Yugoslavs might have eventually achieved the dubious level of unification found in modern Italy or Spain.

the dubious level of unification found in modern Italy or Spain.

Spain's been dubiously unified since 1479. In both Italy and Spain, separatist sentiment is most vigorous in the affluent parts of the country, where live about 15% of the Spanish population and 25% of the Italian population. Before King Alexander tore up the constitution in 1929, ethnic and regional parties in Yugoslavia were good for about 1/3 of the vote (or, about 1/2 the vote outside the Serb population).

Strangely, the czars just might disagree with describing their empire, inherited by the Soviets, as not being a 'nation-state.' If only because the czars were not believers in local autonomy.

empires aren't nation states.

The Czars granted Finland local autonomy, granted Poles varying levels of local autonomy, and relied on traditional nobility in Central Asia and the Caucuses to hold those places in line. The Czarist government, and everyone else in the Empire, was very aware that Russia was an Empire and not a nation-state.

Sounds a bit like modern China.

My knowledge is big but my penis is TINY!!!

It is a culturally distinct area that was a single independent state for over 1000 years. It was divided up in arbitrary manner after WWII by the USSR and USA, against the will of its people in an arrangement that was supposed to be temporary. The status quo is the result of an armistice (no peace treaty ever signed) between two governments who have both traditionally considered themselves the legitimate rulers of all the peninsula.

There is a lot of logic behind unification. Of course, whether it would be possible or desirable (given the costs and challenges) are separate questions.

Well, the obvious one is that it's only a divided county due to the still on-going Civil War. The division was not a division of a country but the administrative division of which external powers would "help" the local recover from the Japanese occupation before and during WWII.

That of course begs the question about why the international community and UN seem to recognize the two as actually being separate countries. I'm sure there are good reasons, both legal and pragmatic, but no idea what they are. Perhaps one of the infovoirs here could offer some literature pointers.

At the end of WWII, the Soviets steamrolled the Japanese forces in Manchuria. They were racing down the Korean peninsula when the Americans called and asked them to stop at the 38th parallel, and they did! Several years later, they supported a North Korean invasion of the territory they could have easily taken in 1945!

Probably because they knew the Americans had the bomb. As well as an invasion force in the neighbourhood.

Neither side was keen for an outbreak of hostilities at the end of the war. So both made territorial concessions.

Is it accurate to describe China as North Korea's "patron"? China has its focus to the south, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, where China is constructing a high speed rail network to connect to China. Those places have in common proximity to the South China Sea and the sea lanes around the Philippines and into the open Pacific. Those places also have in common potential competitors of China - keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. Korea is no doubt a concern, given the political instability in South Korea as the result of the impeachment and resignation of the "outrageous lunatic" (North Korea's description) who was president. Has anyone noticed the similarities between the over-wrought rhetoric of Mr. Trump and the over-wrought rhetoric of North Korea.

the over-wrought rhetoric of Mr. Trump

The amazing thing is that ‘Microwaves That Turn Into Cameras’ just doesn't surprise us anymore. This is bad news for the Whitehouse. They might have wanted some confusion, to devalue expertise, but they themselves are not excluded. No one will look to the Whitehouse for answers, when they are known for random shit.

The article: The abstract also mentions the relative population sizes of merging territories. East / West Germany population ratio = 1/4. North / South Korea population ration = 1/2.

This fragment is fascinating: "Beyond the massive economic disparity, North Korea is more than just a “run of the mill” dictatorship, like Batista’s Cuba or contemporary Burma. It is an Orwellian dystopia, more Stalinist than even the Soviet Union, Maoist China, or Albania ever were—matched perhaps only by Pol Pot’s Cambodia.54 East Germany too was a police state but never plumbed the depths of repression North Korea has. Northern defectors in the South suffer from extreme psychological trauma from life in North Korea and often require psychiatric counseling beyond the expected acclimatization needs. Fixing North Korea will not simply cost huge sums—that is well known. It will also require something akin to nationwide psychiatric care for millions of mentally brutalized “Winston Smiths,” the main character from Orwell’s 1984. This will be an event unheard of in the annals of mental health."

Aye. Wagers unification's a non-starter. A Chinese trusteeship might be a better option.

Thanks for the reference. You may be interested in reading Kelly's blog

and in particular his post

Thanks. Oh, another blog.....will I ever I be productive someday? ;)

Just to add an optimistic comment on a position in the second link, I wonder if the author ever considered considering the parallel of "Its capital approximates a feudal city-state estranged from its own impoverished piedmont." with the life and times of the Catholic Church's empire in Europe. That also lasted a long time. Ignorance, as they say is bliss; humans are highly adaptable to conditions (we set our baseline to what we experience) and we're probably over stating the view of the masses that their lives is so much worse than just about anywhere else in the sense of certainty of the view then driving any reaction and motive to improvement. The more realistic comparison would probably be the rather brief success they enjoyed when more market-type institutional forms were allowed -- and now removed due to the "external threats" from the corrupt south and the evil USA.

with the life and times of the Catholic Church’s empire in Europe. That also lasted a long time. Ignorance,

The Church had no empire, bar in your imagination. Local bishops were a power center, as were local seigneurs, town guilds, &c. Boniface Viii made large claims about the Church's temporal power. He was a late Medieval figure and his claims were just claims. Even in the Papal States, there were centuries where papal authority was notional and local castellans were exercising what political power there was.

Well, if he says so. I'd wager China sees North Korea as a problem step-child.

Yes, today NK is China's step-child. But I bet that it's not a problem. It's a convenient tool for at least distracting China's potential enemies.

To the extent China sees South Korea as a long term potential ally against Japan, North Korea is a liability for China. Without the North Korean threat the South Koreans would be far less motivated to accommodate themselves to US interests, and would probably return to their historical closeness to China.

I think you're putting far too much emphasis here on history and social-cultural alignments over conventional calculations of power and security. The kinds of "accommodation to their interests" that the US wants, or could reasonably be expected to want, are quite benign, and it's impossible to imagine the Americans going further than soft economic coercion to try to obtain them. Neither can be said about the Chinese, at least as long as their government is a one-party dictatorship.

True, but I think the Chinese would rather have a "normal" Communist dictatorship as a neighbor or even a neutral, non-nuclear, democratic unified Korea if it could be garanteed it wouldn't eventually side with the Americans, which it can't, that is what "democratic" means. The Kims still are a more realible tool than the Korean people is, but sometimes the Chinese leadership must wonder if it is worth it and update the plans to stop the flood of immigrants as soon as soon as the Northern regime collapses.

I think the writing on the wall is that China has grown more and more tired of the NK regime's behavior and while will not be too interested in any unification they want to see change. I've also wondered if they would have any interests in using NK as a cat's paw but that requires the cat actually doing what you want. I think China is loosing faith that the cat is predictable.

The Chinese dont' give a damn about the regime's behavior. They are solely concerned about the nuclear aspect of the Kim empire. If Kim just stayed at home and repressed his people, no problem. Kim firing off nukes and scaring Japan/Korea/USA, no good for China. It's bad for business, as the Godfather might say.

The video was funny, but was it really "global phenomenon" funny? I don't really see what sets it apart from the hundreds of other kids-doing-something-kooky videos on youtube.

The build-up is what really makes it. You keep thinking "oh, that was the funny part", and then something else happens, adding to the absurdity.

You've only been here a year? Seems longer.

As for penis length, I can't say I've given it a lot of thought. Seems to me it's more significant where you get to put it.

The best part was the ending desperate one-armed door slam from the knees ...

China cutting off coal imports from North Korea suggests China is looking to reign in its client, but it could be that China is beginning to reevaluate North Korea's utility. The coal embargo could also be due to domestic politics. The tell will be if China also curtails textile imports and other economic cooperation. If that were to happen then it could very well be that China is thinking long term and planning for a world with the Kim family running North Korea.

If you're China, the last thing you want is a military confrontation with the US. That would be a disaster for China. They want to be the regional hegemon and they can get that with patience. Ridding themselves of the Kim dynasty could make the transition smoother for China by taking away one major reason for the US to maintain its position in Asia.

If China is concerned about proliferation of either nuclear weapons or antimissile defenses in the region, NK is a major problem. It's not under the direct control of China, and has nukes and ballistic missiles. That's serving as a justification for Japan and South Korea to put in antimissile defenses.

Worse, it could easily lead to a justification for Japan to have nukes. Basically, Japan's government needs to believe that NK believes that a nuclear attack on Japan will lead to a US nuclear retaliation with 100% certainty. If they doubt that (either they doubt we'll retaliate, or they doubt that NK believes we'll retaliate in all cases), then they have a really strong incentive to develop and demonstrate their own nuclear deterrent.

China and South Korea are bound by bilateral agreements with the US to not enrich uranium. There are clauses in the treaties that could permit both countries to do this, which the lever Washington has with China. If North Korea reaches a point where they can deploy a nuclear warhead on an missile capable of accurately and reliably reaching Japan, then the pressure to let Japan and South Korea do the same gets very high.

The ideal result for all concerned is if Kim drowns in a bathtub and a more sober and China friendly general takes control. Maybe then the process of bringing the North in to 21st century can begin.

Yes-drowning Kim in a bathtub and replacing him with dear Kim "I like Disneyland" Jong-Nam was China's endgame. Kim put the kibosh on that.

I agree -- China gain a lot with a regime change, that remains communist and aligned with China. However, it's not clear that everything pans out that way and a more open, less belligerent regime in the north will likely drift towards the west. Apparently they like western good more than Chinese goods. Still, if there's a political and military alliance with China and merely economic trade with the west China probably increases it's influence in the area and keeps the USA/west off it's door steps. (Though in the modern world aren't we all on one another's door steps already?)

It raises a couple of interesting points, but this has been the consensus in Political Science in the last twenty years: South Korea cannot just annex North Korea as West Germany annexed East Germany because the disparities, primarily in wealth, are much larger. The debate is usually about what the alternatives are.
Seeing the succession as a potential breaking point for the DPRK sound rather amusing nowadays.

Here's a bit more recent view of the topic:

I suspect the lessons learned from the German experience will really shed any significant light beyond what's largely obvious but probably cannot hurt to do a compare/contrast exercise..

I'm largely scratching my head on the USA interests in any reunification beyond supporting showing support for ROK but even there a lot are questioning if a unification would be desirable -- or if they even care as the north has largely become a different culture and country for them. In general I would think that before anyone considers a reunification the north should simple become a working democratic-based country that has some general connection to the modern 21st world the average citizen-live level and something resembling open boarders. It's really more of a feudal society more like the old 18th/19th political structure of a Kingdom (with a very poor king on the throne)

A unified Korea would put a strong democratic capitalist American ally on the border with China.

It would eliminate one of the most dangerous rogue states in the world.

It would significantly reduce the risk of Japanese/Korean nuclear weapons development.

The US could significantly reduce its troop deployment to South Korea and save billions of dollars a year.

Basically, a unified Korea becomes one less thing to worry about.

The North Korean regime is not a rational actor. They poison political rivals in international airports. They threaten neighbors with nuclear annihilation.

What happens if Kim Jong-un dies without an heir apparent? What happens if some general decides that he's had enough of the Kim dynasty and ends the madness with a bullet?

I sincerely hope that the rest of the world has a coherent plan for dealing with the potential chaos unleashed by regime change/collapse. A scramble to seize control of the country's nuclear arsenal by China and the US could easily spiral into war between the two powers.

We don't need their nuclear arsenal. It would be of more marginal benefit to China. China, however, already has nuclear technology, so possessing North Korea's stockpile would not change our situation vis a vis them in a qualitative way. China taking custody of it would be safer for everyone concerned than having it in the custody of the current regime in NK or in the custody of some unknown successor regime.

We don't need their nuclear weapons. We do care if they end up in the black market or in the hands of some rogue general.

It's a shame he was so embarrassed by his kids in the interview. The virality of it all probably gained him a lot of attention he wouldn't otherwise have received. And besides, in 20 years, they're going to love looking back on it and laughing. The only thing that was embarrassing about that video is that Daddy didn't just acknowledge the kids openly and with a smile.

It was setup that way to get attention.

Heh. Sadly, you might be right.

No it wasn't a setup. News programs are doing more of these video interviews of professors abroad on hot topics (a lot cheaper than sending a journalist to do a report) so statistically speaking you'd expect the occasional blooper. What would be strange is if there wasn't the occasional mishap.

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