Analysis, Foreign Affairs, Governance

Five Theories of Korean Unification

The division of North and South Korea following World War II was a defining moment not just for the Korean peninsula but for all of Northeast Asia. The strategic environment of the region and the history of the Korean people were drastically changed by the division and subsequent Korean War. Since the division, the governments of both North and South Korea have prioritized the reunification of the Korean peninsula as a national goal. But, unification has been nearly impossible to achieve because of two distinct yet interrelated sets of problems.

Just as division caused a change in regional dynamics, unification will also forever change the future strategic calculus of all countries in the region.


The first set of problems involves the development of two completely different political, social, and economic systems in the North and South over the course of nearly 70 years. Given the enormous gap that now exists, it is widely argued that permanent integration and eventual unification between the two Koreas will be an extremely challenging and costly process. The second set of obstacles and challenges relate to the strategic environment in Northeast Asia. Just as division caused a change in regional dynamics, unification will also forever change the future strategic calculus of all countries in the region. There are many who are concerned with how a unified Korea will align itself strategically. Will it pursue an alliance with the United States or China? Or will it instead pursue a strategy of neutrality and/or autonomy in relation to the regional powers?

UN

Theories Without Information

With so many important issues at play, it is no wonder that the literature on Korean unification is complex and wide-ranging. It covers everything from the history of the peninsula’s division to the future economic costs associated with unification. With a focus on Northeast Asia’s strategic dynamics, the literature also often seeks to explain the actions and the motives of actors on three different levels: domestic, regional, and international. Analysis, however, shows that there have been at least five theories or trends in unification studies driving the formulation of policy and scholarship since the end of the Korean War. All of the theories have been motivated by a combination of ideology and real-world events. But each is distinct and important to recall because without one, the others would not have emerged.

What is also apparent is that none of these theories had any substantive foundation. They were objectives touted at the highest national levels on both sides of the 38th parallel but were essentially rhetorical vessels, empty of substance or empirics. This accumulated ignorance contributes to the dark tunnel that is unification today. The lack of facts about unification allows governments to accept untested assumptions, unconfirmed beliefs, and untested suspicions as factual. These truisms have led to the policy stasis today that surrounds the North Korea problem.

Unification Theory 1: Winner Takes All

The first theory of unification emerged after the division of the Korean peninsula and was prevalent throughout the Cold War. During this time, the two Koreas were locked in a bitter battle over legitimacy. The deadly Korean War was not only a struggle among regional powers, it was fought by the North and South to have their respective ideological systems and governments recognized as the “one true Korean nation.”

Even after the Korean War ended, this struggle for legitimacy continued with the notion of “unification by force,” or the idea that the only real definition of unification was the crushing victory of one Korea over the other. Republic of Korea (ROK) presidents Syngman Rhee and Park Chung Hee both subscribed to this “winner take all” view in the South. The same view was also held by Kim Il Sung in the North. The concept dominated both policymaking and the associated academic literature.

The hardcore stance on each side was solidified by larger international Cold War security dynamics as well as internal economic and political challenges. After the establishment of separate governments in 1948, the North and South continued to fight each other but also struggled to gain control over domestic enemies that challenged their respective regimes. It was the ultimate zero-sum game played on three different levels.1 The two Koreas’ rigid ideological beliefs dictated that any small concessions made to the other side would not only be seen as a “loss of face” but was an acknowledgement of the superiority of the other’s system of governance. 2 the aftermath of the Korean War, both the North and South embarked on ambitious economic development plans to demonstrate that each was the more powerful and prosperous of the two Koreas.3

Due to this zero-sum mentality, contact between the two sides was nearly nonexistent for almost 20 years following the conclusion of the armistice that ended the Korean War. Then starting in the early 1970s, a slight thaw appeared in the Cold War deadlock. North and South Korean Red Cross officials began negotiations on the reunification of separated families, and additional high-level talks between intelligence directors in the two Koreas eventually resulted in a surprise North-South joint communiqué in 1972.

In the communiqué, “Seoul and Pyongyang agreed that unification should be sought through:

  • Independent efforts of the two Koreas, and without interference from external powers;
  • Peaceful means, not by use of force;
  • The fostering of a ‘grand national unity.’” 4

This communiqué offered a new vision for unification that relied at least rhetorically on the principle of peaceful unification between the two Koreas. The document had also provided for “the establishment of the North-South Coordinating Committee (NSCC) which was to serve as the primary governmental channel for direct dialogue on unification issues.” 5 Despite this seeming breakthrough in inter-Korean relations, dialogue quickly broke down after recriminating actions on both sides halted the rapprochement. 6

In the 1980s, there were again some brief inter-Korean exchanges, including attempts at sports exchanges, inter-parliamentary meetings, and talks on family reunions. Pyongyang even proposed that the North and South co-host the 1988 Summer Olympics. 7 However, rapprochement efforts were dampened by several deadly North Korean provocations, including the bombing of ROK president Chun Doo-hwan’s cabinet in Rangoon in 1983 and the bombing of KAL Flight 858 in 1987. Calculated disruptions to the Seoul Olympics were also planned by North Korea but ultimately deterred. The Cold War mentality continued to dominate inter-Korean relations and formulation of unification policy even as the global strategic environment began to change in the late 1980s. Any compromise or concession made to the other side signaled defeat. The policies, a long-lasting remnant from the Cold War stalemate between the democratic free-world and the socialist/communist bloc, made it virtually impossible to make progress in inter-Korean relations. This “winner takes all” or “zero-sum” theory of unification dominated the policymaking process and academic studies on unification until the early 1990s.

The irony of this period—which dominated the thinking about unification on both sides of the peninsula—is that while each side strove for unification in its national objectives and nationalist rhetoric, neither really studied unification. There was no empirical understanding of what unification entailed, and what the policy challenges would be. The closest approximation to any empirical inquiry was Kim Dae-jung’s thesis on the three stages of unification. 8 But this was a political document more than an empirical study. In sum, unification was a national slogan for both Koreas, full of fiery rhetoric, but without substance.

Unification Theory 2: Too Difficult, Too Dangerous

The second theory of unification emerged after the Cold War ended and the two Germanys were unified. It was in this period that we saw the first true empirical study of unification that went beyond (but did not exclude) political rhetoric. Koreans watched German unification with deep envy, but the realities of how difficult unification would be also started to set in. As cathartic as the German unification process might have appeared, in South Korea unification started to be perceived as prohibitively expensive. The newly evolving post–Cold War environment had catalyzed a change in perceptions about unification, especially in South Korea. While unification was previously seen as something desirable, it suddenly became something to be avoided because of the staggering costs and the terrible uncertainties.

But watching the Germans struggle with social, political, and economic integration caused Koreans to see more clearly the challenges of unification


Prior to German unification, little attention had been paid to the process or mechanics of Korean unification. But watching the Germans struggle with social, political, and economic integration caused Koreans to see more clearly the challenges of unification. Suddenly, the theory that unification was too difficult and too dangerous emerged and took over a prominent place in policymaking and scholarship. Additionally, the changes in perception were caused by growing fears about the economic inequalities between North and South Korea and the increasing instability of the Kim Il-sung (later Kim Jong-il) regime. Korean unification was no longer perceived as a simple “winner takes all” scenario but as a complex process that would be messy and highly unpredictable.

During this period, there was an intense debate between two different schools of thought on the Korean unification process – “hard landing” versus “soft landing”—largely sparked by growing insecurity in North Korea’s political system and economy. 9 The work produced in this vein did push understanding of unification further largely by creating a paradigm to think about the problem.

The two different schools of thought were related to four different scenarios for unification:

  • North Korean regime collapse;
  • War;
  • Gradual change in the North leading to peaceful integration;
  • Maintenance of status quo or “muddling through.”10

Scenarios one and two were associated with the “hard landing” school of thought. A hard landing would entail a process whereby “[t]he inability of the regime in power to maintain effective political, economic, social and military control, ultimately lead[s] to the dissolution of the regime and, in the extreme case, the state.” 11 A soft landing, on the other hand—most often associated with scenarios three and four—was defined as “a process whereby gradual and controlled implementation of selective economic reforms enables a command economy to assume some characteristics of a market economy, although no regime change occurs.” 12 Although different variations of these schools of thought existed in both policy and academic circles, 13 the hard-landing theory of unification predominated Korean thinking from the end of the Cold War in Europe until the Asian financial crisis in 1997.

There are several reasons why the hard-landing theory likely prevailed at this time. The death of Kim Il-sung in 1994 and the widespread famine in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) led many officials and experts to predict an eminent collapse of the North Korean regime. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the South Korean government itself was transitioning from a militaristic, right-wing authoritarian regime to a democratic one. The ROK economy was also slowly progressing from the ranks of a developing country to that of a developed country. It was during this period that we began to see the first serious empirical study of unification, largely related to the estimated cost of the enterprise. The ROK Unification Ministry, as well as think tanks like the Korea Development Institute (KDI) and Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU), and private-sector institutions like Goldman Sachs, all calculated the cost of unification, and the numbers were large and frightening to most South Koreans. 14 The primary policy implication of this new knowledge about unification had to do with concerns about unification slowing down the ROK’s growth prospects, which in turn dampened support for the process. South Koreans were also increasingly proud of their perceived standing in the international community (as hosts of the 1988 Seoul Olympics and a new UN member) and may have feared that a costly and complicated unification process would relegate the ROK back to the ranks of a developing country.

Additionally, there was a perceived change in North Korean unification rhetoric during this time. The retreat of communism caused an existential crisis for North Korea as its main source of economic aid and ideological legitimacy started to dry up. Faced with a growing external threat, a failing economy, and a conventional military with increasingly deteriorating capabilities, North Korea seemingly shifted its strategy from “achieve unification at all costs” to “maintain regime survival at all costs.” 15 While a few experts assert that North Korea has never given up its view of unification as the “final victory” and as a struggle to be won at all costs, 16 analysis suggests that external pressures and internal problems caused North Korea to shift their tactics, and likely their strategy, during the 1990s.

In South Korea, there was also little domestic political will to push ahead with North-South dialogue and reconciliation efforts. Aside from a short, promising period of dialogue between 1988 and 1992, no lasting progress was made on inter-Korean relations throughout the 1990s. At that time, Roh Tae-woo, the president of the ROK, attempted to engage with North Korea under the banner of Nordpolitik. 17 The short period of engagement resulted in the signing of two accords: “The Basic Agreement on Reconciliation, Non-aggression, and Exchanges and Cooperation” (1991), and the “Joint Declaration on Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” (1992).18 While initially these accords signaled progress on both sides by ending decades of mutual non-recognition, identifying areas of cooperation, and laying out an institutional roadmap for unification, there was again the problem of rhetoric without substance. Korean unification was dominated by political discourse and even agreements, but without any serious study of its meaning. The Basic Agreement in 1991 was not accompanied by empirical study of unification by the two Koreas.

The subcommittees set up as a result of this agreement were focused again on the politics, largely for domestic consumption. Unsurprisingly, the agreements ultimately failed to resolve the deep conflicts between the two Koreas. South Korea’s normalization of diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union (1990) and China (1992) during President Roh Tae-woo’s term also dealt a harsh blow to North Korea.19 After 1992, North Korea cut off contact with South Korea and refused all opportunities to further engage in inter-Korean dialogue. The subsequent ROK president, Kim Young-sam, also later attempted rapprochement with the DPRK but revelations about North Korea’s suspected nuclear weapons program, and its announced withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1993, only added to the deepening distrust between North and South Korea. Although North Korea later signed the 1994 Agreed Framework with the United States,20 and suspended its withdrawal from the NPT, the DPRK’s attempts to freeze South Korea out of the agreement’s negotiations left many ROK officials with little appetite to work with the North.

Although it might be expected that the Cold War thaw would have created more favorable conditions for Korean unification, overall the international security environment was not particularly conducive to making progress on this issue in the late 1980s and early 1990s. While the United States did spend considerable resources trying to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis during the 1993–1994 period, the government was also heavily preoccupied with Saddam Hussein and the Gulf War (Desert Storm), as well as the conflicts in Bosnia and Rwanda. While concerned about the DPRK’s nuclear weapons program, the United States had little time or resources to devote entirely to North Korean policy or the study of unification.21 China, dealing with its own set of problems, also had little incentive to change the security status quo in Northeast Asia or tackle the problem of Korean unification. China was busy addressing domestic economic reforms, implementing its plan for a “peaceful rise,” and squashing sources of potential domestic unrest. Russia and Japan, with their own sets of domestic problems, were also not in a position to strongly influence policy on Korean unification.

The result was that the end of this period saw important political agreements but the related scholarship and policy discussions lent no greater transparency to the unification process than the earlier “winner takes all” period (often referred to in South Korea as unification by absorption, songong tongil 성공 통일 or pukchin tongil 북친 통일). What this period did show, however, was that new data does affect policy. The first real attempt to collect data on unification came about through the case studies of German unification and its potential application to the Korean situation. Additional studies also analyzed the estimated cost of unification. All of this set new parameters on how the Koreans and the world thought about unification. Unfortunately, these parameters, once set, would act as empirical blinders for the next decade.

Unification Theory 3: Sunshine Policy

In 1998, the ROK’s new democratic president Kim Dae-jung put forward the idea of the “Sunshine Policy.”22 The Sunshine Policy was a strategy of unconditional engagement designed to open North Korea to the forces of reform. Under this theory, North Korea’s internal reforms and opening to the outside world would eventually allow the two Koreas to reunify through a process of mutual consultation and consensus. The policy was tied to Kim Dae-jung’s more liberal political ideology, and was subsequently carried forth by his successor, President Roh Moo-hyun. The retreat of communism and the easing of Cold War threats had opened up some space to pursue diplomatic engagement with China and North Korea in the mid- to late 1990s. Rapid economic growth and democratic changes within South Korean society had also provided room for a change in policy toward the DPRK. But, the emergence of this alternative school of thought was not just due to ideology.

The Sunshine Policy, which could be called a theory based on an “extended soft landing,” was motivated by hard economic realities. South Korea’s liquidity crisis in 1997–1998 made unification impossible, so engaging with the North Korean regime over the long term, and paving the way for a gradual transition or a soft landing, seemed the best policy choice. At the time, the inter-Korean summits of 2000 and 2007 also gave some hope for long-term reconciliation and peaceful unification.23 Upon reflection, however, what was so distinct about the Sunshine Policy was the notion that unification should be pushed generations into the future. In effect, Kim and Roh’s policies, informed by the empirics of German unification and the Asian financial crisis, were meant to kick the “unification problem” down the road. The policies socialized an entire generation of Koreans and the world into seeing unification as a “bad thing”—too expensive, too impractical, and too inconvenient—and so it should not be a concern or goal of the current generation or even its children or grandchildren.

Upon reflection, however, what was so distinct about the Sunshine Policy was the notion that unification should be pushed generations into the distant future.


At certain times, the Sunshine Policy caused friction between the United States and South Korea who did not see eye to eye on North Korean policy. In particular, some officials inside the George W. Bush administration were reluctant to engage with North Korea over its nuclear program.24

As it related to unification policy, there were many critics of the soft landing theories who argued they were flawed because they were built on untenable assumptions:

  • A soft landing is possible only through engagement with North Korea;
  • Engagement will change North Korea for the better and cause the regime to institute systemic changes;
  • With a soft landing, military conflict on the Korean peninsula will be avoided;
  • North Korea’s neighbors will naturally support the soft landing and changes within the DPRK. 25

There was really no new empirical study of unification during the sunshine era. The opacity surrounding unification was transformed into a politically and ideologically motivated imperative to:

  • Engage North Korea;
  • Delay unification indefinitely.

As noted in the previous section, opacity about unification created policy constraints. Truisms became accepted as factual, without further study or new facts unearthed, and it was assumed that unification could be thought of in only one way.

Unification Theory 4: Pragmatism

The Sunshine era ended with the election of conservative South Korean president Lee Myung-bak. Lee was a businessman, not an ideologue. He was pragmatic and saw both North Korean policy and unification policy in pragmatic terms. What emerged during this period was a pushing back against a decade of views on unification, not with new information per se, but with political will. The new theory of unification—the fourth theory—was a pragmatic one tied to Lee’s own personal convictions: that is, unification may be expensive, it may be difficult, and it may be dangerous. But Koreans cannot blindly stick their heads in the sand and hope the problems will go away. Instead, as traumatic as unification may be, it could very well come tomorrow or next month or next year, so it was necessary to prepare for the process. This policy shift was likely informed not only by President Lee’s own pragmatic leadership style but also by events unfolding in North Korea.

Unification may be expensive, it may be difficult and it may be dangerous. But Koreans cannot blindly stick their heads in the sand and hope the problems will go away.


Despite the existence of the 1994 U.S.-DPRK Agreed Framework, the Six Party Talks September 19 Joint Statement on Denuclearization, and the February 2007 verification agreement, North Korea continued to develop nuclear weapons. The DPRK conducted nuclear weapons tests in 2006, 2009, 2013, and 2016 as well as additional ballistic missile tests, which added to fears about North Korea’s security threat to the region. Sanctions were imposed and diplomatic overtures were made following each round of provocations but North Korea remained undeterred in its pursuit of nuclear weapons and low-level military provocations. South Korean attitudes and policy toward North Korea also hardened considerably after the sinking of the Cheonan and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island by North Korea in 2010. Meanwhile, the stroke suffered by Kim Jong-il in 2008, and his eventual death in 2011, led many to predict that the North Korean regime was again on the verge of collapse.26 Many officials and experts began to call for the necessity of contingency planning to deal with the possibility of a North Korean regime collapse due to the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and the growing instability of the Kim family regime.27

According to the emerging “pragmatic” theory, it is necessary for Koreans and the other countries in Northeast Asia to start preparing for the unification process now, not simply wish it would go away forever. This theory of unification was informed by limited, but new, research on realistic scenarios for regime collapse as well as the study of long-term pathways to peaceful unification. But most of the information about unification remained at the political level, this time focused on educating the domestic public about unification. The unification ministry took resources once used for inter-Korean economic cooperation by the previous administrations and focused it on large gatherings in major hotels of foreign-policy luminaries to talk more openly about unification as a part of Korea’s destiny. The political objective was to reverse one decade of “non-thinking” about unification. But once again, the discourse on unification remained political more than positivist. One of the only substantive studies in English of practical issues associated with the unification process, including humanitarian aid, securing nuclear weapons and materials, and treatment for disease outbreaks, was conducted by the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Korean Studies Institute at the University of Southern California during a three-year joint project.28

Unification Theory 5: Jackpot

The fifth theory of unification advanced under President Park Geun-hye evolved from the earlier pragmatic theory proposed under Lee. In her speech in Dresden, Germany, Park laid out her own theory of unification as a “bonanza” or “jackpot” for Korea and her neighbors. According to this theory, the process of reunification should be reimagined or envisioned as a process that could offer opportunities for growth, investment, and peace to both Koreas and to all Korean people. This fifth theory of unification does not see reunification as “winner takes all,” or something to be feared and delayed indefinitely (Sunshine), or even something that must be reluctantly prepared for (pragmatic). In a sense, this latest theory is an attempt at social reengineering of the discourse on unification that has taken root over the past 15 years. Park’s unification policy is based on a philosophy of diplomacy and foreign relations called “trustpolitik.” 29

Park deserves credit for creating a model for thinking about unification, but there is little that has been done to shed any light on the unification tunnel. The administration set up a commission to study unification called the Presidential Committee for Unification Preparation that is nominally headed by President Park. The commission makes recommendations to the president of the Republic of Korea regarding policy development and implementation measures to prepare for a democratic and peaceful unification process. 30 The commission is tasked with deeper analysis on the challenges and opportunities of unification. But thus far, no serious empirical work has been disseminated. And what has been done remains entirely focused on Korea’s interests without any broader implications for the interests of other countries in the region.

Implications for Shift in Unification Theories

The hard realities of reunification, and the problems associated with North Korea’s growing instability and security threat to the region, have caused a definite shift in thinking about the reunification process. Officials and scholars are slowly realizing that short-term “band-aid” solutions have done little to resolve the North Korean problem and also have failed to positively shape the long-term strategic environment for Korean unification. There is an increasing realization that serious study of unification is necessary to prepare for the future, and to help broaden the aperture on policy today. In the latter regard, all that we have on unification despite decades of different theories are stylized facts without any real analysis—for example, unification will be costly, a hard landing is dangerous, and millions of refugees will flood China. These stylized facts have narrowed how we think about policy today to a small bandwidth of policy options. This in turn leads to policy stasis. Unearthing and disseminating new facts about unification can change the way we think about the future and can also widen the choices available to policymakers, opinion leaders, and stakeholders. Beyond Parallel, CSIS’s new microsite which is aimed at bringing transparency and understanding to unification, will help fill the void of information and encourage planning for the future.

References

Show 30 Footnotes

  1. This refers to 1) the Cold War stalemate between democracy and communism; 2) the battle for recognition and legitimacy between the democratic South Korea and socialist North Korea; and 3) the domestic struggle between the liberal left (with socialist/communist sympathies) and conservative right (with ties to Japanese colonial legacy) in South Korea and the internal fight for power and leadership control between communist factions inside North Korea.
  2. For an authoritative account of this fight for legitimacy, see Sheila Miyoshi Jager, Brothers at War: The Unending Conflict in Korea (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2013); Roy Richard Grinker, Korea and Its Futures: Unification and the Unfinished War (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998); and Don Oberdorfer, The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History 3rd ed. (New York: Basic Books, 2014).
  3. For information about South Korea’s incredible economic growth during the Park Chung-hee period, see Byung-Kook Kim and Ezra F. Vogel, The Park Chung Hee Era: The Transformation of South Korea (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011); Hyung-A Kim and Clark W. Sorensen, eds., Reassessing the Park Chung Hee Era, 1961–1979: Development, Political Thought, Democracy and Cultural Influence (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2011).
  4. Victor Cha, “Korean Unification: The Zero-Sum Past and the Precarious Future,” Asian Perspective, Vol. 21, No. 3 (Winter 1997): 63–92, 65.
  5. National Unification Board, A White Paper on South-North Dialogue in Korea (Seoul: National Unification Board, December 31, 1988), 35–54, 76–104. See Cha, “Korean Unification: The Zero-Sum Past and the Precarious Future.”
  6. North Korea suspended dialogue after it accused the South of kidnapping Kim Dae-jung from Japan. It also unilaterally cut the hotline with South Korea in 1976. See Cha, “Korean Unification: The Zero-Sum Past and the Precarious Future,” 88.
  7. Sergey Radchenko, “Sport and Politics on the Korean Peninsula—North Korea and the 1988 Seoul Olympics,” Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, December 12, 2011.
  8. Kim Dae-jung, Three Stage Approach to Korean Unification: Focusing on the South-North Confederal Stage, trans. T. C. Rhee (Los Angeles and Seoul: University of Southern California and Kim Dae Jung Peace Foundation for the Asia-Pacific Region Press, 1997).
  9. See Jonathan D. Pollack and Chung Min Lee, Preparing for Korean Unification: Scenarios and Implications (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1999).
  10. Ibid.; see also Charles Wolf Jr. and Kamil Akramov, North Korean Paradoxes: Circumstances, Costs, and Consequences of Korean Unification (Washington, DC: RAND Corporation, 2005); and David Maxwell, “Should the United States Support Korean Unification and If So, How?,” International Journal of Korean Studies 18, No. 1 (2014): 139–56.
  11. Pollack and Lee, Preparing for Korean Unification: Scenarios and Implications.
  12. Pollack and Lee, Preparing for Korean Unification: Scenarios and Implications.
  13. See-Won Byun and Scott Snyder, “North Korean Contingency Planning and U.S.-ROK Cooperation” (Washington, DC: Center for U.S.-Korea Policy, The Asia Foundation, September 2009), 4–6; see also Robert D. Kaplan, “When North Korea Falls,” The Atlantic Monthly, October 2006
  14. Institute for Korean Integration of Society, “Costs and Benefits of Korean Unification” (in Korean) 2011, 9–10 (containing estimates of unification cost based on published reports from 1991 to 2011); Goohoon Hwon, “A United Korea? Reassessing North Korea Risks,” Global Economics Paper No. 188, Goldman Sachs Global Economics, Commodities and Strategy Research, 2009, 19.
  15. For a good account of this time period, see Patrick McEachern, Inside the Red Box: North Korea’s Post-Totalitarian Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), 67–75.
  16. Brian R. Myers, North Korea’s Juche Myth (Busan, Korea: Sthele Press, 2015).
  17. Charles K. Armstrong, Tyranny of the Weak: North Korea and the World, 1950–1992 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013), 267–81.
  18. See Republic of Korea Ministry of Unification, “Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korea Peninsula,” January 20, 1992
  19. See Sheila Miyoshi Jager, Brothers at War: The Unending Conflict in Korea; Jae Ho Chung, Between Ally and Partner: Korea-China Relations and the United States (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), 67–74; and Armstrong, Tyranny of the Weak: North Korea and the World.
  20. See Republic of Korea Ministry of Unification, “Agreed Framework between the United States of America and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” October 21, 1994
  21. Charles L. Pritchard, Failed Diplomacy: How North Korea Got the Bomb (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2007); see also Mike Chinoy, Meltdown: The Inside Story of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2008).
  22. For an in-depth look at the policies, and the rationale behind them, see Chung-in Moon, The Sunshine Policy: In Defense of Engagement as a Path to Peace in Korea (Seoul: Yonsei University Press, 2012); see also Victor D. Cha and David C. Kang, Nuclear North Korea: A Debate on Engagement Strategies (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003).
  23. ROK President Kim Dae-jung and DPRK Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il held the first inter-Korean summit in 2000. The second inter-Korean summit was held in 2007 with Kim Jong-il and ROK President Roh Moo-hyun.
  24. Evans J. R. Revere, “Facing the Facts: Towards a New U.S. North Korea Policy” (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2013), 6.
  25. Gilbert Rozman, In-Taek Hyun, and Shin-wha Lee, eds., South Korean Strategic Thought Toward Asia (New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillian, 2008), 61-62; For support of “soft-landing” theories see Selig S. Harrison, Korean Endgame: A Strategy for Reunification and U.S. Disengagement (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002).
  26. Paul B. Stares and Joel S. Wit, “Preparing for Sudden Change in North Korea,” Council Special Report, No. 42, New York: Council on Foreign Relations, January 2009.
  27. See Bruce W. Bennett, Preparing for the Possibility of a North Korean Collapse (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2013).
  28. Ibid.; see also Victor Cha and David Kang, “Challenges for Korean Unification Planning: Justice, Markets, Health, Refugees, and Civil-Military Transitions,” USC Korean Studies Institute and Center for Strategic and International Studies, December 2011
  29. This concept sees trust as existing in two interrelated forms. One form of trust is related to confidence-building measures—small steps taken over time that reassure each side that their actions are guided by specific rules and norms and they can expect the other party to abide by the same rules in the future. This type of trust is built up primarily through cooperation in areas covering nontraditional security or shared public goods like humanitarian assistance or environmental protection. The other side of trust is likened to “credible deterrence”—for instance, if you break the rules, you can trust that you will be punished. Rather than being something dark and negative, President Park has tried to use her “trustpolitik” and “bonanza” narratives to paint unification as something bright and hopeful. Park believes that confidence-building measures, cooperation, and transparency can pave the way for better inter-Korean relations and peaceful unification in the future. See Seong-ho Sheen, “Dilemma of South Korea’s Trust Diplomacy and Unification Policy,” International Journal of Korean Unification Studies, Vol. 23, No. 2 (2014): 97–122; see also, Evan J. R. Revere, “Korean Reunification and U.S. Interests: Preparing for One Korea” (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, January 20, 2015) (paper prepared for “Cooperating for Regional Stability in the Process of Korean Unification: Contingency Preparations with the ROK-U.S. as Anchor” cosponsored by Korea Research Institute for Security and Brookings Institution).
  30. See the Presidential Committee for Unification Preparation