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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Tracking Number:  147231

Title:  "Scholar Says Korean Reunification 'Predictable'."

At the Heritage Foundation, Nicholas Eberstadt discussed the possible reunification of North and South Korea. (900713)

Date:  19900713


07/13/90 *


(Article on Eberstadt talk at Heritage Foundation) (600)

By Jane A. Morse

USIA Staff Writer

Washington -- Reunification on the Korean peninsula is "predictable" and the United States must make greater efforts to obtain information about North Korea which would aid in preparation for a more "humane and civil" reunification process, according to an American scholar.

Nicholas Eberstadt, a visiting fellow at the Harvard Center for Population Studies and an American Enterprise Institute scholar, believes that there is "more human intelligence available on North Korea than is being shared with the United States."

At a luncheon talk July 12 at the Heritage Foundation, Eberstadt said it is vital for the United States to obtain this information from whatever sources possible so as not to be caught unawares when what he predicts will be fast and dramatic changes precipitate the reunification process.

North Korea, he said, is "a Stalinist system with Korean characteristics" and the United States won't get much warning time for changes when they come. Eberstadt could not, however, identify what preconditions might be necessary for the reunification process to begin.

Eberstadt said caution must be used when attempting to compare the reunification of Germany with that which will eventually take place in Korea. But he did emphasize that Germany demonstrated that it is neither negotiations nor confidence building measures that finally bring reunification, but the collapse of one of the states.

The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK), he pointed out, is held together by the personality cult of Kim Il Sung. But Kim no longer projects the powerful charisma he once did in his public appearances and which is necessary to energize the political system, Eberstadt said. Furthermore, there are strong doubts about his son's (Kim Jong Il) ability to rule, he added.

Eberstadt's remarks were based on observations he made during his May 18-26 visit to Pyongyang this year under an academic exchange program sponsored by North Korea's Institute for International Studies. Eberstadt said he felt his visit differed from those of other Western visitors to North Korea in that it wasn't as heavily burdened with ideological discussions.

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Eberstadt said he came away from North Korea with three unexpected impressions: The depth of poverty among the people; the tolerance for corruption; and the "exhaustion" of the North Korean society -- physically, administratively, and ideologically.

Poverty is obvious in the north, Eberstadt said. Smuggling of much-needed medical supplies is tolerated and no attempt is made to hide the activities from foreigners like himself, and a three-tiered currency system allows for massive economic corruption.

Everywhere he looked, the people appeared to be physically exhausted, he said. Uniformed but unarmed military personnel were much in evidence performing labor normally entrusted to a civilian work force; and public responses to pronouncements by their "Great Leader" were wooden and lacking enthusiasm, Eberstadt said.

While the blackout of news about the outside world is nearly impenetrable -- most of the public hasn't learned of the Tiananmen Square incident -- citizens of Pyongyang don't stare at non-Asians, which Eberstadt interpreted as due to increasing visits by Soviets and Eastern Europeans to the country. North Korean university students Eberstadt met by chance were non-hostile, curious, and relatively relaxed and free in their conversations with him, he said. Still, he saw no indications that there was any sort of dissident movement.

Nonetheless, the division of the peninsula is becoming unsustainable, Eberstadt said, and the race between north and south is coming to an end as the Republic of Korea gains political and economic strength and the DPRK crumbles from within.


File Identification:  07/13/90, EP-505
Product Name:  Wireless File
Product Code:  WF
Thematic Codes:  1EA
Target Areas:  EA
PDQ Text Link:  147231

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