The collapse of North Korea

I came across this article some time ago, and it got me thinking about the implications of the collapse of the Kim regime. Not surprisingly, there are many people out there that wish for the collapse of the Kim regime, its rule rife with human rights violations and the belief that a communist ideology is subpar to democracy – just compare the size of the economy of the two Koreas.  But what would it really mean to have the Kim regime down?



The article is mainly based on a response to Sue Mi Terry’s (“A Korea Whole and Free,” July/August 2014) assessment that the collapse of the North Korean regime is imminent. Terry analyzes the feasibility and desirability of reunification after a sudden regime change, and emphasizes the need to have policymakers in Washington and Seoul to start planning for a military intervention to reunify the Korean Peninsula .


Costs involved:

  1. South Korea’s (SK) defense spending will skyrocket; to stabilize the North and demobilize Kim Jong-un’s huge standing army
  2. Societal problems of sudden integration – SK’s medical insurance system has to incorporate 25 million new members, heavier tax burden on southern taxpayers


  1. South Korea shrinks its military budget eventually – absence of North Korean threat
  2. Economic gains from combined effort of North’s labor and resources + South’s capital and technology –> North-South wage gap would close
  3. Demographic boon for the South – counteracts South’s low birthrate and rapidly aging workforce


Possible implications:

  1. China will no longer have a strategic buffer against U.S. troops in SK
  2. Mass exodus of NK refugees into China


Reunification approach:

  1. Integration / gradual merging of North and South through economic integration (cost-effective way)
  2. Collapse of North Korean regime

Takeaway points:

  1. Reunification through war is the worst possible and least likely scenario
  2. Reunification will bring in many problems in the short run; “The Kim regime will probably not come to a neat end; the collapse of a state is always messy, and it will be particularly so for a regime so militarized and desperate.” (Terry)
  3. But short term costs / problems will be worth it 



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Currently living and pursuing my undergraduate studies in South Korea.

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