West must try a 'third way' to change North Korea
South Korea’s carrots and America's sticks have both failed to tame North Korea. There is another way. With a new regime and small, but positive changes stirring in North Korea, the international community should seize the chance and begin cultural exchanges with the North.
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For example, the United States and other Western nations can establish scholarships to invite North Korean students to study abroad. North Korean cultural, educational, and sports teams should be welcomed to participate in more international events. Even military-to-military contact between North Korea and the West, while inconceivable now, should be explored. Full engagement does not mean endorsement of the North Korean regime but aims at positive changes within North Korea.Skip to next paragraph
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While the North Korean leadership appears united, different views exist among top leaders. The West can apply a “divide and conquer” strategy to isolate hardliners and encourage potential reformers. Such a strategy has a better chance to influence long-term developments in North Korea than punitive sanctions.
This is not a quixotic idea, but a policy based on reality. Interestingly, North Korea also seems ready to try something new. After the young Kim Jong-un succeeded his father who suddenly died last December, most observers think that life will go on as usual in North Korea. Few have paid attention to recent positive changes inside the Hermit Kingdom.
While Western nations continue to drum up sanctions against North Korea, the isolated country is reaching out to other nations to explore ways to break up ostracism and develop its economy.
Kim Yong Nam, president of the presidium of North Korea’s parliament, recently concluded a visit to Singapore and Indonesia, in an apparent attempt to draw foreign investment and expand trade. Mr. Kim is North Korea’s ceremonial head of state; his visit to Southeast Asia is significant and adds to a recent spate of positive developments in North Korea.
In January, the Associated Press became the first Western media outlet to open a full-time, all-format news bureau in Pyongyang. In May, North Korea and Indonesia signed an agreement to share news stories, photos, TV and video footage, and eventually swap journalists.
The late Kim Jong-il visited China several times, touring boomtowns like Shanghai and Shenzhen. Many wondered why he did not introduce Chinese-style reforms to North Korea. For North Korea, the experiences of smaller Southeast Asian nations are perhaps more relevant.
North Korea considers Singapore a model for growth and attracting foreign direct investment. Singapore became North Korea’s 6th largest trade partner in 2010, according to the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency in Seoul. By firming up trade relations with other countries, North Korea also appears to be trying to avoid over-dependence on China.