Leigh Miller for GlobalAtlanta
South Korea must continue to invest in North Korea, following the model of China’s economic development through trade and foreign investment, in order to achieve security in the region, according to Atlanta resident James Laney, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea and former president of Emory University.
“That’s the only way I know to go. North Korea may have the atomic bomb now. But China has a nuclear bomb, and we live with that. We need to have North Korea follow the model of China. Patience has paid off because China trades, not fights with us. That’s the road for North Korea,” Dr. Laney told GlobalAtlanta in a filmed interview June 15.
Dr. Laney’s interview took place before North Korea test-fired seven nuclear missiles on July 5, one of which reportedly had the capability to hit the United States but crashed shortly after take-off.
The U.S. and Japan want to retaliate with economic sanctions, while China and Russia propose further negotiating with North Korea. North Korea has threatened to fire more missiles if sanctions are imposed.
South Korea indicated that it would impose some sanctions, like reduction in food aid, but it stressed diplomacy as the best way to solve the crisis.
Cabinet-level meetings between the two Korean governments, scheduled for next week, are to proceed despite the missile crisis, and South Korea has reported it will continue to pursue economic joint ventures with North Korea.
Using the model of U.S. companies investing in China, South Korea investments are now using North Korean labor in an export processing zone located across the 38th parallel that divides the two countries, Dr. Laney said.
South Korean companies are hiring North Koreans because they are good, affordable workers, Dr. Laney said.
Tourism is also beginning to develop in North Korea, with two historic sites of interest now opened to South Korean and other tourists, he noted.
North Korea also has great hydroelectric power potential, with that type of energy fueling development that existed there even before the Korean War started in 1950, he added.
“North Korea’s development will depend on China and South Korean policy,” he said, referring to South Korea’s Sunshine Policy that advocates diplomacy, not aggression, with North Korea.
The policy, implemented by South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung in 1998, calls for “all carrots, no sticks,” Dr. Laney explained. South Korea will not tolerate “military adventurism,” but it will not attack North Korea either, he said.
Since North Korea is 30 times poorer than South Korea, reuniting the two countries would lead to an economic crisis, he added. Thus, the Sunshine Policy calls for gradually enabling North Korea to build its economy through foreign investment.
The policy, though held in low repute among conservatives in South Korea, is an alternative for those 85 percent of South Koreans who do not want to go back to the old days of “suppressed hostility or war,” Dr. Laney said.
Denuclearization is crucial for North Korea’s economic development, he added. For the past three years, the U.S. has not been dealing with North Korea, which is a mistake in Dr. Laney’s opinion. He said North Korea now has the capacity for eight more nuclear bombs than it did three years ago.
“Engagement is about diplomacy. Getting them to do what you want short of going to war. Not appeasement, but working toward goals we have in mind. It’s tedious, and you have to have patience, but it’s less costly in lives and treasure,” Dr. Laney said.
“Just hoping for regime change is the worst policy. They’re up to their old tricks again,” he said of North Korea.
Dr. Laney was U.S. ambassador to South Korea from 1993-97 and president of Emory University for 16 years prior.
For the full video interview, visit http://video.globalatlanta.com