SPENCER KIM WRITES (courtesy of the Korea Times) — Change is a constant of the human experience. It is coming to the Korean peninsula, brought by three political change agents, Kim Jong-un, Moon Jae-in, and Donald Trump. The status quo ― frozen in time since 1953 ― is melting. It will be no more. Will it be replaced by a new status quo, stable, secure and prosperous? Or are the three change agents destroying the old status quo only to unleash a chain reaction of unintended consequences that will bring a period of chaos, confusion, and danger?
To me, it is time for details. Each of the change agents has a different primary driving motivation, but they appear also to have considerable overlap. Someone has to do the first draft of the comprehensive peace treaty that would be at the core of any new stable status quo. And they need to do it before the differences in motivation unravel the overlap.
As a businessman, I know that success depends on a written business plan. It is not something wobbly and general, like, “We’ll sell more next year; we’ll hire good people.” It is putting on paper the numbers, the sales targets, why do we think we can meet them, what is the profit margin? How many new employees do we need? What qualifications will we look for, where will we find them?
Details, details, details. Unless you can measure what you plan to do, you cannot measure success. And in the process of detailing plans, you find the problems so you can overcome them. Finding where the problems are, and correcting them, is impossible unless you start with a first draft of a written plan.
All three change agents have put their names to agreements that define an outcome in general terms.
In the Panmunjom Declaration we have: South and North Korea will cooperate to establish a permanent and solid peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. Ending the unnatural state of armistice and establishing a robust peace regime on the Korean Peninsula is a historical mission that must not be delayed any further.
In the Singapore Joint Statement we have: The United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. But each of the three change agents has different primary motivations. President Trump wants to end the North Korean nuclear threat, one way or the other. His policy is maximum pressure and maximum engagement. But there has to be denuclearization.
President Moon wants to end the constant threat of war that the ROK faces, exacerbated now that North Korea has nuclear weapons, and move to inter-Korean cooperation. Kim Jong-un realizes the basis of legitimacy that underpinned his grandfather’s and father’s regimes ― standing up to the U.S. bogeyman and liberating its colony in South Korea ― will not suffice if he wants to rule for 40-50 years.
He wants to base his regime on economic development and rapprochement with the U.S. and ROK, and freedom from dependence on China. But he needs to know that if he denuclearizes, his security is guaranteed by something permanent. He cannot depend on the “word” or “goodwill” of a single U.S. or ROK president. Past elections have led to reversals of policy in the U.S. and ROK.
What is the business plan for getting to the new status quo?
One of the players, the ROK, U.S. or DPRK, now has to draft a comprehensive plan ― in the form of a peace treaty ― that can act as that business plan and includes the details all the players want to see. The negotiations about the details, the discovery of what details are most important to each of the players, can bring the change agents to find and focus on their overlapping motivations. Otherwise, the parts of the change agents’ motivations that are not exactly in sync might take over.
I think the North Korean response to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo’s recent trip to Pyongyang is telling. Essentially, the North Koreans accused Pompeo of being all denuclearization and no peace treaty. There needs to be a comprehensive peace treaty, it has to include the details all sides want to see, and it has to be “permanent.”
And I think permanent means a treaty ratified in the U.S. by the U.S. Senate, thereby committing the U.S., and ratified in the ROK by the National Assembly so that South Korean policy toward the North does not change every five years with a new presidential election. North Korea has to agree to a denuclearization path that is acceptable to the U.S. and ROK.
And after the three change agents agree, they then must decide whether to bring China, and maybe even Japan and Russia, into the treaty ― which will require another round of detailed negotiation as those countries present their equities. Someone in one of the three core countries must now put pen to paper to start building a business plan for success. If it leads to a lasting security architecture for Korea, the shareholders in the business are in for a lengthy period of fat dividends.
Spencer Kim is Chairman and CEO of CBOL Corporation, a California aerospace company, and co-founder of the nonprofit Pacific Century Institute (PCI), which seeks to foster understanding among the peoples of the Pacific rim, and is an active alliance partner with Asia Media International. He can be reached at email@example.com.