Tracking Number:  228165

Title:  "North Korea's 'Smile Diplomacy' Self-Serving, Scholar Says." According to Rinn Sup Shinn, foreign affairs analyst for the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division at the Congressional Research Service, self-preservation, not Korean reunification, is most probably behind North Korea's new friendly diplomatic overtures toward South Korea and the West. (920519)

Date:  19920519


05/19/92 *

NORTH KOREA'S "SMILE DIPLOMACY" SELF-SERVING, SCHOLAR SAYS (Article on R.S. Shinn talk at Library of Congress) (570) By Jane A. Morse USIA Staff Writer Washington -- Self-preservation, not Korean reunification, is most probably behind North Korea's new "smile diplomacy," according to Rinn Sup Shinn, foreign affairs analyst for the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division at the Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Shinn is considered to be among the foremost experts on North Korea in the United States.

Speaking May 19 at the "Tuesday Lunch Group," a monthly forum for Korea-watchers held at the Library of Congress, Shinn said that North Korea's recent overtures to South Korea and the Western world do not indicate a change in policy.

North Korea's "Great Leader" Kim Il Sung is more interested in preserving the structure that keeps him in power than with maintaining a pure Marxist-Leninist ideology for his country, Shinn said. What appears to be more open dialogue on North Korea's part may actually be foot dragging on more substantive issues regarding possible reunification of the peninsula while at the same time making an "end run" for more cooperation from Japan and the United States, he said.

North Korea needs and wants economic assistance, Shinn said, but if North Korea does adopt an "open door" policy, it may actually undercut South Korea's leverage.

South Korea believes its booming economy is its most important attraction to the North, but if Japan and possibly the United State rush in with economic assistance, it will undercut this important South Korean leverage, Shinn observed. South Korean caution in avoiding competition and confusion among its own businessmen may be reflected in the fact that the South Korean government so far has allowed only officials of the Dae Woo Corporation to speak with North Korean officials regarding possible joint ventures, he said.

Kim Il Sung has changed his strategy somewhat, Shinn observed. He is more receptive to taking the "little steps" espoused by the South for confidence building, and has dropped the "ferocious rhetoric" for "smile diplomacy," Shinn said. In addition, the North Korean concept of security has expanded beyond exclusively military terms to include economic definitions, he said.

In Shinn's assessment, the 25-point "Agreement on Reconciliation, Nonaggression, and Exchanges and Cooperation" signed by the two Koreas in December 1991 is little more than "an agreement not to disagree." He noted that perceptions of this agreement are very different on both sides. The North Korean version of the title places "Exchanges" first, before "Reconciliation," which belies the North's overwhelming interest in economic advantage, according to Shinn.

Nonetheless, providing economic assistance to the North may well be the most effective route South Korea can take for now, Shinn said. South Korea's obligations to the North are based on self-interest, he said, adding that if the North were to go the way of Rumania, it would benefit neither side.

Shinn made no predictions as for the prospects of reunification. He said North Korean sentiments regarding reunification always appeared "manipulated" and "manufactured" to him based on his reading of press reports.

South Koreans, on the other hand, are "becoming more realistic" regarding reunification, he said. The actual costs to them, he pointed out, have been estimated at anywhere from 100 million dollars to one trillion dollars over a decade if reunification were to occur anytime soon -- a heavy burden even to a country as prosperous as South Korea.


File Identification:  05/19/92, EP-213
Product Name:  Wireless File
Product Code:  WF
Target Areas:  EA
PDQ Text Link:  228165
USIA Notes:  *92051913.EPF