Yoon’s “audacious plan” may be doomed to fail from the start, but that’s not the point
By: Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein
There’s been an increasing amount of reporting on the Yoon government’s “audacious plan” for the North Korean economy over the past few weeks. A recent example here from Yonhap:
South Korea is seeking to coordinate with the United States and other countries before announcing the details of its “audacious plan” to revive North Korea’s economy in the event it accepts denuclearization, a presidential official said Monday.
Yoon outlined the plan in his inauguration speech on May 10, saying if North Korea genuinely embarks on a process to complete denuclearization, South Korea will be prepared to present an “audacious plan” to vastly strengthen North Korea’s economy and improve the quality of life for its people.
Last week, he asked Unification Minister Kwon Young-se to come up with the details.
“It’s far more realistic and likely to be accepted by North Korea if we announce it after sufficient consultations with the United States and other relevant countries, so we’re trying hard to include such details,” the official said.
(Source: “S. Korea seeks to coordinate with U.S. over ‘audacious plan’ for N. Korea,” Yonhap News, July 25th, 2022.)
I’ve already covered the “audacious plan” a little here on the blog. Here’s an excerpt from a post I wrote in May:
It seems likely to me that Yoon is aware of all of this – he presumably gets high-quality briefings on North Korean policies – but that this was the least bad thing to say, since he had to say something about his vision for North Korea policy. Subin Kim, who analyzes South Korean politics at his excellent website Koreakontext, pointed out in an email that most of Yoon’s national security team consist of the same people who advised Lee Myung-bak on North Korea policy. Perhaps this is simply a way of avoiding the topic by repeating tired and tried phrases. In any case, such suggestions are a dead end with North Korea, and Yoon likely knows it.
“All of this” being the many ways in which North Korea has declared it is not interested in “economic cooperation” in the sense that South Korean politicians often do, namely with heavy South Korean involvement in management and administration. South Korea most likely wants to consult with the US about the plan not to strengthen its implementation through cooperation, but as a courtesy to a close ally.
We will likely see the plan revealed soon, but I’m not too optimistic it will continue anything truly new or bold. Rather, each South Korean president simply needs his or her plan for North Korea, and Yoon is likely launching this in large part to meet that expectation.