Preparing for the Possibility of a North Korean Collapse

Preparing for the Possibility of a North Korean Collapse

Bruce W. Bennett
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 342
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Preparing for the Possibility of a North Korean Collapse
    Book Description:

    A North Korean government collapse would have serious consequences, including a humanitarian disaster and civil war. The Republic of Korea and the United States can help mitigate the consequences, seeking unification by being prepared to deliver humanitarian aid in the North, stop conflict, demilitarize the North Korean military over time, secure and eliminate North Korean weapons of mass destruction, and manage Chinese intervention.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-8175-9
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-x)
  4. Figures
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Tables
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Summary
    (pp. xv-xxvi)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxvii-xxviii)
  8. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxix-xxx)
  9. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    In the aftermath of the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il in December 2011, there has been increasing discussion of the possibility of a North Korean collapse.¹ Indeed, many argue that it is only a matter of time because North Korea is a failing state.² Still, others argue that the North Korean regime has survived very difficult circumstances in the past when many predicted collapse and appears to be stable now.³ In reality, we do not know how stable the North Korean government is. Moreover, it is extraordinarily difficult to predict a collapse, as many observers came to realize...

  10. CHAPTER TWO Possibilities for Collapse
    (pp. 13-52)

    Many sources identify North Korea as a failed or failing state. For example,

    The Fund for Peace andForeign Policymagazine developed the Failed States Index and have measured the degree of failure of states by using 22 quantifiable indicators every year since 2005. North Korea is one of the 20 countries that have been on the list of failed states for the last seven years (2005–11). All these countries are dictatorial, very poor, have experienced civil wars, and all but Ethiopia are former colonies. Excepting North Korea, these former colonies have gone through violent leadership changes since independence.¹...

  11. CHAPTER THREE The Potential Consequences of Collapse
    (pp. 53-102)

    The collapse of the North Korean government could have global consequences, certainly for any country tied economically to Northeast Asia. This point was illustrated by the Japanese earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster in early 2011, which affected the availability and costs of Japanese goods around the world. Of course, the consequences will likely be most serious in North Korea, where a humanitarian disaster, potentially complicated by civil war and related consequences, could seriously hurt much of the population. North Korea’s neighboring countries could also be physically affected by refugees, criminal activity, and the actions of some North Korean factions that...

  12. CHAPTER FOUR Addressing North Korean Thinking About Unification
    (pp. 103-138)

    North Korean propaganda has depicted the ROK and the United States as the enemies of the North Korean people and has sought to make most North Koreans hate and fear the United States, in particular. If North Koreans harbor these feelings, the consequences of sudden unification could be exacerbated. Moreover, the ROK and the United States will have far less ability to mitigate these consequences unless they can gain the cooperation of North Koreans, especially the elites. Overcoming North Korean hatred and fear of the United States and the ROK is a starting point across almost all the potential consequences....

  13. CHAPTER FIVE Challenges of and Responses to Humanitarian Disaster
    (pp. 139-160)

    This chapter characterizes the challenges that could lead to a humanitarian disaster and how to mitigate them. North Korea suffers from a humanitarian disaster even today: As discussed above, in many parts of the country it has insufficient food to feed its people, inadequate medicine, and unacceptable water. A collapse would only exacerbate these conditions, based on a series of challenges. While North Korea’s inability to produce the food it needs would provide the basic challenge, a North Korean government collapse would terminate the existing food distribution system and lead many people holding food to hoard it, reducing the food...

  14. CHAPTER SIX Challenges of and Responses to Conflict and Military Forces in North Korea
    (pp. 161-222)

    This chapter addresses conflict that could be associated with the collapse of the North Korean government and the means for dealing with North Korean military forces. One conflict possibility would involve the North Korean government ordering a diversionary invasion of the ROK, trying to avoid a collapse, but that invasion would likely fail and cause a collapse. In another, North Korean provocations could lead to an escalatory spiral that does considerable damage in both North and South Korea before the North Korean government fails. Alternatively, a civil war could break out between the factions in the North, each trying to...

  15. CHAPTER SEVEN Challenges of and Responses to Security Services and Human Rights Disasters
    (pp. 223-246)

    North Korea maintains large security services in addition to the military forces discussed in Chapter Six. If anything, these security services would be expected to be more loyal to the regime and more hostile toward any outside intervention. And while the security services are mainly lightly armed, they also possess some heavy military equipment. Therefore, any ROK and U.S. intervention in North Korea would need to plan for the “demilitarization” of these forces as well. This report addresses them separately from the military forces because there are some important differences in how these forces should be handled. One major difference...

  16. CHAPTER EIGHT Challenges of and Responses to Ownership Issues
    (pp. 247-258)

    In discussions with ROK experts on North Korea and unification, I discovered their serious concerns about North Korean ownership issues in the aftermath of a North Korean government collapse and Korean unification. The key question is: After the collapse of the North Korean government and subsequent unification, who will own the property of North Korea and the North Korean businesses? This question requires the ROK government to make several decisions, although partial and probably poor decisions already exist in ROK law. The decisions on this question will have significant implications for the North Korean people’s satisfaction with unification and also...

  17. CHAPTER NINE Challenges of and Responses to Potential Chinese Intervention
    (pp. 259-280)

    As noted above, China can choose whether or not to intervene in a North Korean government collapse. The ROK and the United States have no force available to secure the Chinese–North Korean border either to prevent refugee flows that would, in part, stimulate Chinese intervention or to stop a Chinese intervention itself. There are reasons for believing that the Chinese might intervene and also reasons for believing that they would not. The ROK and the United States might even decide to invite Chinese intervention, especially in future years, when the ROK Army will likely become too small to handle...

  18. CHAPTER TEN Addressing the Prerequisites of Collapse Preparation
    (pp. 281-296)

    In conclusion, if the North Korean government were to suddenly collapse today, the consequences of that collapse could jeopardize Korean unification and perhaps even the viability of South Korea. In particular, the North Korean elites and others are generally not prepared to accept ROK-led unification and may actively oppose it. The ROK and the United States need to make preparations now for a North Korean government collapse and should continue these preparations for potentially many years to facilitate unification.

    The key preparations that are needed have been described in the preceding chapters: overcoming North Korean fears of unification and being...

  19. References
    (pp. 297-312)