A modest proposal: South Korea buys North Korea

Say envoys make an offer to Kim Jong-on and his top generals: immunity from prosecution for any and all crimes for yourself and your family; a luxurious, palatial estate to retire in; $1B a year family stipend for the next 100 years; military protection of your person and property. In return they step down the military, hand over the nukes and all other arms, formally announce the unification and renounce their own offices and claims to leadership, and just open the borders.

Would they consider it, or is North Korea’s leadership so comfortable and secure in their power that they could never be tempted? Could they be assured they weren’t being tricked and the South would hold up their end? Would South Korea’s citizenry be willing to pay so much to be rid of North Korea as a threat?

Obviously, the logistics of carrying this out are probably impossible. Somehow, you’d have to get the offer to all the sufficiently powerful leaders, they would all have to agree, and no lower-level leaders could learn of the plan or it would surely trigger a coup. But then, history does include tales of besieging armies paying off defenders to throw open the city gates. Maybe this is not a crazy idea.

Kim and other dictators like him don’t want money. They want to have power over other people.

South Korea couldn’t offer Kim that kind of power.

Does South Korea even have the resources to rebuild North Korea, just from an infrastructure standpoint, let alone a humanitarian one?

Probably. North Korea’s economy is so far down, that relatively modest efforts would produce major results. Sure, the northern half of a united Korea would be the poor half of the country for a couple of generations. But even being the poor half of a united Korea would make the people there much better off economically than they are now.

I’m trying to see the benefit to South Korea, other than no longer having the insane Kim family and their empty threats to nuke Seoul to worry about. I mean, surely they know that if they launch nuclear weapons, it’ll affect them, too, right? Even if Seoul doesn’t directly retaliate against Pyongyang.

It would take at least 40 years to get the North anywhere close to being anything other than a drain on the South’s resources, would be my (admittedly) guesstimate.

So he gives up his luxurious lifestyle, total immunity to criminal prosecution, personal military force, and life-and-death control over his people in exchange for a luxurious lifestyle, total immunity for previous but not future crimes, and a much smaller personal protection force.

Why would he do that?

Yeah, and his sister, Kim Yo-jong, wouldn’t take over leadership of North Korea in the event Kim Jong-un dies. Let alone any of his future family.

Imagine offering the same proposition to Putin. Can anyone imagine him taking it?

And that’s even if he totally believed the offer was real and he would be protected for 100 years. Dictators live in a world of back-stabbing, double-dealing, and paranoia. I wouldn’t believe any such offer and I’m not already a billionaire living in luxury.

The defenders you pay off to get the gates opened are not the bigwigs. It’s the low-level schmucks who actually have their hands on the gate controls / machinery.

You can’t satiate lust for power with money.

Besides, South Korea could never get a decent warranty on a purchase of North Korea.

I certainly don’t see the downside to making the offer.

My understanding at this point is that nobody wants North Korea. Reunification would be extremely costly for everyone, especially South Korea, with literally no upside (except for saving a few starving Koreans who would probably be very ungrateful due to indoctrination).

It’s a massive liability. You’d probably have better luck convincing Kim to pay South Korea to take them in, than the other way around.

Because someone would be paying a lot of money to take on a major socioeconomic headache?

People usually buy expensive things because they expect them to produce something of value.

I started a new thread about a unified Korea to avoid hijacking this one. I think it’s an interesting topic.

There’s an obvious comparison to the re-unification of Germany, which I think cost the former West Germany vast amounts to bring the former East Germany forward. And yet, it was desired, I think. Why wouldn’t South Korea similarly desire re-unification? One reason they might is the population of South Korea is shrinking rapidly, especially young people, so an infusion of people from the north might be a good thing.

I recall we did the “reunify Koreas like we did Germany” thread once before.

A very short version is East Germany’s education and economic status and whatnot was WAG 40% of West Germany’s at the moment of unification. Whereas NK’s is WAG 5% of SK’s.

Putting enough resources and expertise into East Germany to roughly double its GDP, educational attainment, etc., over a couple decades was doable, but still cost far more than anyone thought.

Putting enough resources and expertise into NK to roughly 20-fold increase its GDP, educational attainment, etc., is a vastly larger problem. Or vastly longer. And with a very untenable transition era sociologically & politically.

Well said. I think the sociological aspect of a reunified Korea is the largest bugaboo. Unlike East Germany, which shared a common recent history and culture with W Germany, North Korea is the worlds largest cult, isolated for 70+years, and I don’t think anyone has a plan for re-educating millions of malnourished, ignorant, and brainwashed N Koreans to allow them to comprehend and integrate into the non-N Korea world. This is a massive liability for S Korea and the rest of the world, even if the leaders accept such an offer.

That said, I think the idea of buying-out an adversary has some merit, depending on the price, and the benefits.

Every person in Seoul lives with several thousand rockets pointed right at the city. I see value, for the people in South Korea, in convincing the people who are pointing the rockets to lay off.

Yes, taking over the management of North Korea would then be a major initiative but, realistically speaking, the whole thing is going to fall apart one day and someone will have to take on managing the implosion and trying to reduce all of the harm that comes from it. I can’t think of any reason to think that, that will be cheaper or more peaceful if that time comes later rather than sooner.

My main thought was eliminating the nuclear threat from an unstable enemy. Obviously the cost of “buying” the North would be enormous, but how would it compare with rebuilding a nuked-out Seoul?

Also, I’m not sure Kim really compares with Putin. Putin took control of Russia himself and obviously is motivated by power. Kim inherited his position; maybe he doesn’t actually get off on the raw power. He does, I’m sure, live a life of indulgence already, but he’s still shut off from the jet-setting lifestyle. Maybe he dreams of a villa on the Riviera and an enormous yacht.

And NBA games seen live. Let’s not forget, he’s a huge basketball fan.