A modest proposal: South Korea buys North Korea

Is there any published research on this? I mean, I actually prefer to be me than the dictator of North Korea. But also, why would anyone want power over powerless people? A billion dollars a year for a hundred years seems like it’d buy a lot more power where it counts compared to ruling North Korea, where the “power” is really meaningless.

This. The only time you see former dictators living the life of luxury in exile is when they’ve been forcibly deposed from within, like Idi Amin.

He wouldn’t even be giving up those things for the same or lesser versions of what he already has, he’d be giving them up for the promise of those things. With how paranoid he (and dictators in general are), why would he voluntarily give up what he has in exchange for the promise of economic support, immunity from prosecution and physical protection of himself from the very government and people he has spent his entire life being the most paranoid about?

The North could cause immense damage to Seoul even with conventional weapons, it’s only about 30 miles from the DMZ. And nuclear weapons may not remain an empty threat. “He’s not crazy enough to do it because he knows the consequences” is cold comfort when an entire nation is so out of touch with reality.

And Koreans have strong national pride. I think most in the South would accept considerable economic sacrifice to reunify the country.

This might be a wild stab here, but once North Koreans start eating well, have power to their homes, notice they can speak freely without fear of them or their families being sent for reeducation, and seeing other improvements in their lives I’m guessing the indoctrination will fade away.

It’s not necessarily a matter of indoctrination, but also about feeling accepted:

There were (and maybe still are) similar tensions between East and West Germans.

For a long time France offered dictators and despots exactly this (I don’t know if they still do).
They guaranteed despots asylum because having them cash in their chips and moving to the French Riviera for a lifetime of decadent luxury was less violent and disruptive than a coup or an invasion.

I think it’s generational.

The millenials and gen z in general don’t want north korea but gen x and boomers generally do.

Eh, they didn’t have armies, missiles, or nukes.

Another important consideration would be what would be China’s reaction to having a unified Korea on it’s border. Right now they don’t have to worry about SK’s “western influence” because NK is an exceptional buffer. With NK no longer being in the way I can envision China not being happy at all.

Not only that, but the population difference was more favorable in the case of Germany. East Germany had only 25% of the population of West Germany, whereas North Korea has about 50% of the population of South Korea.

Exactly this. Dictators survive by being ruthless and crushing opposition, not by giving people passes to Club Med.

Look at the number of Russian oligarchs leaning too far out of windows these days.

I don’t know. Physical and psychological health issues are rampant in North Korea. Supposedly mental retardation is common due to all the malnutrition (and parasites too I’m sure). The North doesn’t really seem like they have a functional workforce that can make it in a modern economy. They’re sick, brainwashed, distrustful, technologically illiterate, etc. North Korea would probably have to be run like a liberated concentration camp.

Mental retardation caused by malnutrition will disqualify about a quarter of potential military conscripts in North Korea, according to a December report by the National Intelligence Council, a research institution that is part of the U.S. intelligence community. The report said hunger-caused intellectual disabilities among the young are likely to cripple economic growth, even if the country opens to the outside world or unites with the South.

But then again China emerged from the fuck ups of Mao to 10% annual GDP growth rates under reforms.

That’s sort of my point. Yes, absolutely, you’re not going to turn North Korea into a modern economy. But as you described, North Korea is so far away from a modern economy that you could give them a crappy economy and they would see it as a vast improvement. If you raised North Korea up to the level of Chad, for example, they would be thinking it’s great.