It just happens that I am staying in Korea at the moment. But this country really does have a unique blend of issues which make it an appealing place to learn about: both its past and future. There is a deeply spiritual dimension to the nation as well, which is often also overlooked. One might even argue that it is like a little india in the East of Asia, with many authentic temples and shrines all over the country and traditions like shamanism, zen and other practices with unbroken lineages going back thousands of years. I like to say its like India with infrastructure, but more on that another day.
I don’t think that Korea was ever off the map but it does tend to get overlooked compared to its 2 very powerful neighbours Japan and China. Amongst many displays of incredible athleticism and humanity, there were possibly 2 major themes to this Olympics which highlight this nation: the potential reunification of a divided people and second the technological prowess of the South Koreans.
First regarding the political dimension. I continue to believe that we are still on our base case trajectory for a reunification (we are on record talking about this before the Trump Presidency). I have been getting stronger signals through some of my sources in the last 10 days in fact and need to comment on this soon. Anyway, this is what I wrote back in May 2017 when there was a lot of fear of war:
“Of course, when you are less than 200 km from Seoul it can be a little disconcerting. Somehow I am strangely relaxed.
Our base base has been that the first steps towards reunification would appear before 2020. And in recent weeks we wrote that a US surgical strike was well in the realms of possibility. We even wondered whether a deal between China and the USA had been done. In my more ‘conspiratorial’ moments, I wondered whether Kim Jong Un’s brother was actually taken out by Western intelligence to send a warning to Kim.
There are many trajectories towards reunification. A surgical strike and an assasination of Kim is the hopeful military case.
The worse scenario , to which George Friedman alludes, is a more serious engagement. Most mainstream think tanks suggest huge death tolls in Seoul in the event of war.
This all stinks of the Ledeen Doctrine: “Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.”
The other more hopeful scenario is a peace deal, and an attempt to bring North Korea into the global system in the same way that China or Vietnam were courted. All the hawkish talk might be to ensure that North Korea does take up any opportunity given to it. Friedman is known to be close to the CIA, so perhaps this is all messaging for the North Koreas. A peaceful change of regime might be also necessary and I have heard from some sources about plans to allow Kim to go into exile, possibly in one of the ‘stan’ countries in Central Europe.”
The continued symbolic gestures seem pretty good to me: Ivanka Trump being dispatched from the US side and the North sending a highly significant (even if controversial) General to the Closing Ceremony of the Olympics. And whilst the North wasn’t happy about the new measures announced against it, they are still willing to talk with the US directly. I have always suspected that the North has been more interested in making a deal than the Western media and politicians make out, and this was confirmed for me when I had a meeting with someone in Washington DC who was close to the events around the Sunshine policy (when the 2 Korean leaders won the Nobel Peace Prizes). South Korean President Moon is also very keen:
“There is a need for the United States to lower the threshold for talks with North Korea, and North Korea should show it is willing to denuclearise…It’s important the United States and North Korea sit down together quickly.”
I will write certainly write more very soon about this but if I was really concerned I wouldn’t be in Korea now!
Second, there was the technology. This was the most technologically advanced Olympics thus far, with 5G on show for the first time. An interesting Forbes article goes to state:
“the technology will become increasingly important in the Internet of Things revolution as we continue to connect mobile apps to our cars, drones, home devices and other…things. South Korea, already one of the world’s leaders in internet speeds, hopes its nationwide adoption of 5G will set a precedent for how the technology will change daily life around the world.
…The world’s telecom giants including Verizon, Huawei and Ericsson have been racing to unveil the world’s first 5G, but on the occasion of the PyeongChang Olympics, South Korea claimed the bragging right for the first large-scale pilot service. Its provider, local telecom giant and Olympic sponsor KT, plans to roll out the tech nationwide by the latter half of 2019, according to company vice president Eunmi Sung. ”
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