Written by MAO Yushi, Honorary President of Unirule Institute of Economics; translated by MA Junjie, Project Researcher of Unirule Institute of Economics
The North Korea problem is one of the most pressing problems in the world today. North Korea exercises tight control of its own people who barely have any basic human rights. It also impoverishes its people who have a hard time surviving, and several million of whom died in famine. North Korea advocates war and violence, and even executed assassination abroad. It also implements the Songun Policy(Army-first policy) and threatens the world with nuclear weapons. The dictatorship of the three Kim generations is a unique example of autocracy and despotism.
Looking back, how did it all happen in the first place?
The rivalry between the former Soviet Union and the US resulted in the separation of the North and South Koreas. Similarly, Germany was also divided into two. Behind them were the two Cold War powers. The Cold War came to an end when the former Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, but the rivalry remains. Other than the reunification of Germany after the Berlin Wall fell, the problem of North and South Koreas remained.
In retrospect, the culmination of the Korean War in 1950 was the division of Korea into the North and South Koreas. What started the war was Kim Il Sung’s ambition to invade South Korea, scheming to take South Korea by surprise and sweep the whole Korean peninsula in a few weeks. His act of war forced the United Nations to declare North Korea an invader and deployed the United Nations Command made up by 18 countries to fight the invasion by North Korea. The main force of the South was the US troops; and that of the North was the Chinese army. In fact, the Korean War was a war between China and the US. Over 50,000 US soldiers and about 400,000 Chinese soldiers died in this war. China and the US were friendly countries before the war. Among all the old powers of the world, the US was the only country that has never harmed China. Other powers, such as Japan, Russia, UK, Germany, France, Portugal, and the Netherlands all sent troops to occupy Chinese land, or set up concessions, or plunder. The US was not among them. The US was also the smallest participant of the Eight-Nation Coalition. The indemnity the US collected, though small in amount, from the Qing government was also returned. It was later used to establish Concord Hospital, and the Boxer Indemnity Scholarship Program(庚子留学基金), which laid the foundation for modernisation for China. However, under Mao Zedong’s rule, he organised dozens of nationwide anti-US demonstrations and considered the US as China’s archenemy. The so-called foreign hostile forces mainly refers to the US. And the influence can still be seen today.
Now we take a look at the history of the Korean War without limiting our perspective by the situation then and there, we can tell right from wrong fairly objectively. Apparently, it was North Korea that not only harmed its own people and posed threat to world peace, it was also a force that went agains the trend of the time. Those politicians who chose this side have chosen wrong, which made them near-sighted politicians who did hard to their people and caused tremendous loss of lives and property. Who are they? Namely, Stalin, Kim Il Sung, and Mao Zedong. Those who stood on the other side were UN Secretary General Trygve Halvdan Lie, UN Command General Mark Wayne Clark, and US President Truman. They were truly insightful statesmen.
Forty yeas on after the reform and opening up, there has been a U turn from Mao Zedong’s anti-US path. Most of Chinese people enjoy American movies, NBA, Coke Cola, McDonaold’s and KFC. Those family of means can send their children to study in the US, many of which include those of Chinese government leaders’. Learning English has become more and more popular in China. In fact, China is among those countries where English is the most popular foreign language. However, thanks to the different political systems, where the US is a democracy and China is an autocracy, such difference has become the biggest impediment in the Sino-US relation. Looking into the future, it is impossible for the US to become an autocratic country, but it is highly likely for China to become a democracy. China is not alone. The grand trend towards democracy, human rights, and rule of law is unstoppable. Even North Korea will have to take up this direction of development. Those near-sighted politicians cannot see this unstoppable trend. They are blindfolded by the short-term interest when they put up a fight against the trend but only to be smashed by the wheel of history.
However, this transformation cannot be completed in a short time. At the moment, North Korea has been the origin of the most pressing war threat, and it is also where the people suffer the most. Who should be held accountable for the situation in North Korea today? Who initiated it? There is no doubt that Kim Il Sung, Stalin and Mao Zedong should be held accountable. They were all politicians. The reason why they committed such heinous mistakes was not their lack of education or knowledge, or their poor judgement clouded by personal interest, but their false belief which guided them to make the wrong judgement about history’s path. Their mistakes have caused all kinds of tragedies today and the cold blood deaths of hundreds of millions of people. The history lesson of the North Korean case should be learned by all the statesmen in the world today. It is also an important lesson for all the mankind.