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Divided Korea

Toward a Culture of Reconciliation

Roland Bleiker

Publication Year: 2005

In 2002, North Korea precipitated a major international crisis when it revealed the existence of a secret nuclear weapons program and announced its withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Earlier in the year, George W. Bush had declared North Korea part of the "axis of evil," and soon afterward his administration listed the country as a potential target of a preemptive nuclear strike. Pyongyang's angry reaction ensured the complete deterioration of relations on the Korean peninsula, where only two years before the leaders of North and South Korea had come together in a historic summit meeting. Few international conflicts are as volatile, protracted, or seemingly insoluble as the one in Korea, where mutual mistrust, hostile Cold War attitudes, and the possibility of a North Korean economic collapse threaten the security of the entire region. For Roland Bleiker, this persistently recurring pattern suggests profound structural problems within and between the two Koreas, that have not been acknowledged - until now. Expanding the discussion beyond geopolitics and ideology, Bleiker places peninsular tensions in the context of an ongoing struggle over competing forms of Korean identity. Divided Korea examines both domestic and international attitudes toward Korean identity, the legacy of war, and the possibilities for - and anxieties about - unification. Divided Korea challenges the prevailing logic of confrontation and deterrence, embarking on a fundamental reassessment of both the roots of the conflict and the means to achieve a more stable political environment and, ultimately, peace. In order to realize a lasting solution, Bleiker concludes, the two Koreas and the international community must first show a willingness to accept difference and contemplate forgiveness as part of a broader reconciliation process.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Series: Barrows Lectures


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface: A Rogue Is a Rogue Is a Rogue

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pp. ix-xx

Few conflicts are as protracted as the one in Korea, where deeply hostile and anachronistic Cold War attitudes have posed major security problems for half a century. To be more precise, two specters haunt the peninsula: a military escalation, even outright war, and a North Korean collapse, which could easily destabilize the northeast Asian region.1 ...

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pp. xxi-xxiv

Given that this book emerged over a period of almost two decades, I am grateful to a correspondingly large number of people who were kind enough to help me in my effort to understand Korea and its security challenges. During my initial stay in Panmunjom I came to appreciate my Swiss, Swedish, Polish, and Czech colleagues at the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission. ...

Note on Transliteration

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pp. xxv-xxvi

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Introduction: Rethinking Korean Security

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pp. xxvii-lii

One of the key features of politics in Korea is a persistently recurring state of military tension. The roots of this conflict are historical: as a result of the emerging Soviet-American rivalry at the end of World War II, the Korean peninsula was tentatively divided along the thirty-eighth parallel. ...

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Part I: Existing Security Dilemmas in Korea

In this first part, I rethink existing security dilemmas on the peninsula. This process starts with recognizing that identities are historically constructed and that these constructs are intertwined with current security dilemmas. ...

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1. The Emergence of Antagonistic Identities

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pp. 3-16

The honorific attributes in the first epigraph were bestowed by North Korea’s official press upon the outgoing and incoming South Korean presidents Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo. The year was 1988. In the South, hatred of North Korea’s Communist leadership was widespread too, although articulated in slightly less colorful ways. ...

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2. The Persistence of Cold War Antagonisms

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pp. 17-34

One would think that ideological antagonisms substantially subsided with the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent disintegration of the Soviet Union. But in Korea it is striking how much remains the same. ...

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3. The Geopolitical Production of Danger

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pp. 35-60

Constituting a natural link between the Asian mainland and Japan, the Korean peninsula has always been an important factor in the security policy of the surrounding powers. In the nineteenth century two major wars were fought for control of the peninsula, one between Japan and China (1894–1895) and the other between Japan and Russia (1904–1905). ...

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Part II: Alternative Security Arrangements for Korea

In this second half of the book, I advance my suggestions about how to promote a more peaceful political environment. Central here is the challenge of figuring out how to deal with the vilified other and the corresponding antagonistic identity constructs. ...

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4. Toward an Ethics of Dialogue

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pp. 63-78

Few would question that dialogue is an essential aspect of dealing with security dilemmas. Michel Wieviorka is one of many commentators who draw attention to the linkages between conflict and the breakdown or absence of dialogue. ...

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5. Dilemmas of Engagement

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pp. 79-94

Although underestimated by defense experts, the promotion of dialogue and face-to-face encounters is by no means a radical idea. Most state actors entangled in the Korean security situation display a preference for the so-called soft landing scenario, which foresees an incremental rapprochement between North and South. ...

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6. Toward an Ethics of Difference

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pp. 95-114

Drawing attention to the contradictions and problems of normalization, as I did in chapters 4 and 5, is not to oppose engagement or to eschew democratic values. Quite the contrary. An active engagement policy is badly needed on the peninsula, but in order to overcome some of the most difficult existing security dilemmas, ...

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pp. 115-124

Korea is an open book whose story line has yet to be written to the end. Whether peace or conflict will prevail is to a great extent dependent on the mind-sets that will guide not only future decision makers but also the societies at large in both Koreas. I have sought to advance a number of suggestions about how to understand and engage this ongoing political struggle. ...


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pp. 125-164


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pp. 165-179

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About the Author

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Roland Bleiker is reader in peace studies and political theory at the University of Queensland, Australia. From 1986 to 1988 he was chief of the office of the Swiss delegation to the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission in Panmunjom. ...

Other Works in the Series

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p. 18

E-ISBN-13: 9780816697182
E-ISBN-10: 0816697183
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816645565

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2005

Edition: First edition
Series Title: Barrows Lectures
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OCLC Number: 191930434
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Divided Korea

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Subject Headings

  • National security -- Korea (South) -- History.
  • National security -- Korea (North) -- History.
  • Security, International -- Moral and ethical aspects.
  • Korea (South) -- Foreign relations -- Korea (North).
  • Korea (North) -- Foreign relations -- Korea (South).
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