Lee Myung-bak and Kim Jong-il probably won’t move fast enough to take advantage of the greatest opportunity they and their respective Koreas may ever have. When they’re gone, sooner and not later, it will be more difficult for the leaders who follow them, to accomplish the project I describe here.
In North Korea, a less effective and connected mover and shaker will take the reins when JI’s remains slide off the deck, and it has been suggested that will happen sooner rather than later due to failing health. In South Korea, the next president(s) are most unlikely to have MB’s well-deserved engineering and business cred for a scenario like this one to succeed.
It is a personal fantasy old enough to vote. I drive from Fukuoka to London, outfitted with distance-travel items: sleeping bag, dried foods, camp cooking kit, first aide, basic mechanic’s tools, maps and compass, camera, field manuals and toothbrush. The way I look at it, if you’re going to fantasize or rob banks, modest aspirations transform mere dummies into damnable fools.
At my age, the fantasy may have already lost Japan; there is no sign that a bridge or tunnel will be built in time to drive across to Korea. It doesn’t matter. I’ll take the ferry, or just skip Japan and leave from Seoul. But first, their excellencies Kim and Lee need to gather together their most serious ducks, line them up and point them at Sinuiju.
Dear Leader Kim’s first move is to form a landholding company with all the stock owned by the Worker’s Party, or whatever the Owner of It All calls itself in English. The land in question has to form an unbroken right-of-way corridor connecting a point on S-N border near Panmunjom to the North’s border with China.
President Lee’s part is already a clear image in that fertile technocrat mind of his: build a great portal-to-portal passageway. Open the road to wheeled land transportation between the greatest economies of East Asia. North Korea will, overnight, be inundated with material and financial resources necessary for a crash course of catch-up economic and infrastructure development the scope of which is guaranteed to match the scope and scale of need, if reunification of the south is ever to be reached without major social, political and economic upheaval.
Machines and personnel would pour into the zone, and it should be agreed that everything the North Koreans can do, they should be contracted to do for this project. The value of all heavy machinery and other technology imported for the purpose should be considered fully amortized upon completion of the project, and become the property of North Korea.
Nations and companies invested early should receive preferential rates or waivers of fees for use of the corridor. Everyone else should pay, except me. It’s my idea, I, and my descendants, should get free passes.
China, Japan, USA and Russia (build an off-ramp to Primorye and reap the Far East!) would be vested early, with central and southern Asians and Europe close behind.
Let the Dear Leader line the damn route with chainlink and barbwire if he must, but insist he let his people go. Their work in the construction zone, as labor, engineers, amenities entrepreneurs, fuel and lubricant suppliers, equipment sales, maintenance and repair, medical and other necessary services, and whatever else they can dream up to do, they should be encouraged and helped to do.
Let these other countries and their corporations bid to provide the necessaries to pull off the construction of 4 lanes of firstrate tollway enabling me and millions of others the opportunity to drive off this island that is South Korea. It’s what everyone wants, and everything exists to get it done. Make it happen. Establish a task force to articulate the necessary terms of agreement, outlining the responsibilities of all parties.
Or not, and instead, launch the gas and the missiles and the troop transports and the artillery, and then sit back and daydream about what might have been until the combined effect of the assault, and the military countermeasures taken from this side transform most of this splendid peninsula yet again into a shattered, smoking ruin. If that happens, I feel like this proposal should entitle me to advance notice. I just need need enough time to tell as many bigshots, ideologues and militarists as I can contact to kiss my ass goodbye.