Thursday 3 March 2016

hermit kingdom or thirty-eighth parallel

With North Korea in the headlines again over ballistic missile testing and general aggressive behaviour towards its neighbours and the mounting calls for sanctions in response, I had been engaging in a little bit of research into the matter and came across a really astounding relic of bureaucracy in a presidential commission in South Korea charged with the administration of the five provinces of the North.
Although this powerless (as those lands are governed already by North Korea) shadow-government, called the Committee for the Five Northern Korean Provinces (이북5도위원회) and established in 1949, seems today like a sinecure posting, I suppose following the aftermath of the Korean War, hopes for reunification and reconciliation seemed within reach and uniting the Koreas remains a goal for both sides—although the prospects for that seem to be receding. The constitutions of both states define their countries as the whole, undivided Korean peninsula. I wonder what these conscientious bureaucrats do all day, with no access to the provinces in their respective areas of responsibility, and having no jurisdiction in the arena of foreign relations, as that role is handled exclusively by the Ministry of Unification. The situation and perhaps the hope too is in some ways similar to the state of affairs for the divided Germanys but there was never such a government-in-exile, as it were, operating jenseits the border.