The Korean-German Unification Parallel; plus Blackwater … the Game?

Quick IR test: name that dictator!

Regular readers will know that I have blogged about the parallels between Germany and Korea at length before: here and here. This week the Korean Journal of Defense Analysis published the long-form version of my argument. It is available here for free in PDF. KJDA is a great little publication in east Asian security is your area, and it is offered for free too. Very nice.

Comments on the argument are always welcome. I thought because everyone always implicitly compares NK to EG, and possible Korean unification to Germany’s experience, it would help to formalize the comparison at length. The bumper sticker version is that NK is about 10x poorer than EG, so unification will be way harder and more expensive than the German experience.

A foreign IR professor in Seoul argued to me that starting from the German analogy is an error, perhaps one that is flattering and preferred by Koreans because it turned out so well. A better parallel might be Yemen’s reunification, which worked out far less well. That seems pretty harsh to me. SK is a lot more like WG that either of the Yemens. For other comparison cases to Korean unification, try this.

Here is the summary section from the PDF:

To recap, domestically, there are more North Koreans than East Germans,
and they are much poorer as well. There are fewer South Koreans than West Germans,
and they are (albeit less so) less wealthy also. South Korea’s state capacity is lower
than West Germany’s, while North Korea today is dismal by even the former East
Germany’s standards. In sum, fewer people with less wealth in a weaker system will
support more people with less wealth from a worse system. That domestic calculation
is punishing, on top of which the international balance of forces is worse now than
in 1989 too.

Internationally, today’s external patron (the United States) of the free Korean
half is weakening, while the external patron of the communist half (China) is
strengthening. The opposite was true of the United States and West Germany, and
the USSR and East Germany, in 1989. Today’s northern patron (China) is trying to
push further into the continent (Asia), while yesterday’s eastern patron (USSR) was
looking for an exit (from central Europe). Nor is there is a regional encouragement,
revolutionary wave, or democracy zeitgeist that might accelerate the process. The
incentives for China to meddle (because of the greater importance of North Korea to
China, than of East Germany to the USSR) and the greater ease of such meddling
(because the United States and South Korea today are weaker than the United States
and West Germany were then, while China is much stronger today than the USSR
was then) mean Chinese intervention is likely. It will almost certainly seek to structure
any final settlement. The major policy question emanant from this paper’s analysis is
therefore: Will South Korea forego the U.S. alliance if that is required to remove
China from peninsular affairs? Will South Korea exchange neutralization for unity?


So I got my wife a Kinect for Christmas (yes, it is very cool, but it’s a pain to set up your living room for it). While browsing for it, I found ‘Blackwater – the Game.’ Wow! Mercs for kids! Phenomenal! Who came up with that idea?! Recall that the Kinect is meant for the non-gamer types and kids (like the Wii). I understand that there are already lots of military-style shooters at home, and some of them are genuinely brutal and extreme. Yet Blackwater of course is/was a real firm, implicated in some of the most controversial moments of the Iraq War, and the game is on the wii-like Kinect. So do you really want your kids playing hired guns in Iraq? At least in most shooters you play a ‘public-spirited’ character (ie, a soldier); here you’re just killing people for money – a great lesson for little Johnny, I geuss.

Blackwater of course is gone now. Its called Xe today, but apparently former CEO Erik Prince owns the rights to the name and I geuss he needs the money. I’m just not sure what to think. On the one hand, I think realism and/or edginess improve gaming and make it less ridiculous; that’s why I don’t mind Grand Theft Auto or Halo, and I thought Bioshock was super. But mercs for kids is probably a new low. In any case, the game is terrible apparently.

And here is another nice item for the Korean-watchers. We bought a TV mount for the Kinect. It costs $20 on Amazon, and $36 in Korea. Yet another example of how Korean mercantilism and the weak won policy are killing Korean consumers by making everything pointlessly, outrageously expensive here. What possible explanation besides politics can there be for an 80% (!) price differential like that on such a mundane, irrelevant product? Ugh.

8 thoughts on “The Korean-German Unification Parallel; plus Blackwater … the Game?

  1. Pingback: Blackwater Watch » Blog Archive » The Korean-German Unification Parallel; plus Blackwater … the …

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