Harvard professors yesterday expressed skepticism concerning the North Korean government's recent proposal to re-establish official communication lines with the South Korean government in an effort to bring about reunification. The two countries have been divided since 1948.
North Korea's premier Li Jong Ok sent an official letter to Sin Hyong Hwak, the South Korean premier, Saturday requesting a "direct meeting with you for an unreserved exchange of views."
"The earlier our contact, the better," the letter added.
Benjamin I. Schwartz, Williams Professor of History and Political Science, was not impressed with North Korea's offer. "My first inclination is not to overplay it. The proposal could simply be a reaction to the current political and economic instability in South Korea, a move calculated to create further instability."
Schwartz said should the talks ever occur, any ensuing resolutions would have real significance. "Merely proposing the talks was nothing new," he added.
Edward W. Wagner, professor of Korean Studies, back from a recent visit to South Korea, was equally skeptical of the North Korean proposal, explaining its appearance in terms of the international military situation. "South Korea boasts the fourth or fifth largest military in the world, behind the U.S., the Soviets and China."
The North Korean's offer of reunification "would weaken the argument used by South Korean leaders to strengthen their already too-heavy military," Wagner added, thereby giving encouragement to the country's populist movement in the proposed upcoming popular elections next year and creating a chance for more inner turmoil.