Initially rent asunder by the fortunes of the Second World War, the division of North and South Korea into two separate countries was solidified by the Korean War. North of the 38th parallel, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea ("DPRK") became a totalitarian dictatorship based on a command economy. South of the 38th parallel, the Republic of Korea evolved into a liberal democracy with a market economy. For much of the last fifty years, these arrangements seemedto be almost as unchangeable and enduring as the Cold War itself. Yet, the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and the subsequent elimination of the rivalry between East and West, strongly suggest that the survival of the communist regime in the North can no longer be taken for granted. Similarly, just as the collapse of communism in East Germany was a necessary condition for the reunification of the two Germanys, the demise of communism in North Korea must now be considered a prerequisite for the reunification of the Korean peninsula. Indeed, if the precise date for the collapse of communism in North Korea cannot be predicted, the terminal status of the regime in Pyongyang can now be assumed. Whether it takes place next year, or in the next century, the days of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea are numbered. Yet, if the eventual disintegration of communism in North Korea is certain, the manner of its demise remains uncertain. Based on what happened in the Soviet Union and elsewhere in the Communist world, there are a variety of ways in which the polity in Pyongyang might presumably be undone. An examination of these differing scenarios may shed light on how change in North Korea is likely to come about.
Stephen J. Solarz,
The Collapse of Communism and the Future of the Korean Peninsula,
19 Fordham Int'l L.J. 25
Available at: http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/ilj/vol19/iss1/3