Korean Reunification: Sunshine Policy vs. Strain Policy


This article seeks to compare and contrast two idealistic viewpoints of how the tensions between North and South Korea were dealt with, as there were two completely contrasting attitudes regarding South Korea’s viewpoint on what to do with North Korea, in addition to the other outlying countries.


What are these Policies?

The Sunshine Policy was first enacted by Kim Dae-Jong as a means to cull the tension between North and South Korea It encouraged interaction and economic assistance. The sunshine policy aims to achieve a state of peaceful coexistence in the peninsula holding both Koreas by changing North Korea through mutual exchange, reconciliation, and cooperation. The South Korean government designed this policy in hopes that North Korea will reform and be more open, which in turn would lead to tensions lifting between the South and the North and ultimately end state of confrontation between the two. This policy is adopted by the more liberal presidents that led South Korea, such as Moon Jae In, Roh Moo-Hyun, and Kim Dae-Jung.

sourceThe strain policy on the other hand, seeks to do quite the opposite, where everyone waits for North Korea to self-implode on itself, and completely collapse before anyone reaps the rewards of the country in grounds. South Korea would rescind all assistance and economic relief to North Korea in hopes that the system will collapse, leaving North Korea susceptible to South Korea absorbing North Korea back into the country.

The Sunshine Policy The Strain Policy
seeks giving active support to the North seeks battle of attrition with the North
backed by Liberal S.Korean presidents backed by Conservative S.Korean presidents
less hostile in hopes of integration more hostile in hopes of a country’s self-implosion

Which direction should a unified Korea take?

Contrary to my belief, the book A Search for a Unified Korea by Eui-gak Hwang also addresses both the strain policy and the sunshine policy, but takes the stance that the Strain Policy would be a better option than the Sunshine Policy because in order to relieve the North Koreans from the grasp of the North Korean leader at the time, Kim Jong-Un. Eui-gak Hwang emphasizes that going with the strain policy would not only destroy North Korea’s nuclear weapon capabilities in its entirety, but also eliminate the threats of a rogue regime, while the Sunshine Policy would only extend the lifespan of North Korea’s longevity, increasing the opportunity costs of the constant delay on reunification.

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On the other hand, I believe that the Sunshine Policy will work in the favor of a stronger unified Korea because of several reasons. First of all, there is the significance of historical precedence, where any policy that was specifically designed to bring down totalitarian regimes through political pressure and containment has ever succeeded. Precedents for these incidences include the United States’ policies toward Cuba, Iraq, and Libya. Secondly, if the South can show North Korea that it has nothing to lose, but everything to gain from economic cooperation, it may reconsider military advancement on the South. In conclusion, I believe that the Sunshine Policy is something that is decided through logical decision-making processes, but first must be dealt with by mustering public opinion and establishing a moral foundation.

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