I have only one problem with Bruce Klinger’s otherwise informative backgrounder on South Korean politics: Klinger fails to recognize the ways in which Korean unification will affect ROK-US relations. I don’t think he recognizes how much some sort of inter-Korean economic community is more important for Seoul than it is for the US, or the North Korean issue itself.
For instance, Grand National Party presidential candidate, former Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-bak, has presented a plan for inter-Korean cooperation. This is more than just, in Klinger’s argument, a “policies to fend off internal dissension and gain favor with the populace.” Some sort of economic union with North Korea responds to a majority of elite and popular South Korean opinion. Military engagement with North Korea is subordinate to the unquestioned need for economic union.
Klinger’s recommendations would still not avert a ROK-US impasse. The only development remaining to occur is whether Seoul responds to the US by ending the ROK-US military alliance (although it would certainly want to retain a trading relationship).