It Depends What Victory Is

Matthew Yglesias doesn’t think South Korea’s recent statements of deterrence against the North sound credible.

Read Robert Farley, but dwell particularly on the fact that not only would a successful ROK/DPRK war be costly for the ROK in terms of losses, but the curious fact that victory itself would be a disaster for South Korean living standards. Ask a (West) German someday about the cost of reunification, and consider that the task facing Korea would be an order of magnitude more difficult.

Ah, but that can go both ways. If “surrender” for the North Koreans means a retreat behind the DMZ, then Seoul’s stipulated disinterest in unification makes the South Korean statement of deterrence more credible. It would also have the benefit of roping in the Chinese and U.S. interest in maintaining the status quo on the peninsula, avoiding a destabilizing refugee flow, a could-spiral-out-of-control disruption of South Korean financial markets, etc.

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Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman