The king is dead, long live the king. Now what?

A “New Model” for engaging North Korea, says the Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Korea. I chaired the Council during three days of intense talks in Abu Dhabi last October. I was astounded by the vastness of the group’s accumulated experience and strong will to look at North Korea with a fresh perspective. The outcomes of our October discussions seem even more apropos after the death of Kim Jong-il.

We concluded that the current model of interaction between North Korea and the international community is constrained by a reliance on a rigid political and security framework that is distorted by a mutual demonization that often disregards empirical reality, such as the Agreement Framework of 1994 and Joint Declaration of 2000.

There are two elements in the New Model.

First, engagement with North Korea must be “holistic, sequential, sustained and consensual” (HSSC). “Holistic” means to openly and transparently address all issues and concerns by all stakeholders. “Sequential” suggests that no side is going to get all it wants before the other sides’ concerns are adequately met. “Sustained” implies that the process will take time and requires perseverance. “Consensual” recognizes that no side has the power to force a final conclusion on the others.

Second, the New Model requires a creation of a reliable epistemic community. Currently, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to reach an agreement among “experts” on North Korea, even on the narrowest set of facts. Yet, we do have a full panoply of preconceptions and stereotypes. (I have followed Korean issues for decades, met many players involved and travelled to North Korea several times – and even I am not sure I know what I think I know.)

In the end, we need to establish multiple channels of public and private communication between North Korea and the international community. Only through increased engagements will we begin to close the pervasive gaps on both sides.

Therefore, the Council recommends that the Forum take a more active role in engaging North Koreans in the Forum process. In addition, the Forum should organize an ad hoc International Advisory Board on Economic Interaction with the DPRK. I will take these recommendations to Davos.

* Spencer H. Kim is the Chairman of CBOL, a California-based aerospace products company, a founder of the Pacific Century Institute, a member of the US Council on Foreign Relations and the Chair of the Global Agenda Council on Korea

Photo Credit: Il Giornale