Be careful what you wish for: Security challenges facing the Korean peninsula during a potential unification process

Mason Richey, Ohn Daewon, Jangho Kim, Jaejeok Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is a lacuna in the literature analyzing the mid-term (6-24 months) period after a DPRK contingency that results in the Pyongyang regime’s relatively sudden and unmanaged fall. This article helps fill that gap, particularly with respect to security issues that would challenge Korean unification efforts during such a period. Following an Introduction, Section I first makes the case for a DPRK contingency being the most plausible end to the Pyongyang regime. Assuming the scenarios from Section I, Section II addresses the question of what critical issues a unifying Korea will face over the mid-term, and how dealing with these challenges will condition the type of end-state that a unified Korea will embody. In particular we examine three challenges: (a) mid-term security provision related to potential weapons proliferation, cyber-security, organized criminality, and human security; (b) the foundations of institution-building through measures dealing with issues of transitional justice, disputed land title claims, and generating broad domestic stakeholder buy-in in a unifying Korea; (c) the disposition of Korea’s strategic alignment in a Northeast Asia that will have undergone a major alteration of the regional system. Section III concludes with policy recommendations concerning what efforts should be made now to prepare for the situations described in Sections I and II.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-281
Number of pages19
JournalAsian Security
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Sept 2

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea Grant (NRF-2016S1A2A2911284) funded by the Korean government, and by the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies Research Fund of 2017–18.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Safety Research
  • Political Science and International Relations


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