Let us begin by lowering our expectations: President Donald Trump’s upcoming meeting with North Korea dictator Kim Jong Un will not be a Nixon-goes-to-China rerun. After all, Trump is no Richard Nixon, nor does Kim remind anyone of Chou Enlai or Mao Zedong.
Nixon was a classic paranoid, while Trump is a posterchild for narcissism. But then again nobody’s perfect. Unlike Mao and Chou, who led the Chinese Revolution, Kim inherited his post from his father.
Kim and Trump – self-aggrandizing, obese, with vast inherited wealth and sporting strange hair styles – hardly fit the mold of seasoned statesmen who place their nation’s fortunes before their own.
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A couple of weeks before the surrender of Japan ended World War II, troops from the Soviet Union seized the Northern half of Korea, while the Americans controlled the South. The historical die was thus cast, leading to the Korean War, and then the permanent occupation of North Korea by the communists. Then, since the mid-1950s, the heavily armed Koreas faced each other across the so-called “demilitarized zone,” which was anything but.
Although we tend to focus on North Korea’s nuclear arms, perhaps the more immediate threat to South Korea is the 14,000 North Korean artillery pieces, which could destroy the South Korean capital of Seoul many times over.
The South, with a huge assist from the United States, built an extremely successful economy. Indeed, South Koreans enjoy a standard of living more than ten times as high as their Northern neighbors. Meanwhile, the North pours vast resources into producing conventional and nuclear weapons. But on the downside, the country experiences periodic food shortages and even famines.
Four generations of he Kim family – first installed by the Soviets in 1945 – has ruled North Korea for over 70 years. Convinced that they would be attacked by the United States, South Korea, or perhaps even by their own people, they are loath to disarm – no matter what the inducement. Their nuclear weaponry is their personal insurance policy that keeps the family in power.
But Donald Trump has set his cap on getting North Korea to at least stop threatening all its putative enemies – including the United States. In his heart-of-hearts, he may think that there must be something he can offer Kim to induce him to give up his nuclear weapons.
So let me suggest a trade that helps North and South Korea, and the United States as well. And while we’re at it, why not add a nice side deal to help the Trump and Kushner families’ business interests?
Despite his involvement in four real estate bankruptcies, Trump is certainly capable of recognizing a good real estate opportunity when he sees it. And if he can make a nice profit while investing just a small part of his fortune, when not go for it?
So here’s the deal he may be considering offering Kim and his South Korean counterparts. Tear down all the fortifications on both sides of the D.M.Z. And in their place, build what will become, by far, the world’s largest industrial park.
Trump, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, Kim, and the South Korean political leaders and business leaders – none known for lofty ethical standards – could all make a killing. North Korea would become prosperous and Kim would truly earn the title passed down by his father – dear leader.
For Kim, a prosperous peace would be much more attractive than living under a poverty-stricken military dictatorship. And President Trump would be a shoe-in for the Nobel Prize for world peace.
About the Author
Steve Slavin has a PhD in economics from NYU, and taught for over thirty years at Brooklyn College, New York Institute of Technology, and New Jersey’s Union County College. He has written sixteen math and economics books including a widely used introductory economics textbook now in its eleventh edition (McGraw-Hill) and The Great American Economy (Prometheus Books) which was published in August.