IMG Note: The following article is the second in a two-part series analyzing North Korea’s motivations and presumed end game with their recent series of provocative actions and brinksmanship. Many corporations have employees in South Korea and good security planning involves creating a contingency, evacuation and crisis management plan for dealing with expatriates in the event of a Korean crisis. This article points to the need for corporations in South Korea who have employees to form a coherent, corporate security and evacuation plan.
This article details thought on how to construct a well-thought-out, detailed contingency plan to evacuate their expatriates (as well as employees who happen to in the Republic of Korea) and business continuity plans to ensure disruptions to business operations are held to a minimum.
By George Friedman
Founder and Chairman
An Unlikely Scenario
Taken together, these assumptions constitute a threat to regime survival. Unless its neighbors bought into the three premises of its strategy, North Korea could be susceptible to covert or overt foreign involvement, which would put the regime on the defensive and reveal its weakness. For the regime, this would be a direct threat, one that would require pre-emptive action.
It would be a worst-case scenario for Pyongyang. We consider it highly unlikely. But assume North Korea deems it more likely than we do, or assume that, despite the scenario’s improbability, the consequences would be so devastating that the risk could not be borne.
It is a scenario that could take form if the North Korean nuclear threat were no longer effective in establishing the country’s ferocity. It would also take form if North Korea’s occasional and incomprehensible attacks were no longer unpredictable and thus were no longer effective in establishing the country’s insanity. In this scenario, Pyongyang would have to re-establish credibility and unpredictability by taking concrete steps.
These concrete steps would represent a dramatic departure from the framework under which North Korea has long operated. They would obviously involve demands for a cease-fire from all players. There would have to be a cease-fire before major force could be brought to bear on North Korea. Last, they would have to involve the assumption that the United States would at least take the opportunity to bomb North Korean nuclear facilities — which is why the assumptions on its nuclear capability are critical for this to work. Airstrikes against other targets in North Korea would be likely. Therefore, the key would be an action so severe that everyone would accept a rapid cease-fire and would limit counteraction against North Korea to targets that the North Koreans were prepared to sacrifice.
The obvious move by North Korea would be the one that has been historically regarded as the likeliest scenario: massive artillery fire on Seoul, the capital of South Korea. The assumption has always been that over a longer period of time, U.S. air power would devastate North Korean artillery. But Seoul would meanwhile be damaged severely, something South Korea would not tolerate. Therefore, North Korea would bet that South Korea would demand a cease-fire, thereby bringing the United States along in its demand, before U.S. airstrikes could inflict overwhelming damage on North Korea and silence its guns. This would take a few days.
Under this scenario, North Korea would be in a position to demand compensation that South Korea would be willing to pay in order to save its capital. It could rely on South Korea to restrain further retaliations by the United States, and China would be prepared to negotiate another armistice. North Korea would have re-established its credibility, redefined the terms of the North-South relationship and, perhaps having lost its dubious nuclear deterrent, gained a significant conventional deterrent that no one thought it would ever use.
I think the risks are too great for this scenario to play out. The North would have to assume that its plans were unknown by Western intelligence agencies. It would also have to assume that South Korea would rather risk severe damage to its capital as it dealt with North Korea once and for all than continue to live under the constant North Korean threat. Moreover, North Korea’s artillery could prove ineffective, and it risks entering a war it couldn’t win, resulting in total isolation.
The scenario laid out is therefore a consideration of what it might mean if the North Koreans were actually wild gamblers, rather than the careful manipulators they have been since 1991. It assumes that the new leader is able to override older and more cautious heads and that he would see this as serving both a strategic and domestic purpose. It would entail North Korea risking it all, and for that to happen, Pyongyang would have to believe that everything was already at risk. Because Pyongyang doesn’t believe that, I think this scenario is unlikely.
It is, however, a necessary exercise for an analyst to find fault with his analysis by identifying alternative assumptions that lead to very different outcomes. At Stratfor, we normally keep those in-house, but in this case it appeared useful to think out loud, as it were.
“Considering a Departure in North Korea’s Strategy is republished with permission of Stratfor.”
Employee evacuation plans and Korean instability
IMG Note: The general background of relations between the two Koreas is one of periodic instability. What is important from a corporate perspective are the specifics of a detailed employee security and evacuation plan. The IMG Group assists corporations in creating detailed, employee evacuation and crisis management plans that reflect the unique needs of corporations doing business in South Korea. Browse the International Crisis Management page on the IMG Group website, email the IMG Group or call us for more information.