Bahng Tae-Seop and his colleagues at the Samsung Economic Research Institute (SERI) have published their 2013 second quarter Korean Peninsula Security Report based on responses from 40 South Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Russian and American experts (including me--don’t laugh). The overall index hit its lowest value (40) since the exercise began in 2005. The sub-index on voluntary nuclear disarmament also hit an all-time low (9), lower than this first nuclear test in 2006 (26), the second nuclear test in 2009 (24), and the third nuclear test (16) earlier this year. The composite outlook index was a bit more positive (45), though still below 50, indicating a deteriorating outlook.
Assessment of North Korea’s political stability (45) fell into negative territory for the first time since Kim Jong-un took power, and North-South relations hit an all-time low (11), continuing the deterioration since 2009.
Perhaps the most interesting thing in the report are perceptions of China’s relationship with the peninsula. China-North Korea relations registered a record low of 29, with the Chinese respondents scoring the relationship the lowest (21). By contrast, China-South Korea relations hit an all-time high of 62, with the Chinese respondents giving the most positive rating (65).
The current status sub-component with the most positive score was the stability of the US-South Korea military alliance (66). The most positively assessed outlook sub-index was US-South Korea relations (63). The experts seem to be saying that the US is ROK solid and China may be shifting even more rapidly than outsiders realize. Time will tell.