The Presidency of Donald J Trump, a man who had never held public office and has comprehensively proven that he is unsuitable for doing so, managed to produce only one piece of major legislation in its first year and depending on your point of view also managed to cause a government shutdown (or the Democrats did). This has been a shambolic administration which has been comparable to that of Richard Nixon and Warren G. Harding but still has quite a way to fall before it reaches the level of utter terribleness that was James Buchanan's administration and who managed to break the union in half.
It has been decidedly isolationist and nativist in stance, has made statements which are undeniably outright racist, and Mr Trump's personal insults have been whipped up into a climate where a nuclear strike was not only thought possible but actually believable in the case of the false alarm in Hawaii last week. Nevertheless, this torrent of terribleness, this flood of fear and this deluge of disaster, has managed to do what might have been unthinkable even two years ago. It has brought the two Koreas together to talk.
The hermit kingdom north of the 38th parallel has often rattled the sabre in the past. From a geopolitical standpoint it probably needs to instill fear in the rest of the world and indeed in its own people because unlike 65 years ago, it's probably not going to get a bunch of help from either China or Russia if full on war was resumed. China would want to halt a flood of four million refugees coming across its border, as would Russia, and the demilitarised zone between the two Koreas would more than likely be pushed back very easily. Surely the regime in the north must know that it's trying to play out the last few tricks of a bridge hand where the best cards that it has is a 7 but it still has the 2 and 3 of nukes left over as trumps.
The thing is that Donald Trump may have inadvertently helped by insulting Kim Jong Un by calling him "Rocketman" because now Pyongyang realises that the orange haired loon at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is just as bonkers as their own administration. Trump's administration is so incredibly toxic that it actually gave the north a chance to engage in talks with the south, on the provision that Washington would keep well away. Thankfully the government shutdown in America has plunged the United States into such a pit of democratic inaction, that they're too wrapped up in their own problems to care about meddling in the affairs of the two Koreas.
It might not be that big of a step but at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyongchang in South Korea, athletes from the two Koreas will be competing side by side under the Korean Unification Banner and instead of PRK or KOR appearing in the official statistics, there will only be the one COR for Corea. The fact that you could get even this might have been an insane thought two years ago; but I for one think that it's glorious.
It speak to a much much much larger and far more hideously complex problem though. You'd have to think that at some point, the wheel of history is going to turn in such a way that the reunification of Korea is inevitable. I just don't see how the north can possibly exist into perpetuity. That means that at some point, we're going to have a set of circumstances which are in principle similar to that of the two Germanys last century.
I remember when the Berlin Wall came down and the intense joy on the faces of the German people. What I don't remember but have subsequently found out later, is that the actual events which took place were initiated by accident and once the wheel of history had been set in motion, it was impossible to stop.
The difference between the two Germanys and the two Koreas though, is that in the case of the two Germanys the economic distance between the people of the two countries wasn't as vast. East Germany was still an economically useful entity when it was behind the Iron Curtain and so there was at least a degree of useful infrastructure that was capable of being integrated into the unified country. The Bundestag in Bonn quite rightly decided to value all East German Marks at par with West German Marks and so this meant that the people of the East instantly found that they had a useful amount of buying power in addition to being instantly richer. I don't know if that sort of process would work as seamlessly in Korea as it did in Germany. A unified Korea would need to carry the people of the former north, which is almost the same kind of problem as if you had those same four million refugees flood across the border. The North Korean Won could be revalued at par with the South Korean Won but I'm not sure that ex North Koreans would have the ability to be able to participate in the new economy to anywhere near the same degree as Ossis did with Wessis.
I still love that there will be only one Korea competing at the Winter Olympics, I love that they've picked a banner which is not overtly the propaganda of one side or the other, and I love the delicious irony that talks between the two Koreas even over such a small thing as this, took place precisely because both the White House and the Congress have been so hideously bad at doing their job that they've managed to render themselves incapable of mucking things up.
There's been so much manure spread around which has been left to sit alone, that the smallest of green shoots have started to be seen.