North Korea viewed from the South
What should President Donald Trump do about North Korea? Experts and defectors based in South Korea tell the FT's Bryan Harris that the latest crisis looks less dramatic from Seoul than from Washington.
Filmed, produced and edited by Tom Griggs. Additional footage by Reuters.
What should America do about North Korea? President Donald Trump has provided a dramatic statement of intent telling the FT that he intends to halt the country's ballistic and nuclear weapons programmes. Can he succeed where his predecessors failed?
If you're here in Seoul, the problem with North Korea is something you've lived with for 70 years. But if you're in Seattle or in Washington, there's this view that there's something new happening, that there's an urgency because of the fear that North Korea is going to acquire a next level of capability, which is an ICBM, a missile that could potentially hit the mainland United States.
Experts in Seoul say a dramatic change is unlikely.
It's actually been remarkably consistent over the last 20 or even approaching 30 years, limited negotiations, limited provocations, and just cycling back and forth there.
For many, including US President Donald Trump, China is the key to solving the North Korean puzzle. The neighbouring nations have been steadfast allies since China intervened in the Korean War to prevent US and UN forces from occupying North Korea.
Relations between the two are often described by Chinese officials as close as lips and teeth.
The North Korea is always backed by the Chinese. Look at what happened during the Korean War. As long as China is fearful of the Korean unification, the Chinese won't allow North Korea to collapse.
China doesn't want a failed state on its doorstep, nor does it want to share a border with a unified Korea allied to the US.
It's a much bigger issue for the Chinese government than the US government. They have a lot more concerns with the North Korean economy, North Korean people, potential North Korean refugees. It's difficult to see that Trump is somehow going to make China kind of turn on a sixpence.
For Hyeonseo Lee, a prominent North Korean defector, the Kim Jong-un regime would never attack the US, because ultimately it knows it will lose.
North Korea will not start any war or war situation by themselves first. What they are doing is only to keep the regime, to keep the power.
John Delury believes the best way forward is through negotiation.
Very clear what Donald Trump should do with North Korea. He needs to talk to them. If you look at the size of the problem of dealing with the North Korean threat, and dealing with North Korea's isolation, and the amount of energy that the Obama administration put in to actually talking to them, it's a chasm. Donald Trump has to close that chasm.
Meanwhile, the isolated nation shows tentative signs of opening up.
In the Kim Jong-un era, the main kind of approach seems to have been trying to co-opt and adapt to the reality of a market economy inside the country. So it may be kind of two steps forward, one step back. But in the long run, it looks like it's going to be very difficult to truly repress and try and move back towards a state controlled economy.
This economic shift has meant access, for some, to imported goods like mobile phones. And in spite of attempts by the government to stop it, far greater exposure to foreign media and knowledge of the outside world.
This is the demilitarised zone, or DMZ, that marks the de facto border between the two Koreas. It's a symbol of the tense standoff that is the world's relationship with North Korea.
With more than 20 million people living in Seoul, just 60 kilometres away, a war could have devastating consequences. Donald Trump may talk tough, but he remains bound by the same constraints as his predecessors. For many in Seoul, the dual pronged approach of capitalism and engagement is the only way to lay the foundation for real change.
Brian Harris, Financial Times, Seoul.