Monday, 1 April 2013

The North Korean Threat

Image Source
A number of concerned family and friends have been texting me, asking what the situation here in Korea is like--if I am safe? So I decided to quickly respond in this post.

The first important thing to realize is that the two countries are technically still at war. However, since 1953 when the countries agreed on a seize fire, the peninsula has been relatively peaceful. Of course there had been the occasional incident, just to underscore the point that the two countries are still at it, but has been mostly symbolic rather than truly serious. Particularly North Korea has felt a need to bark up the tree every so often. I guess it is good for their suffocating economy and every dictator knows it helps to keep the masses in check if you keep them focused on an outside threat. It is not altogether different from what even democracies are doing, for instance America's constant focus on the terrorist threat.

Regardless of North Korea's recent war talks, in both South Korea and North Korea life is continuing on as usual--whatever "life as usual" means for these two countries respectively. In South Korea it means that people are still going to work early and coming home late, the K-Pop stars are still dancing provocatively, and kimchi is still eaten by the tons. The new South Korean president has issued a statement that South Korea would unwaveringly retaliate to any North Korean attack if it occurs, but that is to be expected of a leader, and especially of a new one. President Park was only elected a few months ago. She also said that girls that show too much skin in their daily fashions will get a $50 fine. Politicians say many things about many things.

Basically, I'm not too concerned and I don't think my life is in any more danger than it would have been had I lived in South Africa. In fact, I think South Korea is by and large much safer than South African, even with the North Korean threat.

Now, it is not wholly impossible for war to occur. America and South Korea's joint military exercises are definitely displays of threat, which is putting the jittery North Korea on edge. Particularly the United States' stealth bombers which had been flying over the Korean peninsula of late could cause a trigger-happy, insecure boy-dictator to act irresponsible. Whether the North Korean leader is indeed trigger-happy and insecure I do not know. I doubt he is stupid though. He must know that a war would be the end of him. American and South Korean forces far out weigh North Korea's outdated arsenal of weapons and a war would mean the end of the Kim-regime just as the Iraqi war meant the end of Saddam Hussein.

So what would make me sit upright in my chair? Well, if North Korea suddenly expel or imprison the South Korean workers at the Kaesong Industrial Region. This is basically an industrial complex just north of the North Korea-South Korea border (i.e. in North Korea). North Koreans and South Koreans both work at the industrial complex. The moment we see North Korea shut down the complex, or deny South Korean workers access, or imprison South Koreans at the complex--that is when I will worry about war on the peninsula. Since the industrial complex started in 2003, production there has not stopped even during the most tumultuous back-and-forth bickering between the two countries.

The latest news is that it is still "Business as Usual at the Kaesong Industrial Park", although some say that there is some tension in the air.

Another element that could also suggest actual trouble is China's reaction. China is North Korea's main and probably only ally. This means that China has the best insight into North Korean politics. Beijing and Pyongyang also have a defense treating, so that the one would come to the other's aid in time of war. What is worrying is that China has been sending military towards the North Korean border since the middle of March. In other words, China is backing up its promise to aid North Korea in a time of war. What we are seeing here is both the United States of America and China are showing solidarity to their allies. If war action were to take place in Korea, it would be a world war, not merely a local war, affecting everyone around the world.

1 comment:

x said...

Hi there,

Really interesting post, would you be interested in cross-posting on Independent Voices? - If so, could you possibly send an email to Thanks