Thursday, May 27, 2010


North Korea Watch: Preparation

Today was a better day, not because all the news was good, but because there was less of it. There have been some positive developments, apparently on the China front, and today there are more voices saying that we should, in effect, mellow out.

One must wonder how it got to this point, though. South Korea's gross domestic product is currently ranked 15th in the world, at $1.364 trillion, it far outweighs the North's $40 billion. What's more, though North Korea boasts a bigger military than South Korea's, naval skirmishes in the past decade have actually revealed its military to be poorly equipped compared to their neighbors.

Malnourishment has left North Koreans in a state where they are, on average, considerably shorter than their neighbors. The recent currency reform backfired when the people protested, suggesting that the public's devotion to the regime has its limits. They have the material to make nuclear weapons, but not much evidence exists that they can miniaturize it and load it to a weapon (for all the threats the have made, a nuclear assault is not one of them).

South Korea, though, would pay an enormous price economically if unification took place even under peaceful circumstances, leaving them in no hurry to complete the process. And even if they defeat the North, it has artillery capable of reaching and inflicting enormous damage on Seoul, as would an initial forward push by a few million North Korean troops coming across the border.

South Korea's economic growth over the past forty years has been justly described as a miracle, though in retrospect leaving the capital, with half the nation's population, most of its industry and its whole central government within North Korea's sights was clearly a miscalculation. South Korea has been unprepared to properly defend itself, but it seems doubtful that re-labeling the North its "archenemy" is going to do the trick, and restarting propaganda broadcasts probably can't do anything but anger the North more.

Though war may not be imminent, it's a shame that this nation hasn't done more to insulate itself from these threats.

Well, even if the South Korean government isn't prepared, there's no reason we can't be.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010


North Korea Watch: What's Next?

I haven't posted at all lately, largely because my new role as a guest on the Evening Show at TBS eFM keeps me even busier than usual. Another reason is that I don't really know what to say, particularly regarding North Korea.

About a year ago I began trying to explain to people why they shouldn't worry about North Korea. I mostly did so for the benefit of friends and family at home, who only see news regarding this peninsula when the North is causing a diplomatic skirmish, and who have therefore been led to believe that war could break out at any moment.

Whenever I wanted to reassure myself regarding the future of this country, I could always look to actual Koreans to see what they thought. Without fail, their response was that North Korea was something they had always lived with, and would for the foreseeable future. And it made sense; the North is ruled by a family that has for years been teaching its people that American imperialists were waiting to conquer its people, and that the South was the tool of those Yanks. The North had to maintain that position or its people would know they were being lied to, but an actual war was not what anyone wanted; not the South, because it endangered their rapid economic growth, and not the North, because they faced long odds of victory.

With that dynamic in place, the North's belligerence seemed the status quo.

The sinking of the Cheonan has changed that. Now, while I don't see people panicking in the street or issuing warnings to run to bomb shelters, this is the first time I've seen real concern about the North's actions. The Cheonan sank, and now South Korea has vowed to cut trade with the North and resume its propaganda broadcasts at the border. The North has responded by cutting all ties with the South and threatens to shoot the speakers that broadcast the South's propaganda.

We're all waiting to see whether they follow through. War won't be the next step, but we don't know what the next step will be, or whether one side will back down. From a logical standpoint it would seem that one side would have to, but sinking the Cheonan had a logic that only Kim Jong-il and/or his defense council understands. One day the reason for this will be revealed; the only question is how much pain the country will have to endure to reach that answer.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Jeaok is Back

I hadn't heard this song before Jeaok buffalaxed it, but that doesn't detract from its pleasures. His skills extend beyond Korean songs, by the way, and into Mongolian ones.

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