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.


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