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North Korea: What’s the story?

November 24, 2010

The news of North Korea’s attack on South Korea’s military exercises along a disputed border has many people asking what’s the story?  Why would they do that?  The attack also has people asking: what will South Korea and the U.S. do in response?

As President Obama and his team sort out the U.S. options, they would be well advised to keep in mind two things:

1.  War is not the answer, and

2. Peace is Possible Through Peaceful Means.

However, the stories that our news media use to describe what has happened may point our president in the direction of two other things:  a military retaliation and peace through military muscle.  What are these stories?

I see multiple answers to the question “what’s the story in the news”, including:

a.  North Koreans are monsters,

b. North Koreans are crazy,

c.  North Korean leaders need focus their people’s attention on something other than their internal problems, and

d.  Kim Jung Il, North Korea’s current leader, needs his twenty-comething son, Kim Jung Un, who will be his chosen successor, to show toughness now to ascend to power.

I imagine that c. and d. could be true but, still, not sufficient to explain why North Korea hit South Korea. This big problem could boil down to two simple matters, respect and an old border dispute.  What else do we need to know to “get the story” that leads to a better problem definition?

John Feffer of Foreign Policy In Focus and President Jimmy Carter each have informative and helpful essays that you might want to look at.  President Carter writes in today’s Washington Post “Listen to North Korea: Pyongyang has told the U.S. what it wants.”

Yesterday, John Feffer posted a Foreign Policy In Focus “World Beat” Blog “Conflict in Korea.” Both articles are worth your reading.

John Feffer concludes his article saying,

Let’s hope that both North and South Korea step back from the brink. As I wrote in 2003, “The Korean War was a cataclysm, a terrible outpouring of blood and destruction. The 1953 armistice that halted the war may well have been only a provisional peace. Fifty years later, nearly two million soldiers face off across the DMZ, weapons of mass destruction abound on both sides, and military forces in the region are at hair-trigger readiness.

Unless North Korea and the United States embark on serious negotiations rather than dead-end talks, a bigger, badder sequel to the 1950 conflict will be the unintended consequence. After the Deluge, as the old spiritual put it, ‘God gave Noah the rainbow sign. No more water, the fire next time.'”

One Comment
  1. November 26, 2010 1:47 am

    Your post ponders why North Korea has taken the actions it has recently – assuming that (a) and (b) are not true, and that (c) and (d) are, in and of themselves, not entirely satisfactory, you might want to consider the explanation offered here and consider whether it merits further discussion.

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