On June 25, 1950, some 75,000 soldiers of the North Korean People’s Army invaded South Korea starting the Korean War. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) invasion of the South extended all the way down to the outskirts of Busan, demonstrating how ill prepared and caught off-guard the South Koreans found themselves. Considering that, unlike in 1950, the DPRK today has an estimated 1.2 million men in its military, the threat of an invasion would seem even more likely now.
What if the United States was removed from the scene?
On July 27, 1953, the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed officially ending the Korean War. But was it really the end since no peace treaty was ever put into effect? Truman fired General Douglas MacArthur in order to avoid having the Korean Conflict metastasize into WWIII but all he really did was to “kick the can” down the road to our time and now it’s President Trump’s problem. So now instead of facing WWIII we are facing the possibility of a nuclear conflagration. I wonder how that would affect climate change?
Even so, I’m guessing that you may not believe we are still at war in Korea so I’ve provided just three skirmishes which occurred since 1953 that say otherwise:
- USS Pueblo Incident in 1968
- Joint Security Area (JSA) Axe Murders in 1978
- Otto Warmbier’s Death in 2017
All of these actions were taken against the United States without the DPRK suffering any serious retaliation or consequences.
I’ve heard many of the analysts and experts in Asian affairs give their opinions on the motives and/or mental state of Kim Jong Un. Some say he is unstable and unpredictable. Some say he is unhinged or just plain crazy. I say he is cool and calculating and doing exactly what he believes he should be doing given his country is technically at war with the U.S. and its perceived South Korean puppet state.
When news commentators or announcers reference the government of North Korea, they usually use the terms “Totalitarian,” “Stalinist” or “Communistic” which may seem accurate from the outside but I don’t think they, the North Koreans, necessarily view themselves in any of these terms. Instead, the DPRK’s official identity or ideology is “Juche” first proposed by Kim Il Sung.
It’s probably hard for non-Asians to wrap their heads around the concept of Juche since I believe it has strong tie-ins to ancestor worship—but with a Marxist twist. Instead of reverence for deceased family members, Juche ideology removes the spiritual aspect and instead advocates for reverence or worship of a living relative, i.e., a great leader. This leader is derived from a line of great leaders who considered themselves caretakers of their extended family, namely, the North Korean people. The great leader isn’t looked on as a dictator but a paternalistic head of the family. Kind of sounds like the Godfather, doesn’t it?
Another concept of Juche is self-reliance. For the North Korean, the only way to achieve self-reliance is through subordination to the great leader, and the current Great Leader is Kim Jong Un. Since Juche calls for worship of the Great Leader, it’s by definition the state religion. Take all this then throw in a heavy dose of socialism, ultra-nationalism, and hyper-militarism and you will have a better picture of what the DPRK looks like.
The North Korean people are bombarded daily with this humanistic Juche ideology, “The individual is the master of his destiny,” but only if the individual stays on the right path.
So, you have to ask yourself, how do you negotiate with this kind of government?
I believe there are only two ways to deal with the North Korean threat, the first is…well you know what that is. The second is for the United States to recognize the legitimacy of the North Korean state by signing a peace treaty and establishing diplomatic relations. But in order to assure the North Koreans that we respect their sovereignty, the U.S. would eventually arrive at an agreement to pull out all its military forces from the region, basically, abandoning the South Koreans to their North Korean neighbors. Don’t sound so shocked, this is exactly what we did in Vietnam.
As it stands, the status quo won’t last forever, at least not until Kim Jong Un has perfected his ballistic missile capabilities.