40° North – 127° East
Population: 25 M
GDP: 40 B
Per Capita $1, 800
Built around a cult like admiration for their oligarchical (small powerful group) leader, North Korea is bloated with repression, propaganda and agreeably the most closed off nation on the planet.
The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (N. Korea) shares its borders with its southern partner South Korea on the peninsula. This stretch of land is almost surrounded completely by water. Mainly, three bodies of water encompass the land including, the Korean strait a narrow stretch of water to the sea of Japan which sprouts from the Pacific; its west coast and lastly the Korean Bay on its east coast, which is indented into the land from the sea. (Dictionary of Geography, Moore, W.G. 1949).
The big significance of this peninsula is great because four major superpowers have interests in the region. To include China whose continent size country is always looking to expand, Russia; who has purely commercial interests in oil around the maritime areas. The last two are Japan and U.S. who will come to the aid of the South Korean people should any real action take place. Thus the biggest economies have some sort of interest to deter Korea from being wiped off the maps.
Two countries on one large peninsula, increases the tension between these obviously different nations. To the south, a vibrant, bustling modern economy with colorful ads and bright lights, and the North with its bleak, secretive dim-lit Stalinist approach to governing its people.
The nation is described by political writer, Gene Sharp as an isolated dictatorship”. The official deemed name, the Workers party; controls all aspects of life that monitor its borders, cyber media and punishes its objectors with extreme brutality, which is eerily reminiscent of Nazi Germany prison camps in the desolate and choked of mountains where no one can be heard. In response to the 2002 George W. Bush’ ‘Axis of Evil‘ proclamation, North Korea has become obsessively anxious. This is due to their isolationist stance, or a solo belief that Western forces will act in a preemptive way or initialize action first in a militant effort to prevent Korea from unleashing all out war with their hidden arsenal, which has been increasing its use since 2009(Congressional Research Service). They believe we will strike them the way we did to Iraq or in Yemen with drone warfare against Islamic extremists.
The nuclear family centered and traditionalist Koreans of the North have succeeded in continuing their family sequence of leaders for three generations (1953). The military totalitarian rule has been in place since the establishment of the Communist regime by the Grandfather of the current leader, Kim Jong Un ( Kang, Korean Studies Institute, University of Southern California, 2013).
The succession has been successful due to the hermit like preservation of the old life, not ‘selling out’ to become more westernized. In this attempt to contain all that classical about the old ways comes political oppression, and detainment of political refugees that are not adhering to the central control of the party. Reports are that the most sever prison camps are in the north of the country, where individuals are forced make clothing.
In essence, the confrontation is two-sided, one is a struggle to maintain a more traditional lifestyle for North Korea; to keep its strong sense of national identity and two to prove that it has the capability of projecting its own force in the peninsula.
The now twenty something commander, Kim Song Un sits on the throne of the newly given position only years after his father Kim Jong Il passed away from a heart attack when he was travelling on a train though the country side (2011). North Korea’s main objective is their ” supreme national goal” of reuniting the peninsula’s Korea’s, which has “technically been in war for 60 years” (Hodge, H Korean Strategy)
The brutality of the slave camps are some of the most evil works to date, where the works of wretched men inflict psycho torture on the weak. Included is starvation, that leads to some of the most horrifying acts survival to harsh to mention in this post.
Security/ Military Threat
Former ambassador Christopher Hill affirmed “missiles that Korea posses cannot reach the continental U.S. yet. ” (MSNBC) This being said, the motivated Koreans are continually testing, tweaking and improving their rockets and are attempting to develop a nuclear payload that could be placed on a rocket. The problem is not so much the conventional idea of all out launching of missiles from Seoul to L.A., but the real threat of Korea making transactions on the black market with other rogue organizations who have no problems of targeting western alliances.
North Korea is a far right, ultra conservative, ultra nationalist country with no motivation to become Westernized like its southern counterpart. A racially biased cadre of leadership controls their people with ‘brainwashing.” The state has an extreme penal system and is clinging to its Hammer and Sickle ideology, evidence of this is “all TV and radio stations are pre-tuned to government channels.” (http://www.cia.gov)
This area of the world is under constant analysis and the threat of a regional conflict is always present.Evidence of this can be witnessed with the dividing line that is the 38th parallel, which slices the two countries in half and is monitored by both Republic Korean troops and American forces alike. Called the most militarized zone in the world, the tension is said to be palpable with both forces literally staring nose to nose in an area of the world which hasn’t changed since the Cold War.
So, we have stalemate in which if one side is backed into the corner, they may only have a few cards to play. Our options are limited to economic assistance and military deterrence. This will continue to be a major headline in the world of geopolitics until this an evolution of some sort will come. Three priorities will be the focus 1. The military threat, 2. the social arena and bringing Korea into the global picture with business and finally 3. human rights, if we can maneuver their people to see the light, perhaps other threats will stop. This needs to happen for all parties to maintain peace.