"Crisis in the Korean Peninsula"

Apr 01, 2013 12:00 AM

The other side of the story

By Moon J. Pak

Since the end of Korean War in 1953, political and military tension along the border between the two Koreas, has been volatile, to say the least. However this unfortunate circumstance is due mostly to the unstable international relationship existing between North Korea and United States, rather than due to the hostility existing between the two Koreas. Furthermore, this continuing tension between the U.S. and DPRK(Democratic People's Republic of Korea=North Korea) exists in spite of the fact that the hostility was ended with an Armistice Treaty in 1953 whose signatories include, United States, North Korea and China, but not South Korea. The treaty had three important clauses; one, within a three month period after the armistice, a peace treaty is to be signed between the signatories; two, all the foreign troops will have to be withdrawn from the peninsula as expeditiously as possible; and three, henceforth Korean peninsula will have to remain nuclear-free.

The signatories of the treaty subsequently met in Geneva but the expected peace treaty was never materialized mainly due to U.S. reluctance. The Chinese troops were withdrawn from North Korea promptly but U.S. troops remained in the South to this date, 28,000 strong currently. Furthermore, in violation of the Treaty the U.S. had introduced strategic nuclear weapons onto the South Korea although these were later removed when the non-nuclear pact was signed between the two Koreas.

To this date, 60 years after the end of the Korean War, U.S. has steadfastly refused to sign the peace treaty with North Korea in spite of her continued demand for the one, which could have resulted in the normalization of the relationship between the two countries. It is noteworthy to remember that at one time, North had requested the peace treaty and subsequent normalization of the relationship, even with a clear indication of its tacit acceptance of continued U.S. military presence in the peninsula.

In addition to the refusal to sign the peace treaty and maintenance of continued troop presence in the peninsula, U.S. has war-time military operational control over the South Korean forces as well as its own U.S. forces in Korea. The justification of this obvious violation of the sovereignty of South Korea has been that the U.S. presence is needed to protect the country from attack by the North; Ironically, whose persistent request for the peace treaty, the U.S. has been ignoring in the past 60 years.

This continued hostility between the two countries held off only by the Armistice Treaty of 1953, resulted in a tense military confrontation and heavy fortification by both sides along the so called, DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) line between the two Koreas and also along the so called NLL (Northern Limit Line) in the sea along the West Coast of Korean peninsula.

Furthermore, in the last 60 years, whenever a confrontational incidence occurred between the U.S. and North Korea along these tense borders, such as the Pueblo Affair, EC 101 Event, Panmunjom Incidence, etc., U.S. had threatened North Korea with reprisal with its nuclear arsenal, and often U.S. bombers carrying nuclear weapons were actually flown toward Pyongyang until they reached the last threshold to the border.

The most obvious expression of hostility and antagonism shown against the North Korea by U.S. however, is the annual military maneuvers carried out jointly between U.S. and South Korean forces, under various code names- currently called "Key Resolve", "Foal Eagle" These dangerous and provocative war-games were ostensibly defined as a defensive exercise against North Korean invasion and to better coordinate the command relationship between the two forces. However to the eyes of North Koreans and any objective by-standers, these war-games carried out practically at the North Korean door-steps, is an exercise in the invasion of North Korea. And recently, it was also seen as a practice in preparation for the presumed North Korean regime collapse!

Placed under these multilevel hostile activities by a country with the greatest military strength in the world and the country that also imposes economic embargos on them, North Korea had no choice but to place national defense as its top priority, and adopt what they call "Sungoon Policy" (Military Priority Policy), which resulted in the development of missile technology, nuclear weapons system and 1.2 million armed personnel, all at the expense of more than 30% of its GDP over the past many years; the highest in the world. Naturally the policy demanded extreme sacrifices from its people in every aspect of their lives; life style, healthcare, food supply, cultural activities, housing, education, religious activities, even the practice of their judiciary system, and most significantly, a severe compromise in it's citizen's political freedom for the sake of social cohesiveness and utmost efficiency. All for the realization of its single national goal; The Survival.

North Koreans view that the significant achievement of the "Sungoon Policy" in that it gives the most effective deterrence from U.S. enmity is the development of nuclear weapon system and its delivery capability, and it will eventually lead to betterment of its relationship with U.S.

Kim Jong-un, feels that the attainment of this deterrence enables him now to turn their national attention to the country's economy and subsequent improvement in the quality of lives of its people.

From this perspective, the successful firing of their long range missile followed by their third successful nuclear testing in recent months symbolizes simply the exercise of their right for existence. Therefore, U.S.-led UN sanctions, U.S.-led joint war games, especially with enhanced attack posture this time, including nuclear carriers, nuclear submarines, and nuclear bombers flown over the peninsula for a bombing exercise represents clear war efforts of U.S. which is a blatant violation of the Armistice Treaty, against which now, they have military counter measures, nuclear bombs and ICBM's; their "deterrence" and they feel obligated to demonstrate it.

The peace in the Korean peninsula and its eventual re-unification, is the inalienable right of Korean people, whether they are in South, North or Overseas. These sacred objectives of Korean people can only be achieved by Koreans only, wherein lies the critical importance of South Koreans understanding North Koreans and work with them and for them.

DPRK is a country of 24 million people and is a member of the United Nations and it maintains diplomatic relation with over 150 countries. It has a socialistic politico-economic ideology with a unique adaptation of its principles reflecting its ethnic history and orientations, thus it has monolithic political party established by its leader and the founder of the country, Kim Il Sung, who, in a way personifies the country. For the sake of its survival, it maintains a fifth largest military power in the world, and is a de facto nuclear power. Its GDP of 33 billion US$ is modest to say the least, but at least partly it is due to the 60 years of economic isolation and "Sungoon Policy" The country has immense mining resource with great varieties. The country is called "Museum of Mines" However its most valuable national asset is the presence of well-educated population with significantly younger median age of its work force than its southern brethren.

60 years of isolation imposed on them both internally as well as externally, and one party rule led tightly by a three-generation family leadership resulted in somewhat idiosyncratic foreign policy behavior that is bound to change as it opens its door. People led by Kim Jong-un are very proud of their society, leadership, culture and history and thus the implosion of the society due to economic hardship is not even in the realm of imagination.

The U.S. must treat North Korea as an entity that deserves respect and equal partnership, accept the country as a peaceful partner in the affairs of mutual concern.

The China is an important neighbor of North Korea but due to its long history of turbulent international relationship, China does not carry much power of political influence on either Koreas. Even the economic relationship between China and North Korea existing today is based on the principle of mutual benefit, not a one-sided free aid.

North Korea will not succumb to any external sanction or economic isolation and absolutely no collapse of its system is to be expected. It will go another 60 years and still emerge as a proud, strong, but a country feeling bitter against the entity that had imposed the sanction and isolation on them, the U.S.

Kim Jong-un is a very well established leader now, with strong support from its military, party and loved by its people, thus there is no need to prove himself. His youth is to his and his country's advantage; when Kim Ilsung returned to Pyongyang to assume leadership of the country in 1945, he was about Kim Jong-un's age.

Lastly, the DPRK is a nuclear power and it will remain so as long as its neighbors remain nuclear. Eventually when the Korea becomes one, It will be the nuclear power of the Unified Korea.

Moon J. Pak, M.D.
Senior VP, KANCC

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