Korea, Part 2

How do you solve a problem like Korea?  After World War II, Korea was divided between the communist North and the capitalist South.  This was mainly done because when the Soviet Army was invading China to fight the Japanese in the final days of the war, the peninsula was bypassed.  In 1951, the leaders of North Korea bit off more than they could0chew.  They decided to challenge the new United Nations and their forces and invaded the south.  This has become known as the Korean Conflict (not the Korean War…as we usually refer to it).  The north almost immediately won as it caught the south completely off guard.  They advanced almost to the port of Pusan… the last Allied port in the south.  It was there, that the forces dug in and held out… known as the Pusan perimeter.  With reinforcements arriving, the US forces began to dig out and General MacArthur made his famous landing at the port of Inchon behind the North Korean lines… splitting them in half.  The Allied forces pushed the North Korean army back up and had almost taken all of North Korea… but then the southern forces bit off more than they could handle.  Despite warnings not to do it, General MacArthur started bombing bridges over the Yellow River (which makes the border between North Korea and China), thus getting China (a newly communist nation at the time) all rattled up.  So they entered the war and came to the aid of North Korea and pushed the southern forces back down.  By the time everything came to an end with an armistice in 1953, everything was pretty much back to what it was before the war started… with the border between north and south being at the 38th Parallel.

There have been tense issues between the North and South in the years since the war, but for awhile, those tensions seemed to be mellowing out.  North and South Korea began competing in the Olympic Games under just Korea…instead of being divided.  The two governments were allowing people to reconnect with loved ones on the other side at brief periods of time.  Where the South is capitalist and free… the North is communist and very strict.  One just has to look at a nighttime satellite image of the two countries to see the differences between the two.  But the road to a possible peaceful coexistence seemed to be in the formation for these two opposite countries.  And the Korean people might actually have the chance to be one people…though divided by a political boundary that would hopefully not require a DMZ.

In the past few years though, the tensions have been heightened as North Korea has talked the big talk so the other countries of the world would listen to it…alarming the leaders of South Korea.  But last week, those words became actions as North Korea opened fire on South Korean towns.  World leaders are greatly worried now and the US and South Korean forces are playing war games in the Yellow Sea hoping that will get North Korea to back down and avoid an all out war.

So would anything be different this time around if war were to break out?  The world is a much different place than it was in 1950.  Communism isn’t seen as a huge threat to the world anymore.  The Soviet Union no longer exists.  And China, though still communist and allied with North Korea, is also one of the western industrialized nations now.  The change in China’s economy in the last decade has made it a key player.  Siding with North Korea in a war against the West could greatly damage its booming economy and could set it back.  For the West, having China not in the global marketplace suddenly, could help boost jobs as our own countries would have start making things again… but prices would go up as our standard of living would make it.

So for the grand scheme of things, China would want North Korea to back down and for everyone to cool off.  Today’s global economy (which North Korea is not a part of) could greatly shape how this small skirmish will keep from becoming the next big global conflict.  If North Korea’s biggest and most powerful ally is telling them they’ve stepped over the line and they need to back off, I don’t think there is much the North Korean government can do but listen.  They would be greatly outnumbered if the entire western industrialized nations (China included) was against them.  It would be a futile effort and the country they are trying to preserve would be lost.

It is amazing that war was not declared immediately.  That cooler heads have prevailed for now in trying to get the North into backing down before things get out of hand.  Could this just be delaying the inevitable?  Maybe… but I personally don’t think so.  I think this is North Korea’s leader… Kim Jon il… trying to show that he can play with the big boys and shape world politics in his last days… as he has been shown in very fragile health and has been making plans for his successor.  We can only wait and see how the successor will act when he becomes leader…as he could decide to modernize his country more and that peaceful coexistence with South Korea and the rest of the Western nations could allow the North to grow and become a world player through peaceful means instead of by guns and bombs.

So now we sit and wait to see if those cooler heads prevail in bringing us all back from the brink of war.  Personally, I think that the Korea Conflict, Part 2 would go very much against the North… and could technically unite all Korea under the free South.  But is it really worth going to war over this?  No.  We are a war-weary populace now and the last thing we as a people need (and we as a nation) is another conflict to be involved in as we are trying to wrap up the others.  So let us remember the words of Gandhi that I’ve used many times before.  “May we cultivate peace in our hearts; peace begins at home.”  I would like to see North Korea become part of the global community…but it must do so peacefully and not by violence or by intimidation  China has at least proven that it can be communist and be a part of the western nations.  Maybe the North Korean leadership should pay closer attention to its ally.

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