Currently, the world is watching a dramatic power performance between a reality television celebrity and real estate tycoon, and a 33-year-old dictator. It’s like watching a late night badly written TV show; a ‘Laurel and Hardy’ which may end in total annihilation. I’m guessing if you clicked on this article then you’re curious about the possibility of a nuclear war erupting, and if it would result in our untimely deaths.
Why has the hostility escalated?
It can be assumed correctly that it is partially due to a change in leadership.
Let’s do a character analysis of both parties, shall we?
Donald Trump is the 45th President of the United states, before which he was a real estate mogul and a reality television personality. During his presidential campaign, a recording was released in which Trump describes a sexual assault: ‘I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it, you can do anything … grab them by the pussy’. Afterwards, 15 women accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct. Besides his personal failings, his ill-advised policy on immigration has infuriated many. His Muslim ban was blocked by the federal court; chief judge of the court, Roger Gregory said the order ‘drips of religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination’. The success of Trump’s presidential campaign has divided an otherwise strong and powerful nation.
Kim Jong-un, a third-generation dictator, may be a young man with only six years of experience behind him, but he is also ruthless. In December 2013, when Kim Jong-un allegedly executed his uncle Jang Song-thaek, rumours circulated quickly of his second-in-command being fed alive to dogs; though improbable, it would have been similarly brutal. More recently, Kim Jong-un’s half-brother Kim Jong Nam was assassinated in Kuala Lumpur, the international airport of Malaysia. Kim Jong-un is certainly an apt depiction of the noun ‘tyrant’.
North Korean culture
Korean culture is based on myth, it’s national history is a work of fiction; take the birth of Kim Jong Il for example. His official biography states that he was born on the sacred mountain of Baekdu. At the precise moment of his birth, a star supposedly formed in the sky, the seasons changed inexplicably from winter to spring and a double rainbow appeared. Soviet reports beg to differ, claiming that he was born in a small insignificant Siberian village in 1941. Propagandists however also gave him mythical powers; he could control the weather with his mind.
It’s easy to assume that if we were in the same position as the North Korean citizens, we would be able to figure out fact from fiction. But humanity’s fixation on heroes, from Hercules to Batman, lies with the truth that impossible heroes are easier to accept than ordinary men.
Underneath the oddities of North Korea life is tremendous suffering. Assassinations, capital punishment and torture are rife. Ahn Myong Chol, a former guard at Hoeryong concentration camp reported that the guards are taught that the inmates are sub-human. In the 1990s, Amnesty International estimated that there were roughly 50,000 prisoners, comprised of South Korean prisoners of war, Christians, and purged party members as well as all of their family members. During the 1980s, public executions took place once a week. Ahn Myong Chol admitted that he ordered the execution of 31 individuals as collective punishment because one person had tried to escape.
Famine also wreaks havoc on the populace. The great famine (1994-1998) wiped out approximately 10 pre cent of the population. However, micro-famines continue, leading to snippets of cannibalism stories coming to light in western media. One man allegedly:
‘killed his eldest daughter, and because his son saw what he had done, he killed his son as well. When his wife came home, he offered her food saying “we have meat”. But the wife, suspicious that her children were missing, notified the Ministry of Public Security (the police), which led to the discovery of part of their children’s bodies from under the eaves’.
So, what can be done to prevent nuclear war?
A preventative war to stop North Korea from distributing or using their nuclear weapons is one strategy under deliberation. One such way this may be enacted is ‘decapitation’, where senior leaders would be killed in order to try and cut the head off the snake. But what if the snake is actually a Hydra? Instead of uprooting the regime, it incites the masses to rally to the cause, and any surviving leaders call for nuclear action.
Strategic strangulation is one of the methods that is regarded highly by North Korean experts. It would include the expansion of cyber hacking, smuggling flash drives of uncensored information, as well as closing off North Korea’s illicit trade systems, intensifying sanctions and immobilising assets of influential spearheads of the North Korean government. Yet, for a nation that prides itself on its resilience to pain, it may not be effective enough to collapse this regime.
They could stage a palace coup, by empowering Kim Jong-un’s enemies with foreign aid and destroying the system from within. However, who would be willing to stand up to one of the most brutal dictators of the modern age?
In due course, the American government and the world must choose if they can accept North Korea as a nuclear state.
If a nuclear war does break out, what then?
An old Korean saying goes: ‘Nuh jukgo, nah jukja!’ which means ‘You die, I die!’ Reporter, Evan Osnos, from The New Yorker, interviewed Mr Pak Song Il, who works for North Korea’s Foreign Ministry’s Institute for American Studies, asking him why North Korea was entertaining the idea of a nuclear war. Mr Pak responded:
‘A few thousand would survive, and the military would say, “Who cares? As long as the United States is destroyed, then we are all starting from the same line again” ‘. He added, ‘A lot of people would die. But not everyone would die’.
Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump continue the battle of egos; we can only wait and see what unfolds from this posturing.