Posts Tagged ‘Cheonan’

A good friend of mine is doubtful that North Korea was responsible for last month’s sinking of the South Korean patrol ship Cheonan. He says North Korea knows they would be obliterated several times over if they committed an overt act of war. I’m not so sure an overt act of war would lead to such a result, though.

I’m certain the North would be obliterated if a full-on war between the two Koreas broke out. The price to the South, however, would be painfully high. North Korea would rain fire on South Korea, especially Seoul. Many thousands would be killed, property would be destroyed and South Korea’s hard-earned economic miracle would be over for a good long while.

It seems to me that South Korea’s military advantages are cancelled out by its own economic success. Whatever they would “win” in a war would pale in comparison to what they would lose. I don’t believe South Korea wants such a fight, and I have a feeling North Korea’s leadership shares this belief and is emboldened by it.

This little bit that ran recently in the Korea Times leads me to believe a full-scale war is not likely:

“Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Yu Myung-hwan said Sunday that South Korea could take the sinking of the naval ship Cheonan to the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) if North Korea was found to have been involved in the incident.

Asked what kind of diplomatic measures South Korea could consider, Yu said ‘war-related’ affairs were the jurisdiction of the council and therefore Seoul would have to abide by its ruling.”

This is bunk. There is nothing in the laws of physics that says the UNSC has any such jurisdiction. This is just a fiction commonly propagated by countries lacking the power to project their will and/or seeking to constrain more powerful countries from projecting theirs. South Korea now adds a third category: countries trying very hard not to go to war. And they’ll succeed, because I sure don’t see China giving a green light to an attack on the North.

If North Korea did it, I believe we’ll see an emergency session of the UNSC, a very serious sounding communiqué and some “tough” sanctions that really won’t have much effect on Pyongyang.

Maybe this is just wishful thinking on my part. I am living here with my wife and son, after all, and the last thing I want is for us to be anywhere near a war zone. One thing I know for sure is that if I come to feel the chances of war are greater than 25 per cent, we’ll be moving on.

Right now, though, I feel pretty comfortable staying put.

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An old nickname for Korea is “Land of Morning Calm”, a moniker hot-blooded Koreans don’t always live up to. In the four days since the mysterious sinking of the South Korean patrol ship Cheonan, however, the reaction has indeed been calm. 

Where I’m from, a navy vessel getting sunk would provoke a pretty excited response from the citizenry, so this mellowness took me by surprise. On the morning after, I thought the entire household would be abuzz with discussion about the disaster. Not so.

My father-in-law read about the incident with interest, but he didn’t say anything about it. Same thing with my brother-in-law. He read the stories carefully and then carried on with his usual morning routine.

Later that Saturday, we visited my wife’s uncle for a long lunch. Not once in the four hours we were there did the topic come up. It was like nothing out of the ordinary had happened – just another beautiful spring day in South Korea.

The story is all over the news, of course, but nobody I’ve met is getting worked up about it. The suicide on Monday of a Korean entertainer, Choi Jin-young, is a much hotter topic.

My wife tells me her family and friends are so calm because bellicose rhetoric and aggression on the part of the neighbors to the north is such a normal part of life here. People don’t pay much attention to it.

“What you have to remember is that this is a war zone,” she says. “Not an active war zone because nothing has really happened for the last fifty-something years, but people know something can happen at any time.”

Of course, the sinking of a naval vessel is much more serious than the usual sabre rattling and small naval skirmishes, but right now there is much more that is unknown than known about what caused the disaster. South Koreans are displaying admirable restraint and taking care to get all the facts before reacting.

I think they are also hoping fervently that North Korea was not behind this. When I asked what would happen if it turns out that the North did sink the Cheonan, KJ just gives a little shrug. “We’ll cross that bridge if we come to it. Hopefully we won’t.”

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