Korea: The Return Fire Next Time


While North Korea has made many overt attacks on the south in the last half century, there has never been a retaliatory attack on the north by South Korea. But now South Korea has openly pledged to strike back if the north attacks again. For the first time since the 1950s, the public mood in the south supports shooting back. Since the south is a democracy, politicians are under a lot of pressure to do what they say. The north is a police state, and could just ignore a southern artillery barrage or air strike. But the north is not the police state is once was. News gets around up there now, and the government would be humiliated if they tried to suppress news of South Korean warplanes dropping smart bombs on northern troops. While North Korea is a dictatorship, the rulers pay a lot of attention to public opinion, particularly in light of the poverty and unhappiness they preside over. There’s only enough money up north to keep a few percent of the population living well (and remaining loyal to the state). The rest have to be controlled with guns, fear and propaganda. If the south appears to be attacking, the northern leaders are not sure they can depend on their own soldiers to defend the government that has provided only hunger and fear. In an attempt to improve morale among the common folk, North Korean TV featured some of the soldiers involved in last month’s artillery attack on a South Korean island. The soldiers boasted of their heroic feat and there were smiles all around. Except among many of the viewers, who huddled around the TV, one of the few sources of heat. There is only electricity a few hours a day in most parts of North Korea, and important TV shows are scheduled for times when the most uneasy areas have juice for the tube. The capital, home to about 12 percent of the population (you need a special permit to live there) gets more electricity, and more of everything. But in the rest of the country, it’s mostly dark and cold.

Korea: The Return Fire Next Time


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