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  Korea – the zone of constant tension

Viktor Denisenko
2009 05 11

Situation in the Korean Peninsula differs from the situation in other conflict-affected parts of the world. Actually the two Koreas embrace one nation. The Korea Republic in the south of peninsula is a free country with the market economy. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north of peninsula is a perfect example of a military communist ideological system.

For nearly half of 20th century Korea was annexed by Japan.  After the World War II the northern part of Korea was occupied by the Soviet Union, the southern part by the United States. In 1948 two separate states were established. They represented different development models, different ideologies and different geopolitical orientation. The disunity of the Korean State was embedded by the war of 1950 – 1953 between the two Koreas, and so far the Treaty of Peace has not been signed.

The escalation of the relationship between South and North Korea coincided with the massive joint military drills of South Korea and the United States, which took place on 9-20 March of this year. The training scenario: protection of South Korea from a possible attack of the North Korea. Pyongyang responded to this training by announcing a military preparedness and closing the border with South Korea(consequently, operations of common industrial zones of both countries were paralyzed). Other cooperation projects were also suspended, e.g. development of tourism, organization of freight railway operations and regular governmental contacts.

What determines the aggressive rhetoric of North Korea?  Pyongyang is hardly afraid of the country’s occupation by the U.S or South Korea.Seoul might be repelled by the necessity to immediately solve the problem of economic retardation of the northern neighbor.

The purpose of the aggressive rhetoric of Pyongyang is different. North Korea is included into the UN World Food Program, but during the period of economic crisis the West is more concerned about its own problems. Most probably Pyongyang is afraid of being forgotten again, and the aggressive rhetoric provides for the retention of tension in the region and staying in the focus of attention.

The West could also stay calm concerning North Korea, since it wouldn’t do nothing more but threatening. But the regime of Kim Yong-il could hardly be predicted, thus there is a certain risk that Pyongyang could start realizing its threats. North Korea seeks to upgrade its arms. The ballistic missile Taepodong-2, which is currently under construction, is supposed to have the range of 7000 km and reach Alaska or Hawaii. Firm response of the West towards the ambitions of North Korea to construct the above space launch vehicle is demonstrated by the recent scandal on the attempt of North Korea “to put a satellite into orbit”. The missile with the satellite was launched on 5 April. North Korea reported that the satellite was put into orbit, but the United States, Japan and South Korea deny the above fact. According to the available data, the missile broke into pieces in the air and its parts fell into the ocean. It is assumed that North Korea could cover testing of its ballistic missiles by „the launch of a satellite“.

Instability in North Korea might be related also to possible changes in power structures. Recently the world was guessing on whether the leader of this country Kim Yong-il is alive. For several months the only „argument“ proving that Kim Yong-il is alive were photographs demonstrated on North Korea‘s TV from his visit to various objects. Only when he visited China on 17 March everybody believed that he is alive. Most probably, a several-months disappearance of Kim Yong-il was related to stroke, after which he recovered with the help of the French neurosurgeon.

The death of the leader of North Korea or long-term disability might cause internal disagreements in the country.  In the above situation the country could become unpredictable, and this would not add more stability to the Korean Peninsula.

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