North-South Tensions Still High

The inter-Korean tensions are eerily similar to those just before the Korean War in the 1940s

In preview of our upcoming post on the Korean War, and in line with our last post on the division of the peninsula amid a tumultuous environment, it’s apparent that tensions between the neighbors are still high today. According to an editorial today in The Korea Herald, tensions are rising so drastically that South Korea is fully prepared for even more conflict after a not-so-veiled threat from the North:

As inter-Korean relations become increasingly hostile, a South Korean think tank says the security situation on the Korean peninsula is the worst since North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006 … In early May, North Korea demanded that the president and conservative South Korean newspaper companies make a final choice between apologies for their critical remarks and reports and a ‘holy war of retribution.’

While this threat is nothing new, the editorial notes that these remarks may be nothing more than mere “childish tantrums” from a “humiliated North” stemming from the failed nuclear launch on the centenary celebration of Kim Jong-un’s grandfather, and father of the DPRK, Kim Il-sung.

It remains to be seen how the unpredictable DPRK will eventually react, as it is difficult to gauge just how serious the threats really are. Regardless, the Korea Herald editorial notes how prepared both South Korea and the U.S. (its primary ally since its formal conception in 1948) must be in a worst case scenario:

South Korea needs to ensure that any such military provocation will be met with a massive retaliation … The South Korean military is on a standing order to strike back with double or triple the level of firepower with which the enemy has launched an attack … Moreover, South Korea has reportedly bolstered the defenses on its islands in the West Sea … [and] is also in the process of purchasing 367 cluster bombs from the United States for $325 million, each of which, when dropped, releases bomblets over a wide area against such targets as tanks, bunkers and parked aircraft.

While this is a frightening forecast, it’s even more terrifying to observe the similarities between the tensions today, and those just prior to the Korean War in the mid-1940s. South Korea is preparing for a possible Northern invasion, reminiscent of the invasion in 1950. The North is threatening to invade under the guise of “retribution” for “critical remarks” made against the regime, just as Kim Il-sung invaded under the guise of quelling a South Korean “raid” to officially begin the Korean War.

Moreover, then, just as now, the military support of South Korea is expected to fall on the shoulders of the U.S. Although these are no longer interests of a Cold-War-era U.S. looking to eliminate communism, the similarities between the tensions now and those just prior to the Korean War are cause for concern.

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