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The Korean War Continues

Sixty years ago today, America signed the cease-fire armistice on the Korean peninsula. But for North Korea, the war has never truly ended.

by
Gordon G. Chang

Bio

July 27, 2013 - 12:54 am

At 7:27 on Saturday evening, Americans remembering the “Forgotten War” will be lighting 727 candles for peace at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in Washington, D.C.  Sixty years ago, on the 27th day of the seventh month of 1953, American General William Harrison signed the armistice ending the fighting on the Korean peninsula.

Americans may think the Korean War is over, but for North Korea it has never truly ended.  In fact, there has been no peace agreement formally bringing the conflict to a close, and the prospects for one are bleak.

Why?  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as the regime calls itself, is on a constant war footing.  It is marking the armistice with what may be the biggest military parade in its history, a seven-week-long Arirang festival dedicated to “the undying feats Generalissimo Kim Il Sung performed in winning the war,” a dedication of a military cemetery, and the unveiling of a war museum.  All told, the destitute state will be spending about $150 million to mark the day, a special anniversary because 60 years is a complete cycle in the calendar North Korea uses.

The scale of the events in North Korea is anomalous because Kim Jong Un, the current ruler, and his father, former leader Kim Jong Il, renounced the Korean War armistice, the event now being celebrated, at least four times.  The most recent repudiation of the truce agreement took place this March.  American officials did not take the latest renunciation seriously, but the North Koreans were signaling that they intend to use force again, as they have periodically since 1953.  In 2010, for instance, the Korean People’s Army killed 50 South Koreans — including two civilians — in two horrific incidents.

The Kim family, from grandfather to father to grandson, has built its legitimacy on murderous acts, and its “victory” in the Great Fatherland Liberation War is at the center of its mythology.  The North’s propensity for violence is the message of Pyongyang’s celebratory activities this month.

At this moment, there are two factors that make North Korea more dangerous than before.  First, its weapons are more destructive now.  In December, the North launched a three-stage missile that inserted a satellite into orbit, thereby demonstrating it had mastered most of the technology needed to hit the continental U.S. with a ballistic missile.

North Korea should be able to land a warhead in the U.S. within three years, the time frame then Defense Secretary Robert Gates mentioned in 2011.  In fact, the unveiling of Pyongyang’s new missile, the KN-08, appears to be the reason the Obama administration this March reversed its initial rejection of missile defense and agreed to deploy 14 additional interceptors in Alaska.

Moreover, since 2006 North Korea has been able to detonate nuclear devices.  It won’t be long before its technicians can mate warheads with long-range missiles and threaten its neighbors — as well as the American homeland.

Second, turmoil in Pyongyang makes the North, the world’s most militant state, unstable.  South Korean officials believe Kim Jong Un has consolidated his position at the top of the ruling group, but his belligerent behavior in March and April indicates he was still trying to prove to hardliners that he should rule as more than a figurehead.

The suspicious deaths and executions of senior officials from 2010 to late last year appear related to the succession from Kim Jong Il to his son, and they suggest that the boy despot — he may be as young as 29 — is still politically vulnerable, especially because there are indications that the purges early in his rule have triggered resentment in “cadre society.”  Kim Jong Un’s moves were ruthless and dramatic — he even ordered one senior military officer to be executed with a mortar round “to leave no trace of him behind down to his hair” — but the excessive violence looks like it has caused young Kim more harm than good among the three hundred or so officials ruling the nation.

Americans in Washington may mark the 60th anniversary with prayers for peace and ignore the North’s tearing up of the armistice, but in Pyongyang, North Koreans are still glorifying war.  An unstable ruling group holding the world’s most destructive weapons is bound to use violence again.

(Thumbnail on PJM homepage based on a modified Shutterstock.com image.)

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Top Rated Comments   
Greetings:

Since the federally mandated analog-to-digital TV signal conversion, I've been watching a fair amount of the (South) Korean Broadcasting System's KBS World programming. So, most of my understanding derives from that source.

One of my favorites is the "historical" serial dramas that refer back to various periods in Korean history and how Korea unified and survived between Japan and China. I've long thought that, like in the dramas, the King isn't always the King; that the court and its inherent mischief was a good part of the ruling dynamic, so the North's headman "du jour" is not totally convincing to me. The Orient seems to much enjoy the hidden power behind the throne concept for there to be none of it in real life. Similarly, are the references to the "great cause" which seems to justify varying levels of morality to achieve an important purpose. Lastly, the three generation punishment for treason, in which the traitor, his parents, and his children were killed or punished severely seems to indicate that it was not much tolerated.

Korea, as I know it, is primarily a Confucian culture. I believe that this is demonstrated by the number of non-historical serial dramas that deal with conflicts within and without families. The Confucian duty of children to their parents and employees to their employers are frequent plot drivers. The conflict of the "filial" son or daughter in pursuing his or her own destiny as opposed to the desires of the family are both routine more complex than anything I see on American TV. From this, my current conclusion is that there is an emotional component in the separation of the North and South that many Americans may be unaware of. I think it different from our Civil War concept both in its ongoing-ness and its Confucian disruption-ness. I'm quite sure that there a pangs to this day that both Northerners and Southerners feel in this regard.

Lastly, there are current serial dramas, IRIS comes to mind, that deal with the North-South separation as it is today. Again, there are the behind the scenes powerful manipulators but there is also a palpable sense of the South's desire for reunification with the North. There are somewhat good Northerners and somewhat bad Southerners, a fine kettle of fish one might say.

Now that the South seems to have gotten its democracy squared away and its economy running in pretty full tilt mode, I find it so sad that the North must continue to suffer at the hands of its despots. Nothing captures my feeling more than that nighttime satellite photo showing the difference in electrical light output.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (6)
All Comments   (6)
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uptil I saw the paycheck that said $6772, I accept that...my... brother was like they say really bringing in money in there spare time on their apple laptop.. there neighbor started doing this 4 only twenty one months and resently repayed the depts on there house and bought Alfa Romeo. go to, http://www.wep6.com
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I spent several years in the ROK while in the Navy and have more then an outsiders appreciation for the tenacity and preparedness of the Korean military, especially the KMC. That said I understand that the Nkorean army is well fed, well trained and well prepared; however they have absolutely no idea what living conditions in South Korea are like. I firmly believe the first time NK armies cross the DMZ into the south and see what the city of Seoul has become they'll turn around, shoot their commie overlords and throw that fat little dictator puppet out of office and string him up by his neck.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
my classmate's sister-in-law makes $81 hourly on the computer. She has been laid off for 9 months but last month her pay check was $16375 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more on this site http://www.max47.com
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Gordon,

Thank you for reminding readers that we are still technically in a state of war in Korea. Most Americans today don't realize this fact.

Having spent considerable time in the Republic of Korea (AKA South Korea) and thought on the DPRK (AKA North Korea):
- I still remain perplexed by China's attitude and vision for North Korea's role in the world. The only thing that makes sense to me is if the West is focused on a mad dog North Korea, it's less focused on China's clandestine activities.
- DPRK is a criminal enterprise which uses its embassies around the world to distribute counterfeit American money and sell weapons, drugs, and contraband of all sorts. Perhaps China uses that same conduit for some of its clandestine activities.
- The average height of a North Korean is 5 ft and shrinking due to chronic severe malnutrition. Only the ruling class and the military get adequate food, heating, shelter, medicine, education. How the regime can sustain itself over the long run is an enigma. If it comes down to the regime collapsing or suicidally attacking South Korea, I'd expect them to attack with everything they have including nukes. The only question is when.
- Both Presidents Reagan and Bush argued about the need to address the threat from the Axis of Evil, yet today we hear nothing about it. The only way North Korea has survived for so long is by support from others. I have no doubt that there is an Axis of Evil with all the usual suspects including North Korea. Our current administration seems oblivious to this threat and is weakening our defenses at the same time as the Axis is strengthening theirs.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Monarchy is a form of government based on the theory that the state is the property of the king, who can pass it on to his heirs. It is an inherently unjust idea, and it has led to dynastic wars and bad government. Strange as it may seem, new monarchies are still being created. North Korea's Kim Il Sung and Syria's Hafez al-Assad willed their countries to their sons. Their successors, Kim Jong Il and his son Kim Jong Un, and Bashar al-Assad, certainly prove that hereditary succession makes no moral or political sense.
3,000 years ago, the Biblical Prophet Samuel knew that kings were a bad idea. "And ye shall cry out in that day, because of your king..." (1 Sam. 8:18)
In addition to being a monarchy, North Korea is a state that worships Marxism. Marx looked forward to the day when all people would think alike, since he thought that the only source of differences among people was economic. Consequently, Marxist regimes have always enforced thought control. North Korea seems to have succeeded. North Koreans seem to love the Kim Dynasty more than they love life and more than they love their families. Perhaps some of them are sincere and others are pretending to do so in a country with no freedom of thought.
The Uniited States should try to bribe China to end its support of North Korea. Chinas government loves money and probably can easily be bribed.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Greetings:

Since the federally mandated analog-to-digital TV signal conversion, I've been watching a fair amount of the (South) Korean Broadcasting System's KBS World programming. So, most of my understanding derives from that source.

One of my favorites is the "historical" serial dramas that refer back to various periods in Korean history and how Korea unified and survived between Japan and China. I've long thought that, like in the dramas, the King isn't always the King; that the court and its inherent mischief was a good part of the ruling dynamic, so the North's headman "du jour" is not totally convincing to me. The Orient seems to much enjoy the hidden power behind the throne concept for there to be none of it in real life. Similarly, are the references to the "great cause" which seems to justify varying levels of morality to achieve an important purpose. Lastly, the three generation punishment for treason, in which the traitor, his parents, and his children were killed or punished severely seems to indicate that it was not much tolerated.

Korea, as I know it, is primarily a Confucian culture. I believe that this is demonstrated by the number of non-historical serial dramas that deal with conflicts within and without families. The Confucian duty of children to their parents and employees to their employers are frequent plot drivers. The conflict of the "filial" son or daughter in pursuing his or her own destiny as opposed to the desires of the family are both routine more complex than anything I see on American TV. From this, my current conclusion is that there is an emotional component in the separation of the North and South that many Americans may be unaware of. I think it different from our Civil War concept both in its ongoing-ness and its Confucian disruption-ness. I'm quite sure that there a pangs to this day that both Northerners and Southerners feel in this regard.

Lastly, there are current serial dramas, IRIS comes to mind, that deal with the North-South separation as it is today. Again, there are the behind the scenes powerful manipulators but there is also a palpable sense of the South's desire for reunification with the North. There are somewhat good Northerners and somewhat bad Southerners, a fine kettle of fish one might say.

Now that the South seems to have gotten its democracy squared away and its economy running in pretty full tilt mode, I find it so sad that the North must continue to suffer at the hands of its despots. Nothing captures my feeling more than that nighttime satellite photo showing the difference in electrical light output.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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