Monday, April 16, 2012

What's New With the North?

The satellite was planned to be
launched in honor of the 100 year
anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung

On Friday the 13th, the birth of the Great Leader, Kim Il-sung, was to be commemorated. Grandson to this founder of the Korean regime, Kim Jong-un, would be the first in his line to successfully launch a North Korean satellite into space. As crowds gathered and celebrations began, they prepared for the advent of what was to be a new symbol of Korean power and independence. Unfortunately, only minutes after take-off, the rocket sputtered and then landed haphazardly in the Yellow Sea. As the South Korean government plans to try to recover some of the key components of the rocket, its northern counterpart will attempt to do the same with its dignity.
North Korea was forced to release a public
statement explaining the satellite crash
            In the time of Kim Il-sung or Kim Jong-il, things may have been different. With a blinded population, they could have announced the launch as an incredible success and then dealt with international sanctions later. However, with the rapid spread of technology, even to North Korea, it remained impossible to keep the grand scale of the rocket’s failure. An official statement was released describing the problems that had occurred and assuring the population that it would be rectified quickly. As the population grows more aware of the outside world and their faltering nation in comparison, it may be the beginning of the decent of the regime. At the very least, it will force Korea to now be forced to fight on two fronts: appeasing the national population and resisting international powers, many of which were furious over the number of sanctions that were broken by preparing and (poorly) executing this launch.
            Some things have remained the same however. Since the beginning of the Kim rule in Korea in 1972, they have always had a faltering economy and with their state ideal of juche or complete independence, their population is easily affected by famines and disasters. This being said, they cannot expand industrially and so military remains their primary objective. By developing their nuclear program and missile launch system they have developed a strategic position in which they continue to siphon supplies from the U.S. and other world organizations in exchange for their cooperation. After these negotiations are completed, they usually promptly break them and they cycle begins again.

Kim Jong-un, son of Kim Jong-il, is his successor
and current leader of North Korea
After this fiasco, it appears that the newest ruler of Korea, Kim Jong-un will have to compensate by increasing work on nuclear capabilities. While during his ascent to leadership, some speculated that he would change things in Korea. From what was released about him, it was known that he, the youngest of the three Kim boys, was an exuberant, athletic young man. However, as he grew older, the responsibility placed on him increased, and as his older brothers were refused the despotic role—one for sneaking into Japan to allegedly visit Disneyland Tokyo and the other for being to feminine looking—he was forced to give up his childish ways and sporting pursuits and turn to leadership of his country. Since then he has seemed to fill the mold of the perfect dictator under tutelage from his counselors and looks to plan to proceed in his father’s footsteps.
            Despite the U.S.’ ability to breathe a little easier knowing this nation still doesn’t have the capacity to hit our western coast with a long-range missile, it appears that they won’t falter in their attempts. In fact their renewed attempts will be only a few more in a long line of work to create a functioning Korean missile program. Consider the “satellite” missile launched over Japan in 1988 or the 2006 long-range missile that was tested in July and splashed down in the  Sea of Japan (still with a longer flight time than the latest attempt). Their nuclear work also continues to progress according to their reports and their continuing threat of proliferation drives major world powers to make exorbitant offers in exchange for the cessation of the program

The End?           

North Korea maintains its world
relevance by continuing to build nuclear
weapons and threaten war
Despite the appearances, it may be true that the legacy is fading. Sure, Jong-un continues to keep appearances of the iron-fisted despot, but more than ever it seems that he is supported only on the shoulders of his father’s advisors, something that may not continue to be a feasible alternative to his experience with the mounting internal and external pressures on North Korea. With the tightening economic and military sanctions, it is difficult to see how he will be able to remain in power much longer. However, despite the U.S.’ hopes to remove him and negotiate more effectively to allow Korea to remain stable during its period of transition, it is possible that he may continue to hang on through the continued and advancing threat of nuclear warfare. Both his father and his grandfather continued their brutal role despite the same pressures being exerted. It is yet to be seen if his inexperience or apparent lack of concern will be his downfall, but as they say: What’s the difference between ignorance and apathy? Perhaps the newest leader of Korea doesn’t know and he doesn’t care.

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