Standing Up to Bully Boy Kim Jong-il?
My ten-year-old son, En-Uk, has a series of images on his blog ridiculing Kim Jong-il, but Bully Boy Kim doesn't seem quite so amusing since he sank the Cheonan and thereby killed 46 sailors. Like many others here in Korea, both native and expat, I've been quite angry about the attack and have held that it cannot go unanswered.
But answered how?
For various reasons, I think that a military response would not be prudent, though I have long thought that if events did lead to military conflict, the South would win pretty handily. That likely outcome has encouraged me to believe that North also realized this and thus would not initiate a suicidal attack against the South.
But would the South win so easily? In "Sending Pyongyang bananas" (May 27, 2010), Harold Piper, former editor of the JoongAng Daily, has expressed some second thoughts:
Here in America I am regarded as a North Korea expert, since I lived in South Korea for six and a half years, and so I was confidently assuring my auditors [translation: "friends listening to Mr. Piper speak"] that the North would never make good on its boast of "all-out war" because it knows it could never win.That's a rather scary thought, one that I hadn't considered. I have strong doubts that the North could have so many agents here in Seoul, but I was reading only a couple of days ago about the capture of a female spy from the North who was caught mapping out Seoul's subway system, and that troubled me for a moment since I use the subway at least four days a week. But I dismissed that troubled thought since I could do nothing about such a vague, implicit danger. Mr. Piper's friend Clifton has now given me still more indigestible food for thought.
"I'm not so sure," said Clifton. He is a finance guy, not a military strategist, but he is pretty smart and usually worth listening to.
"I think they" -- the North, that is -- "have a network of agents who would suddenly come out and blow up every bridge in Seoul, block every highway, surround key government buildings, seize gasoline storage sites. I think," Clifton said, "they've been in place all this time waiting for the word to go into action."
"I'm not saying they could win," Clifton hedged. "But I don't think it would be so simple to defeat them. If they could seize and hold Seoul for 48 hours they would be in a pretty strong negotiating position."
Nevertheless, I think that the North wouldn't start a war, for even if it has agents here, they'd be unable to prevent the destruction of the North's regime. The South, for its part, would also not initiate war since the South itself would suffer a lot of damage, especially Seoul, which is targeted by thousands of the North's artillery shells.
But there are things that the South could do, with the help of its friends in the world, and Korea expert Joshua Stanton has given this some thought in a four-part series on "Overthrowing Kim: A Capitalist Manifesto" -- Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 -- that some might wish to read.
And think about . . .