Friday, November 26, 2010

En-Uk Sequoya Hwang: "North Korea Attack"

Map of the Yeonpyeong Shelling
November 23, 2010
(Image from Wikipedia)

As some readers might recall, I homeschool my eleven-year-old son in English -- though his day school is Korean -- and once a week, he writes a short 'essay' on some topic or other, usually of his own choosing. On the 24th of November, he chose to write a very brief piece on the Yeonpyeong Shelling:
North Korea Attack
"North Korea Attack" is about North Korea attacking an island in South Korea. I think that we now believe that North Korea is very bad. I don't like North Korea so much. So, I want to just make North Korea ours. I wish that a lot. I wish we could be the same country. I want North Korea to be smarter.
I was somewhat surprised to read that he wants unification, apparently as a solution to the problem of North Korean behavior, since I've often read that young Koreans are opposed to reunifying the peninsula, but perhaps En-Uk is different and reflects more on such issues, for we've previously seen that he doesn't like Kim Jong-il.

But En-Uk's wish for a "smarter" North Korea is somewhat off the mark. Actually, the North is already smart, clever enough in negotiations to play a weak hand rather well, and their hand is getting stronger over time despite a failed economy, for their nuclear program seems to be coming along well, given what we've recently learned of their sophisticated centrifuges for enriching uranium. I've watched the their negotiating tactics since first coming to South Korea back in 1995, but not much time is needed to figure out how the North operates. The game is always the same and not so much a card game, really, despite my reference to the North's 'weak hand.' Some analysts call the game blackmail, which gets closer to how they operate, but the North has no knowledge of South Korean 'secrets' that it might threaten to reveal, so the term isn't quite right. Rather, the North plays a game of extortion:
Help us, or we'll kill you!
That's the message from the northern mafia, a demand for protection money, though it's not quite so blatant, and there is a procedure to go through:
1. North Korea wants something (e.g., food aid)

2. North Korea claims a pretext (e.g., US-ROK war games).

3. North Korea precipitates a crisis (e.g., announce a nuclear test).

4. North Korea offers to relax tensions (e.g., negotiations).

5. North Korea reaches a settlement (e.g., food aid for cessation of nuclear program).

6. North Korea wants something (e.g., lifting of sanctions).
And so it goes, until the North's US-ROK opponents catch on, and threaten to stop playing, as has recently been attempted through applying the concept of "strategic patience," i.e., simply not responding to the North's provocation while keeping the pressure applied. How then does the North respond? By raising the stakes, in this current case through revealing their surprising nuclear sophistication and shelling an inhabited island in the South, reminding everyone that they cannot be 'ignored.' But as the North grows more dangerous -- nuclear-weapons and nuclear proliferation -- the stakes grow ever higher, and the risks of miscalculation increase.

En-Uk's intuition that unification is the long-term solution might be correct, for the North requires tensions for its survival, but if only his wish for North and South to "be the same country" were as easily achieved as conceived.

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At 8:32 PM, Anonymous Mark said...

They really are good girls, you can call it publicity all you want, but no matter what you say, it helps the country. It's a scary situation right now, I really hope they and all of Korea stays safe. I know it's probably going to happen, but somehow, I want to avoid war. I know it seems like a dream, but.. it's still my hope that everyone will be okay.

At 10:14 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I don't know what girls you're referring to, nor do I know what you mean by publicity.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:54 AM, Anonymous seth said...

A "cry for help" echoes Edwin Schneidman's classic paradigm of suicidal intent. But is it relevant to those seeking glorious martydom? Might North Korea be seeking it own liberating annihilation? If so, "where do you hurt?" and "how may I (we) help you?" is more like cloning than extracting dragons teeth.

At 11:22 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Here's a better way to link.

Jeffery Hodges

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