The tension between communist North Korea and capitalist South Korea is rising by the day. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un regularly threats the US and neighboring South Korea with striking a nuclear attack. Three students from South Korea reflect on the situation.
A realistic scenario would be North Korea to launch a small attack on one of the islands belonging to South Korea. This has happened before in November 2010 on Yeonpyeong-island in front of South Korea, which eventually became “a national trauma for South Korea”, according to ESHCC exchange student Sung Yong Kim. The fact that the South Korean government decided to not retaliate this attack led to much criticism nationally, which might be an explanation for South Korean politicians recently having instructed its army to “just shoot them back” this time. If a provocation from either one side would lead to a war, South Korea would have to call on its young men to fight.
“I would have to go into military service if the war strikes”, RSM student HyunMin Kim from South Korea explains. Military service is a constitutional duty for all men in South Korea. Hyunmin Kim prefers to continue his studies, but if a conflict between North -and South escalates he considers it a duty to serve for his country. Exchange student Sung Yong Kim has ended his military service for South Korea two years ago. He was stationed on a ship which maintains the sea-border between the two countries in the East Sea – west of the Korean Peninsula. Sung Yong Kim: “The North Korean army attacked a ship of our navy three weeks after I ended my service.” Forty-six seamen died. Tension rose between the Korean neighboring countries, though it didn’t start of a full war.
The aggressive tone of North Korean politicians once every while does not seem to impress South Koreans that much anymore. “They do it every now and then”, RSM Exchange Student Song Hee Lee explains. “It is unpleasant rather than frightening.” In addition, even when the two countries would engage in military conflict, South Korean military facilities are expected to outperform the North Korean ones by far. In fact, it is in North Korea’s best interest not to start a war. Hyunmin Kim explains that the current aggressive tone is most likely aimed at provoking South Korea in order to get more resources, such as food and financial aid from them.
The recent history of North Korea is characterized by outbursts of famine among its people, while the political elite enjoys wealth and luxury. This has led to much criticism internationally. The current North Korean system remains even harder to maintain seeing that its last ally in the region China has turned its back to on them. Song Hee Lee tells how during her time at university in South Korea she befriended a defector from North Korea who fled to South Korea in hope for a better life. Her North Korean friend confirmed the worrisome situation in North Korea. Defectors from North Korea risk severe penalties and even death when caught by North Korean border officials.
Question remains however when North Korea will find a way out of the difficult position, even more so since the situation appears to be not financially viable anymore. Its last communist allies, such as China and the former Soviet Union have turn their backs on it, and Europe and the US keep tightening financial sanctions against North Korea. Lee: “It is better for them to have unification with the South. This situation cannot sustain forever.” Problem remains however, that North Korea demands a unification to take place on their terms – among which is the claim of South Korea to adapt the communist political system, which apart from the South Koreans themselves also the US strongly opposes. LJa