June 1, 2017
North Korea is the most hostile country to religious groups and especially Christians in the world today. John Chey (name changed for security reasons) experienced this hostility during his double attempt to escape. His accounts of severe torture and systematic killings of people with faith shed a distressing light on the dictatorship of Kim Jung-Eun.
While John hopes that the tyrant’s system of terror will soon collapse, he also analyses the threat this process poses to the rest of the world. For many Christians and members of other religious minorities living in North Korea, the disintegration of socialist power may be the last straw of hope for survival. But the more desperate Kim Jung-Eun becomes, the more likely he will be willing to make a desperate move, and a nuclear catastrophe looms around the corner. John makes a strong argument for remaining calm and considerate and even a stronger one for peace in the region.
“I think we are born in a country that is not supposed to be born.” In his novel “Our Wish is War” Gang-Meyong Jang uses his artistic imagination to portray the reality of North Korea. He predicts that it will crash out of control after Kim Jeung-Eun’s regime collapses. This spring the Korean peninsula is in great danger that this just might happen. The situation is every bit as serious as of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but will the principal players recognize the acute danger this time? Will they have the ability and wisdom to step back from the brink?
Kim Jung-Eun is faced with the stark choice of seeking to further develop his nuclear weapons capability or disposing of them – the most unlikely outcome. Meanwhile, as he ponders his and his regime’s fate, the seventy-five million people who live on both sides of Korea’s Demarcation Zone face potential catastrophe. I write this as someone who has escaped from the hideous regime in North Korea, where I was tortured. I also have relatives living in both the North and the South. An escalation as a result of the current weapons crisis would engulf Japan, China, Russia, the United States, and their allies.
Some people say we’ve been here before, and it is true that in 1994 the North Korean nuclear crisis was overcome when the United States and North Korea signed an Agreed Framework to resolve their differences. But the 2017 nuclear crisis is of a different size and scale. The possible outcomes and consequences include a diplomatic solution, military action, the collapse of Kim Jung-Eun’s regime, and, beyond, Korean reunification. The price we may have to pay varies with the options. A sad reference is the last Korean War in which three million lost their lives.
There is a present danger of military escalation. Recently, the United States commander in the Pacific cancelled a planned carrier exercise and port visits to Australia by USS Carl Vinson. The ship has a capability of 90 fixed wing aircraft and helicopters. It has been repositioned from Singapore to the sea of South Korea and Japan. According to expert sources, the aircraft carrier’s change of course is a message to North Korea as well as to its increasingly nervous neighbours South Korea and Japan: The United States is ready to defend them.
The US is obviously willing to take unilateral action. While Chinese President Xi visited the US, President Trump authorised a cruise missile strike against the Assad regime, which apparently had used chemical weapons on civilians. This demonstrated that the US will take on North Korea, with or without China’s help. Furthermore, the US has understood that a North Korean nuclear test is imminent – and they see it as their last opportunity to stop Kim in his tracks. It’s now or never.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged the US not to increase regional tension” by redeployment of USS Carl Vinson and other armed forces. The Ministry said the US and China had agreed to communicate closely on Korean peninsula issues, and the Chinese side reconfirmed their position in seeking a peaceful resolution leading to the de-nuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. Their commitment goes deeper than rhetoric, 70 years of China’s sustained commitment to North Korea and 300,000 Chinese troops died in the last Korean War. The real question is, how deep is its desire to become a closer partner with the West?
The North Korean regime says that is not afraid of US intimidation and such threats have never stopped them in the past and will not do so in the future. They anticipate their own pre-emptive strike against the South and its allies if the US military mounts “a more reckless provocation”:
So here is the parallel with the Cuban missile crisis –which took us to the brink of catastrophe. President Obama was right to warn Trump that the most dangerous and most pressing foreign affairs challenge facing the incoming administration is on the Korean Peninsula. Whether Trump, Putin, Xi and Kim Jung-Eun will see sense –as Kennedy, Khrushchev and Castro did, fifty-five years ago, remains to be seen.
Lessons should be learned from the Korean War of 1950 when casualties were the third highest in history. A Democrat member of the United States Congress, Ted Lieu, was right to claim that “unlike Syria, North Korea’s nuclear weapons will make a different scale”. He expressed his concern that if following the cruise missile airstrike in Syria, the US punishes North Korea, it risks millions of lives on the Korean peninsula. He argued that during the previous 48 hours Donald Trump had significantly increased the risk of harming the US forces in Korea and Syria. A Second Korean War will be on a world scale – which is why our hope must still be, that negotiations will be a priority and a peaceful agreement reached.
The US Secretary of State, Rex W. Tillerson, emphasised in a recent interview that every nation should know that if it breaks international norms and agreements, or does not fulfil its commitments, or threatens other countries, it will lead to US action. It is now down to Kim Jung-Eun to consider his people and not simply himself.
We Korean citizens, both of the north and the south, well understand the consequences and if Kim Jung-Eun’s egotistic craziness takes North Koreans into another war. In the North, we have experienced over 30 years of poverty and a famine that killed almost three million people in the 1990s – and which I barely survived. Kin Jung-Eun’s greed and ambition are no good reasons for which to sacrifice one’s life.
The establishment of the North Korean communist system has been based on the brutality of Kim’s family dynasty. In the South, the danger of war strikes fear into the hearts of its 50 million people. It has a well-established democracy, economic welfare and remains one of the most developed countries, with its GDP world ranking reaching eleventh place, according to the World Bank in 2016. Yet, it too would be devastated by war. As Nikita Khrushchev once warned, when nuclear weapons are used in a conflict “the living will envy the dead.”
Already, fearful South Korean people are taking actions, such as moving money from South Korean banks to foreign accounts. War rumours are spreading out across the country. Airplane tickets prices are rocketing, and yet the South Korean government tries to give an appearance of public calm. The present situation indeed is unpredictable and dangerous.
Koreans hope and pray that war will be averted. We have a desire for peace – even though the chance of peace now depends on the attitude of Kim Jung-Eun – whether he will risk the annihilation of his country or put the innocent lives of citizens in North and South Korea first.ADF International