What happens when you place a line down anywhere?
Well, there could actually be a fair few answers to that.
The answer I’m thinking of is; you end up having two sides, one side on either side of said line. Simple stuff. It really is. Plus, important point here; generally, when you have two sides, as much as there might be an element of commonality between them; you would expect said sides to be different. Wouldn’t you?
So why is it so hard for people to apply that concept to borders?
Actually, no, scratch that; some people only find that concept hard to apply to one specific border.
Over the last week or so – well, technically, the last few decades too, ever since 1953 – certain parts of this world have been howling about the threat of conflict looming between North Korea and it seems about every other country in the world apart from, I don’t know.. it’s actual neighbour? You know; the globalised, economically strong, in possession of the world’s seventh largest army (therefore not including the thousands more in other military branches), neighbour to the immediate south? The Korea to the South of the news-dominating one? Maybe we can call it South Korea?
The claim could be made that by not dominating headlines and drawing attention to itself, Korea (from now on, when I say “Korea” I’m specifically referring to the Republic of Korea, South Korea, unless I specify) that’s a good thing; national existence should not be defined solely by preparation for or threatening war. On one hand, I can agree and understand this concept. Think about it, though. What happens when you give attention-seeking people attention? What are the media giving to North Korea right now? Fear-filled news headlines in the West claiming the North Korean military machine are ready for war; what, exactly, is the difference between what they’re howling and the propaganda drivel that gets spouted by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency every single day?
Fuel! Meet flame. I’m sure the two of you will get on like a house on fire. Like the many, many houses that would burn if another Korean War kicked off.
All the talk in the news is that of a US-North Korea conflict. Or a Japan-North Korea conflict. Some people I know here even wonder about a hypothetical UK-North Korea conflict.
This is a public service announcement for these people.
Immediately to the south of the rather jagged line of the Demilitarized Zone based around the 38th Parallel, there is an entire country. It has a population of over 50 million people; it has huge metropolises where glass-and-steel skyscrapers tower over historic palaces, city walls and gates, bordered by steep, ancient mountains. It spawned an irritating pop culture that’s somehow gone global and has a cuisine that you can never have enough of. It went from all-out war to military dictatorships to legally and peacefully ousting a democratically elected, yet corrupt leader, in four decades. It brought out some of the largest hi-tech electronics firms in the world. It’s hosted the Olympic Games and co-hosted the FIFA World Cup. It’s where my family and I were born and lived. It’s where most of my family still live now.
It’s called 대한민국. Dae Han Min Guk. The Republic of Korea. Colloquially also known as South Korea.
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Seoul with Bukhansan mountain in the background, taken by @jongmoseo.
Hey, you! Yes, you; the war-hype morons. Do you really think that any war between North Korea and the US/Japan/even the UK wouldn’t affect South Korea too? Will they lash out at Washington DC, Tokyo or London to begin with? No. They’ll volley-fire artillery and short-range missiles; probably including biological, chemical and maybe even nuclear munitions at Seoul, the capital of South Korea; a city of over 10 million people, with the sole purpose of killing as many people as possible before they get destroyed.
Civilian casualties are to be expected in a war, I hear someone cry. I understand that. If anyone doesn’t understand that, either they’ve been living under a rock since the beginning of time and don’t understand the history of war.. or they’re rather thick. As in, most-likely-need-to-think-to-breathe thick.
Yes, civilian casualties in war are a given. However, civilian casualties caused through either deliberate acts or wilful negligence – that’s a crime. And that is exactly what these North-Korea-versus-the-world-apart-from-South-Korea crowd are advocating. By refusing to acknowledge that South Korea has an absolutely critical role in any conflict with North Korea, by refusing to even remember that South Korea is actually even there; that’s tacit acknowledgement and approval of thousands of Korean lives on both sides being wiped out in minutes. If the balloon goes up, Korea will be fighting first. It won’t be fighting the slow attrition of an insurgency, or a war solely focused on regime change, either. It’ll be fighting for one thing. Survival.
The war-hype thinkers have simultaneously somehow managed to delude themselves into thinking a war wouldn’t touch anything south of the DMZ, or that anything exists south of the DMZ; that somehow it’s only their countries, hundreds or thousands of miles away, that face an existential threat.
I won’t lie, though; at the end of the day, the idea of people everywhere apart from Korea itself wetting themselves in fear over a literal non-event like that is more amusing to me than anything else. I saw a tweet from someone in England the other day discussing what they’d need in a nuclear shelter should North Korea throw a tantrum.
Yes; because the North Korean military and government really think that you, o citizen of the shire, are really that much of a threat to them that they’re going to somehow lob a nuke into your quaint little town. Cute.
Thus ends this PSA. Hypothesise about a Second Korean War all you like. There’s nothing wrong with that; people have actually been paid to wargame it for decades. Just don’t forget that South Korea exists and even though it’s been living in the firing line for the last half-century, it’s still functioning and it will be the first to fight should anything happen. Give the imminent war hype a rest; it got boring five decades ago.
P.S. This post was in no way sponsored by the Korea Tourism Organization. Honest.