Trump, Get North Ko-Real

Anders Umholtz

The perennial fear of the Western world, nuclear eradication has been the subject of nightmares since World War II. This sword has been hung over our heads by an ever-weakening string by Russia, Cuba, and Iran, among others, but the greatest threat to our molecular integrity these days appears to be North Korea. But their claim to a slice of the nuclear pie seems shaky at best; are they bluffing? Surely, a country using military tech from the 1970s that can’t even feed its own people would have trouble scraping together a doomsday device. I mean, satellite images of the place don’t exactly scream “electricity.” More importantly, what is leader Kim Jong Un’s motivation for threatening the majority of the Western world, and will he ever stop?

North Korea was formed after WWII, with the Japanese Emperor giving up control of the peninsula to the U.S.S.R. and the U.S., North and South respectively. South Korea held elections for a president, while North Korea was given Supreme Leader and Dictator Kim Il-sung. From the 1960s thru the mid 1970s, the North actually economically outperformed the South. However, due to increased Western/Japanese investment, their capitalist counterpart caught up quickly. Additionally, the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 meant that the Kim’s former trading partner was out of business, and so was he. Seemingly endless human rights violations caused the United Nations to scratch their, “Maybe this isn’t the best way to run a country.” Kim the 1st passed away in 1994, and his son Kim Jong-il assuming the throne. This dictator’s rule was much more short-lived, but managed to fit in even more egregious violations of human rights than his father. His policy of Songun, or “military first” turned the majority of public funds to military ventures. Before we go any further, I should mention the central guiding philosophy of North Korea: Juche. Branching off of communism, this ideology prioritizes, ironically, both self-reliance and unwavering support of a single ruler. From “the Suryong (Leader) is an impeccable brain of the living body, the masses can be endowed with their life in exchange for their loyalty to him, and the Party is the nerve of that living body… without the Suryong, which is the brain, and the Party, which is the nerve, the masses will remain dead bodies because they are no more than arms and legs.” A little grotesque, but if it works for them, it works for me. Except it doesn’t. The Juche ideology has caused North Korea to be very isolated from the rest of the world in both trade and diplomacy. In fact, the country’s GDP is 47x smaller than that of South Korea and almost 100x smaller than in the United States (the average yearly income is $538– almost enough to buy half an iPhone X).

“Okay, we get it, they’re poor.” I’ve talked enough history here, and nobody likes that, so let’s get right down to what’s happening now. In June of this year, a summit was held between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, and we were told it was a groundbreaking moment symbolic of a future of peaceful relations as the two leaders shook hands with big grins only months after calling each other names. Trump had called the Supreme Leader “short and fat,” “a madman,” and of course,“Rocket Man,” while Mr. Missile had some choice words too, saying “he is a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire,” “a frightened dog barks louder,” and “I will tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.” Nice. But what did the summit actually accomplish? You guessed it: Absolutely nothing. The official summary of the talks states: President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Firm and unwavering, huh? This might convince a dotard like myself if not for the lengthy track record of North Korea not following through on these agreements. In 1985, the rogue state signed onto the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (this will be important later). 1992 rolls around, and Kim Il-sung agrees with South Korea not to produce or store nuclear weapons, but are suspected of doing it anyways. Turns out, O.J. wasn’t the only one in trouble in ‘94, with Kim Jong-il promising to shut down his plutonium factories in exchange for aid, but ends up breaking that promise, then withdrawing from the 1985 treaty and removing all foreign inspectors. Kim then agrees in 2005 to end all their nuclear programs, then agrees to the exact same thing in 2007. North Korea promises again in 2012 to stop all nuclear tests and and close down the uranium factories in exchange for some food. Also, inspectors are allowed back in. Kim Jong-un’s reign brought with it an ever-expanding threat of nuclear annihilation, resulting in, once again, a win for him by preventing the U.S. from training South Korean soldiers in exchange for the following vague statement: The DPRK commits to work towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. “Work towards.” Like when your teacher asks you how your paper is coming along the night before the deadline and you say “I’m working on it.” You have two sentences, your name, and the date; nobody’s buying it. There seems to be a theme here, national security analyst Mieke Eoyang points out: “Usually they suffer some kind of internal crisis, and then start acting in a really threatening way to try to get people to give them stuff.” North Korea hasn’t held up their end of the deal once, and even the idea that they have a functional nuclear device is highly questionable. Iran worked for 20 years with far more resources and never built a single bomb. A supposed nuclear test by the North was measured at less than 1 kiloton, an impossibly small explosion for a fission bomb. In another case, the containment rate of a 5kt (how little radiation the bomb releases) was over 99.9%– coincidentally the same as a conventional bomb. Additionally, American tests have demonstrated that explosions of up to 10kt can be created with enough of the right chemicals in a reasonably small package. So, yeah. We’re being duped. And judging by the actions of the international community, it’s going to keep happening. The self-reliant Juche state will continue taking scores, holding a water gun to our head every once in a while to keep us compliant. But hey, at least you probably don’t have to worry about being obliterated from space for a little while.