The Most Dangerous Piece of Real Estate in the World

On November 24, just as we Americans were thinking about thawing out the turkey for Thanksgiving, the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) began an artillery barrage on the island of Yunpyung near its disputed sea border with the Republic of Korea (ROK or South Korea). Two ROK marines were killed, dozens of buildings were destroyed, and civilians on the island fled in panic.

South Korea responded to this incident with its own artillery fire, and dispatched fighter jets to the area, and in typical North Korean fashion, the Pyongyang high command threatened more artillery fire if South Korea violated its border by ‘even 0.001 millimeter.”

I’m sure this flare up caused anxious feelings among many, but as one who has worked in South Korea for nearly six years, and who has spent the better part of the past 27 years watching events unfold on the Korean Peninsula, I found myself watching CNN and BBC, and only hoping it would not escalate beyond the point of no return and erupt into a second Korean War. That it happened was not a surprise to me, though.

North Korea has a history of aggressive, even violent actions, and it is likely that there is some unknown internal dynamic behind this latest tantrum.
Like a lot of dictatorships, that rule through fear and intimidation rather than legitimacy, this isolated outpost of the worst form of Communism, must always have ‘someone else’ to blame for its misfortunes.

Like countries that blame external sanctions for their economic misfortunes, and fail to see that it was their own greed, corruption, and mismanagement – coupled with egregious human rights violations that were the root cause, North Korea, when it has an internal problem that is difficult to place, lashes out. Usually the victim of this lashing is South Korea; on the one hand because it is right next door, and on the other, I am convinced, it has been so successful economically while the north has lagged far, far behind.

Countries like North Korea are like the playground bully, or the brat who throws tantrums when he can’t get his way. He screams and throws things with no regard to the potential damage to himself or those around him.

The problem is that this particular playground bully has nuclear toys to toss around, making the Korean Peninsula potentially the most dangerous place on the planet right now.

I will continue to watch this area with interest. In all likelihood, after this current hissy fit, we will see in a few months another appeal from Pyongyang for Seoul and the West to provide food aid or fuel. Again, typical bully or immature brat behavior; unfortunately, unlike our two year old who throws a tantrum, we can’t lock them in a room until they get tired of crying.