A mixed blessing
“Thus far, it (the sanctions) has not deterred Mr. Kim Jong Un and his pursuit of missiles and other technologies that are very dangerous.”
—General Vincent K. Brooks, on diplomatic sanctions by the United Nations applied to North Korea in the wake of its ballistic missile tests.
The situation between the two Koreas, always a point of contention since the ceasefire of 1953, is notched up considerably in light of North Korea’s advances in its nuclear program, and launch tests of rockets able to deploy the devices.
In addressing the Senate Armed Services Committee during his nomination for the command of the United Nations Command/Combined Forces, Command/United States Forces Korea in April of 2016, Gen. Brooks alluded to the martial progress being made on that volatile peninsula, and its impact on U.S. security.
“I am concerned about the pursuit of submarine-launched ballistic missiles by North Korea,” he said.
“While they have not been successful, this is like watching someone ride a bike and falling off of it, but eventually they could become a BMX champion.”
Kim Jong-un’s grandfather, Kim II-sung came to power after World War II, and initiated the Korean War (1950-53) as a failed attempt to unify North and South Korea, which had been divided in 1948 as a result of the animosity between the communist led Soviet Union and the United States and it’s allies.
Kim Jong-il, the second in the Kim lineage, solidified his country’s autocratic rule and made a name for himself among the globe’s most flagrant violators of human rights. During his tenure the famine from 1994 to 1998 transpired, where between 240,000 and 3.5 million people died from mass starvation. Contributing factors included droughts coupled with floods, and general mismanagement of food production. During these harsh times, reports of cannibalism were documented by the Washington Post and other sources.
So Kwan-hui, the Minister of Agriculture, was accused of purposely ruining his country’s crop production as a reputed espionage agent for the U.S. government, leading to his execution in 1997. This is in sharp contrast to their brethren in the south, who (with American economic aide) have raised South Korea to become the 11th largest economy in the world as of 2015 (according to the World Bank).
American troops had been in the area since 1945 to counter Russian expansion. The 1953 armistice established a buffer zone (the DMZ or Demilitarized Zone) between the North and South, and the benign state of conflict that continues to this day. Activity along the DMZ consists of mutual harassment and intimidation by both sides, which occasionally escalates to exchanges of small arms fire. Within this area is the Joint Security Area, or “Truce Village” where negotiations are conducted in a neutral conference room.
The American presence in the following decades served a dual service to South Korea in that 1) it provided security from the threat of communist infiltration from the north, and 2) the financial contributions that helped repair the damages from the World War and Korean War.