The Lasting Effects of the South Korean Ferry Disaster

https://i0.wp.com/www.blogcdn.com/slideshows/images/slides/254/164/4/S2541644/slug/l/south-korea-ship-sinking-1.jpg

AP Photo/Yonhap

As parents and victims of the South Korean ferry disaster continue to grieve and ask for answers, more than 70 surviving students began their first day of classes since the April event that claimed hundreds of their classmates. Some students wearing black and white uniforms bowed their heads crying and walking slowly from the bus to the school, while others stopped to hug the parents of their friends. Adults carried banners of encouragement and prayer for the dead and for those who survived, according to the Associate Press. The somberness and anger many felt at Danwon High School in Ansan, outside Seoul, reflects what many South Koreans have felt since the ferry sunk on April 16 which left more than 200 dead or missing. Of the 325 students who took the ferry to Jeju, a southern holiday island, 75 were rescued, 245 died and 5 are still missing according to the Associated Press.

While the students who survived the ordeal begin classes once again, the courts are conducting hearings for the ferry crew and officials from the company that owned it. Although much of blame or fault falls on the disgraced company and crew, many South Koreans, fault the government, the coast guard and even society for failing the victims, the Associated Press reports. The 15 member crew responsible for navigating the Sewol ferry could be charged with negligence and failing to perform their duties to rescue passengers. Prosecutors are claiming that they abandoned ship with the knowledge that passengers would be trapped and killed in the sinking ferry. The defense has denied any prior knowledge saying the crew members were confused, injured and panicked themselves. After decades of negligence, many South Koreans question the country’s history of ignoring safety issues as it pursued rapid economic growth above all else after the Korean War which began 64 years ago Wednesday with North Korean invasion. According to the Associated Press, the government of President Park Geun-hye, whose father ruled during the economic boom of the 1960s and 1970s dubbed the “Miracle on the Han”, after the river that cuts through Seoul, has been criticized for not doing enough before the sinking on safety and monitoring issues as well as its incompetence during the rescue operations.

North Korea Using Psychological Warfare to Bargain with U.S.

We have all witness numerous attempts by North Korea to establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with from threats of war against South Korea to attacks on the United States with long range nuclear missiles, however the end result of these threats have left the North Korea with little bargaining power as the United Nations has sanctioned them for repeated offenses and South Korea grows tired of the tantrums. What is the next logical step in North Korea’s psychological warfare? North Korea now hopes to use an old trick from the past that is sure to get the United States’ attention. On Saturday, the Associated Press reported that North Korea will try an American detainee for allegedly trying to overthrow the government complicating an already tense relationship between Pyongyang and Washington. The indictment comes as North Korea has run out of ammo to use against the U.S. and South Korea in order to force bargaining between the nations. North Korea remains angry over U.N. sanctions passed in February over nuclear tests and the ongoing U.S. South Korean drills though most believe the motive behind the indictment is to force its Korean War foes to negotiate on its own terms according to the Associated Press.

The man identified above, Kenneth Bae, also known by his Korean name in North Korean state media, Pae Jun Ho, is a tour operator arrested after arriving with a tour on Nov.3 in Rason which is a special economic zone bordering China and Russia. He is the sixth American detained in North Korea since 2009, however the other detainees were eventually deported or released after high profile diplomatic interventions with some involving President Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. According to the Korean Central News Agency, “The preliminary inquiry into crimes committed by American citizen Pae Jun Ho closed. In the process of investigation he admitted that he committed crimes aimed to topple the DPRK with hostility toward it. His crimes were proved by evidence.” Under North Korea’s criminal code terrorist acts include murdering, kidnapping and injuring the country’s citizens can lead to a death sentence or life in jail AP reports.

The actual trial of Bae has not been set and the charges have yet to be announced by the KCNA as little information has been made public. North Korea and the United States do not have diplomatic relations due to the 1050-53 Korean War as the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang represent the United States. Friends, colleagues and activist in South Korea said that Bae is a missionary based in a border town in China who made frequent trips to North Korea to feed orphans , but do not know whether he tried to evangelize while in North Korea AP reports. Officially, North Korea guarantee freedom of religion, however authorities have been known to crack down on Christians who are seen as threats to government because of the western influence. The distribution of Bibles and secret prayer services do carry a penalty of banishment to a labor camp or execution according to defectors from the country.

 

Here Comes World War III

The comparisons are numerous only this time we managed to put ourselves smack-dab in the middle of the controversy that does not directly involve the United States. Isn’t this really a matter for the United Nations to take care of? Is history really going to repeat itself? The reason for the two photos is to compare the rallies of now and the rallies of the past which seem to look rather similar. In today’s times, a little overreaction goes a long way as the world prepares for some sort of conflict whether on a large scale like World War or on a smaller scale such as the Korean War: The Remix. Let’s look at the facts and decide for yourself whether they add up to something we all should be concerned about.

On Wednesday North Korea ratified, according to Reuters, the following:

“We formally inform the White House and Pentagon that the ever-escalating U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK (North Korea) and its reckless nuclear threat will be smashed by the strong will of all the united service personnel and people and cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means of the DPRK and that the merciless operation of its revolutionary armed forces in this regard has been finally examined and ratified,” a spokesman for the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army said in a statement carried by the English language service of the state news agency KCNA. (Writing by Kevin Liffey; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

If these are empty threats as most of the U.S. government even South Korea believes then why are we taking precautions? According to the Agence France Presse, the United States has set up THAAD missile defense battery to defend its bases on the Pacific island of Guam following threats from North Korea on Wednesday said the Pentagon. The news came after two Aegis anti-missile destroyers were sent to the western Pacific to intercept any North Korean strikes against the U.S. or allied targets. Guam is a U.S. territory 2100 miles southeast of North Korea in the Pacific Ocean which is home to 6,000 American military personnel, including Marines, submarine and bomber crews (hello, Pearl Harbor).

Does the United States actually know what technology North Korea has or doesn’t have? Short answer would be no. North Korea reports the Associated Press moved a missile with considerable range to the east coast on Thursday according to South Korea’s defense minister but said there was no sign of the North preparing for full scale conflict. The report came hours after he statement release to authorize the attack on the U.S. see above. It is believed that the North at this time does not have the technology to miniaturize nuclear bombs in order to mount them on long range missiles. South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin has dismissed reports in the Japanese media that the missile could be a KN-08 which does have the capabilities to hit the United States if operable. He believes the missile does not have enough range to hit the U.S. mainland and could be the missile know to the North Koreans as Musudan with a range of 1800 miles which could make South Korea, Japan and U.S. bases in both countries targets even though he doubts the accuracy of the missile.

Analysts and experts see the threats of strikes and a potential war as North Korea’s way to provoke softer policy with South Korea, to win diplomatic talks with Washington and to show the strength of their leader Kim Jong Un. As Kim has said the North is not preparing for a full scale conflict as they have shown no signs of mobilization of troops, but does worry about a small scale provocation against the South as in 2010 with the shelling of a South Korean island where four people were killed. The N0rth has become increasingly agitated by the joint U.S. South Korean military exercises taking place in the South as well as the U.N. sanctions for its February nuclear test.

With all the rhetoric it makes hard to believe that full scale war will break out, but some of North Korea’s actions do have some cause for concern. On Tuesday, North Korean announced the restarting of their plutonium reactor and the construction need to restart has already begun according to the U.S. research institute. For the second day on Thursday, the Northern border authorities denied entry to South Korea who manage jointly run factories in Kaesong in North Korea, but allowed South Koreans to return home. The South has already come up with a plan if the North takes workers hostage in Kaesong according to Defense Minister Kim. North Korea has started working to rebuild their nuclear arms program especially working toward an atomic bomb small enough to mount on a long range missile as Kim Jung Un has made it a priority for the North to build their nuclear arsenal along with rebuilding their economy. The U.S. Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies looked at recent commercial satellite imagery of Nyongbyon nuclear facility which was shutdown in 2007 under the disarmament agreement discovered that one cooling tower for the reactor was destroyed in 2008. As the Associated Press reports the analysis published on Wednesday to the institute’s website, 38 North, says the tower will take six months to rebuild but a recent March 27 photo shows the building may have already started for an alternative cooling system that could be operational in weeks even though experts believe it could take three months to year to restart the reactor.

Korean War Part II: The Remix

Ban Kimoon North KoreaYongbyon Nuclear Plant

As North Korea has already made public the cutting of communication with South Korea and the ignoring of the armistice that ended the Korean War, the fear of war breaking out in the region is very real as the worldwide community waits with bated breath to see what North Korea will do next. The United Nation chief has already chimed in with fears North Korea is on a collision course with other nations that could lead to war. With recent sanctions on North Korea’s nuclear program and threats of potential strikes on the United States, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon believe the isolated nation appears to be “on a collision course with the international community” amid rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula reports the Associated Press. Ban (pictures above), a former South Korean Foreign Minister, said Tuesday in Andorra that the crisis has gone too far because of increasing threats of war by North Korea against the United States and South Korea. He said international negotiations are needed now even though he believes no one intends on attacking North Korea.

North Korea said Tuesday it will escalate production of nuclear weapons materials including restarting the plutonium reactor which leads many outsiders to believe that Pyongyang is trying to extract concessions from the United States by fear of war. As the Associated Press reports, the North’s General Department of Atomic Energy announced their scientist will begin readjusting and restarting uranium enrichment that could make a bomb’s worth of plutonium each year as experts consider the announcement a public declaration that the highly enriched uranium could be used for bomb fuel. The declaration has Washington and its allies concerned that North Korea’s timetable for a nuclear tipped missile aimed at the United States may happen sooner than later even though it is believed to be years away from that technology. The recent weeks are seen as an effort by Pyongyang to force disarmament for aid talks with Washington and to boost domestic loyalty to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by portraying him as a powerful leader according to Hwang Jihwan, a North Korean expert at the University of Seoul reports the Associated Press. The Korean Central News Agency stated that the North Korean atomic spokesman said the measure is meant to address the country’s electricity shortahe but also to “bolstering up the nuclear armed force both in quality and quantity.” The Uranium enrichment program worries outsiders due to the fact that the technology can be hidden much easier than huge plutonium facilities and highly enriched uranium can be used for nuclear weapons. Kim Jin Moo, a North Korean expert at the Korean Insitute for Defense Analysis in South KOrea, believes the announcement of highly enriched uranium through adjustments is North Korea’s way of “blackmailing the international community by suggesting that it will now produce weapons-grade, highly enriched uranium.” China, Pyongyang’s only major economic and diplomatic supporter, expressed disapproval as Chinese Poreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei stated: “We noticed North Korea’s statement, which we think is regrettable.”

Pyongyang conducted a nuclear test in February prompting new U.N, sanctions that caused North Korea to declare that the armistice ending the Korean War in 1953 is void shutting down communication with Seoul, threatening to launch strikes against the U.S. and its allies, and recently declaring at a high level government assembly to make nuclear arms and a stronger economy as the top priority. The Korean Peninsula is in a state of war a the truce not peace treaty ended the Korean War and the United States stationed 28, 500 troops in South Korea as a deterrent to the North. Washington has taken all of the North’s threat seriously even though the White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Monday that the U.S. has not detected any military mobilization or reposition from Pyongyang. As the North raises the stakes, the United States took it a step further by flying nuclear capable bombers and stealth jets at the annual South Korean U.S. military drills. The latest atomic test from the North in February led to the sanctions against the Asian nations as it could not be determined whether highly enriched uranium or plutonium stockpiles were used since other countries including South Korea failed to detect radioactive elements that may have been leaked from the test.

 

 

 

The Ongoing Korean War

 

On Wednesday, North Korea announced it was cutting the last line of communication with South Korea as war could break out any moment warning the United States and South Korea of nuclear attack a few days earlier. The threat comes in line with the latest from North Korea in response to new U.N. sanctions imposed after the third nuclear test in February and to hostile military drills under way in South Korea with the United States according to Reuters. The North stopped communicating with the U.S. military that supervises the heavily armed Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and the Red Cross line that both sides use. As the North’s KCNA news agency reports, a military spokesman stated that, “Under the situation where a war may break out at any moment, there is no need to keep north-south military communications which were laid between the militaries of both sides. There do not exist any dialogue channel and communications means between the DPRK and the U.S. and between the north and the south.”

However, few believe North Korea, formally known as Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), will start a full scale war as North and South Korea are still at war after the 1950-1953 civil conflict ended with an armistice not a treaty which the North will not honor anymore, Reuters reports. The “dialogue channel” used everyday is to process South Koreans who work in the Kaesong industrial project which is comprised of 123 South Korean firms who employ 50,000 North Koreans to make household goods and on average 120 South Koreans are stationed here at any one time. It is the last remaining project the two Koreas share as South Korea cut off aid and trade in response to the shooting of South Korean tourist in Pyongyang and the sinking of a naval vessel. As a last resort, Pyongyang would close Kaesong which is one of the last currency earners for North Korea doing $2 billion a year in trade with the South. The South said it would take steps to protect the workers at Kaesong but would not elaborate according to Reuters.

North Korea Attack History Shows Pattern In Strikes Against South Korea

North Korea Attack History Shows Pattern In Strikes Against South Korea.

If history tells us anything, which history always repeats itself it seems, then we may have another Korean War on our hands. The unsettling truth as recent Korean history has taught the world that it is only a matter of time before North Korea launches a sudden and deadly attack on South Korea only this time Seoul, South Korea vowed it will respond with a stronger blow as recently as recently as Tuesday which could turn into a larger war. According to the Associated Press, a single statment lost in the headline about nuclear strikes on Washington is one statement made by North Korean army Supreme Command on March 5 saying that North Korea “will make a strike of justice at any target anytime as it pleases without limit.” The attacks of three years ago over naval clashes with the South, which killed 50 South Koreans in 2010, are a chilling reminder of North Korea’s capabilities and intentions according to Bruce Klinger, a former U.S. intelligence official now at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. The newly inaugurated President Park Geun-hye, a conservative, says she will try to build trust with North Korea and explore renewed dialogue and aid shipments even though she has made similar comments. On Tuesday, the South Korean Defense Ministry repeated its promise to respond harshly to future attacks by the North and Spokesman Kim Min-seok reiterated that there is no signs of an attack anytime soon however if it did come to defending the South from the North that the North would suffer more powerful damage. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told his artillery troops near disputed waters with the South Korea Monday to be on maximum alert because war could break out anytime according to Pyongyang’s official media.

If war did break out, then the U.S. would assume control of the military due to a decades old alliance but South Korean has made it clear it will do what it has to respond to future North Korean attacks. Even though North Korea is furious over the annual U.S. South Korean military drills that end in April, Pyongyang will not attack as too much U.S. firepower is assembled says analyst and may wait til the drills end. As Chon Hyun-joon, an analyst at the Korean Institute for National Unification in Seoul, explains: “They are quiet when tension is high and state-of-the-art (U.S.) weapons are brought to South Korea for the drills. North Korea may take month to follow through on threats and warning, but when it does take action it happens quickly. North Korea has attempted military provocations within weeks of every South Korean Presidential inauguration dating back to 1992, according to Victor Cha, a former Asia advisor to President George W. Bush, and Ellen Kim at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. South Korea just inaugurated a new president on Feb. 25 leading Cha and Kin to write Thursday to “expect a North Korean provocation in the coming weeks.”