Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Rare Window Into The North Korean Hell

I've shamelessly stolen this video from Seraphic Secret, where Robert Avrech accompanies the video with an interesting discussion of the beyond-Stalinist Orwellian hell that is North Korea. The video is a fascinating look into North Korea by three Europeans given unprecedented access to that country for a week.

As I mentioned in the comments to Mr. Avrech's post linked above, as a light infantry officer, I spent 5 years in South Korea, and a good part of those 5 years on the DMZ. The North is a military state grafted onto a cult of personality that goes beyond anything Stalin could ever dream of. Indeed, it is Orwell’s worst nightmares given force of reality.

Unfortunately, Korea is a small country, and tens of millions of people live within artillery range of the North. If there is ever a war again in the Koreas, there is no question in my mind that casualties will easily climb over a million in just civilian deaths.

The North Korean Army, decimated by the US during the Korean War, has since been reconstituted and manned as an invasion force. That is why they have over a million people in their active duty forces, with millions more in reserve. There was a long period where North Korea held an upper hand, with the only things keeping them north of the DMZ were the threat of U.S. intervention and the fact that China had no desire for renewed hostilities. Their military force is still numerically strong today, but its potential effectiveness is decreasing exponentially for lack of funds. The window in which the North might still attack south and have a chance of winning is still open, but it is closing rapidly. And God help us all if the new dictator or the military command decides that it is time to push south before all hope is lost.

As an aside, as bad as life is in the North, life in the South was, when I lived there, vibrant and raucous. The South Koreans were some of the friendliest people I have ever had the opportunity to meet, in addition to being incredibly industrious. Their work ethic is a thing to behold.

South Korea itself is an incredibly mountainous and fecund land. If you have never visited that country, it is one of the most naturally beautiful places on earth. And the culture is rich indeed. If you've never thought of a trip to South Korea, you would be well advised to consider one. It is very easy to fall in love with South Korea.

Lastly, during my first tour in South Korea, stationed near the DMZ, some of my first sights were of women, in sub-zero weather, breaking ice on a small stream to wash clothes. And as Spring rolled around, I saw men using oxen to till their rice fields. When I started my second tour, three years later, everything had changed. What was a third world country had changed seemingly overnight. South Korea was approaching a first world standard of living with amazing rapidity.

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