War looms over Korea

War looms over Korea

By THE SUNDAY GUARDIAN | 5 August, 2017

The Korean people hail from an ancient race that has several linkages with India, including the historical record of the migration of a princess from this country to Korea thousands of years ago to enter Korean royalty. There are numerous examples of similar thinking, for example in the match between the ancient Korean custom of “Hongkik Ingan” (or each individual working for all) and that of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, the world being a single family. Even after the devastation of the Korean war of the 1950s, the Republic of Korea emerged as a top industrial power. Since the 1990s, South Korean companies have been active in India, and have built up impressive market participation in a welter of sectors. (South) Korean brands are household names in India, and have left an earlier entrant, Japan, far behind in name recognition. The rise of the Republic of Korea (RoK) has shown the ability and resilience of the Korean people, just as the success of non-resident Indians (NRIs) indicate what we as a people are capable of, provided the stifling smother of a colonial bureaucracy gets removed from our midst, a development that still seems some way off, despite Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi’s best efforts. The Korean peninsula may easily have overtaken Japan as a global economic power, but for the fact that it has been cut in half by the 38th Parallel. Although unification remains the wish of the Korean people, yet geopolitical realities continue to ensure that the people of Korea remain separated. Tragically, sons have been separated for decades from fathers, daughters from mothers, sisters from brothers. Only in rare instances are such divided families permitted to meet with each other, that too for a freely limited period of time, and often in conditions where privacy is absent. The area north of the 38th Parallel is ruled by the Kim family, a dynasty that was begun by Kim il Sung and which has now been passed on to his grandson Kim Jong Un, who, in several respects (including in appearance), seems to take after the founder of the ruling Kim dynasty of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK). While Kim Il Sung sought to unify Korea by force and was defeated in the attempt by the US military led by General Douglas MacArthur, it is to be hoped that Kim Jong Un will go by the wishes of the people and work towards unifying the peninsula through peaceful talks with the RoK leadership. President Moon of South Korea has shown throughout his career in politics that he is open to talks and to a peace settlement that both sides would walk away from in a happy frame of mind.

However, the fact is that the prospects for a peaceful end to the situation of division and tension within the Korean peninsula are low. In some part, this is because of the hard stance being taken by the US, which wants the DPRK regime to unilaterally disarm itself and place itself at the mercy of Washington. This had been done in the past by Iraq under Saddam Hussein and Libya under Muammar Gaddafi. What took place thereafter is too well known to need any further retelling. Small wonder that Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un is reluctant to place his fate in the hands of the White House. Should the reluctance to offer practical terns to the DPRK ruling elite continue, war may be the only option to ensure that the regime ensconced in Pyongyang does not gain access to nuclear weapons as well as delivery systems that can take the projectiles across the Pacific, threatening the security of the US in a way not seen since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 almost sparked off a nuclear exchange between Moscow and Washington, until Nikita Khruschev blinked and withdrew the missiles that were being sent to Fidel Castro. However, the USSR secured an assurance from the US that no further efforts at regime change would be made by Washington, an assurance that has continued to the present, with even President Donald Trump hesitant to restart a fresh campaign of struggle designed to topple the rule of the Castro family in Cuba. Dynasty, it would appear, is as strong in dictatorships as it is in democracies. In 1962, war was avoided but in the next few years, it may become necessary to launch a pre-emptive strike on the DPRK. Only such a surprise move would ensure that the arsenal of weaponry in the hands of Kim Jong Un not get deployed against the 25 million inhabitants of Seoul, including nearly a hundred thousand US citizens resident and visiting. With every day that goes by, with every advance in weaponry displayed by North Korea, a new war in Korea seems to beckon. This may be a lesser evil than a fully weaponised Pyongyang that may then be in a position to unify Korea through force and ensure the spread of the dictatorship to the other part of the peninsula.

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