How a Second Korean War will be Fought

The recent sinking of a South Korean (ROK) corvette, with the probable deaths of several dozen sailors, brings to focus the fraught situation on the Korean peninsula. Now the cause of this incident – North Korean (DPRK) torpedo or tragic accident – is not yet clear. Moreover, the two sides have a long history of border clashes – the current hot-spot over the Northern Limit Line, claimed by the ROK but disputed by the DPRK, has already seen three armed clashes in 1999, 2002, and 2009. The Korean War never really ended (the DPRK actually withdrew from the 1953 Armistice in 2009), and the North has pursued a strategy of periodically ratcheting up tensions to extract concessions from South Korea and the US. So this latest near-crisis is neither unexpected nor exceptionally destabilizing. As with the Cold War nuclear standoff, though the chances of any one trigger setting off an escalation to all-out war are small, they do accumulate over time.

Welcome to North Korea!

The Democratic People’s Republic is, as is well known, neither democratic (elections are fixed), popular (it is run by a small clique), or even a republic (Kim Jong-il succeeded his father Kim Il-sung to become “Supreme Leader”, and his son Kim Jong-un is slated to take over in 2012). Its political economy is essentialy based on the Asiatic mode of production – “held in thrall by a despotic ruling clique, residing in central cities and directly expropriating surplus from largely autarkic and generally undifferentiated village communities” (Martin & Wigen, 1997). These surpluses are used to buy the loyalties of the ruling elites who plan the DPRK’s self-sufficient economy (Juche) and uphold the “military first” (Songun) policy, as a result of which the DPRK is by far the most militarized state in the world – around 5% of its population are in the Korean People’s Army, on which the state has lavished a third of its entire gross product since the 1970′s. What emerges is an apotheosis of industrial totalitarianism, a “hermit kingdom” that manages to develop ballistic missiles and nukes, but can’t even feed its people – permanent dearth occasionally dips into outright famine, such as in 1995-98 when around 12% of its population starved to death.

Nonetheless, this does not mean that the DPRK is weak or unstable. Though its system of personal rule is brittle, a combination of coercion and legitimizing propaganda suppresses popular uprisings from below and open struggles amongst the elites. Consumer poverty has not preempted the sustenance of a 1.1mn-strong military, with some NBC capabilities, that is nearly twice the size of its southern adversary (not only in manpower, but also tanks, artillery pieces, warships, and fighters). This military buildup serves two complementing imperatives of the regime – 1) preserve the political dominance of the ruling elites centered around the Kim dynasty and upper echelons of the Party and military-industrial complex, and 2) pursue Kim Il-sung’s policy of “reunification through military force under DPRK conditions” that consitutes the legitimizing basis of the regime’s permanent war economy.

["Welcome to North Korea" documentary about the extent to which the Kim family's personality cult has taken over society].

Contrary to popular opinion, the North Korean regime is essentially stable. It survived its baptism of fire in 1950-53, the collapse of the Soviet Union (and of its subsidies) in the early 1990′s, and a devastating famine in 1995-98. It is merely authoritarian regimes, like Iran or China, which tend to be the most unstable. On the other hand, North Korea is a throughly totalitarian society, in which all information about the outside world is limited and dissenting voices are sent off to vast political prisons. Though hardship, dearth, and black markets may undermine the DPRK, there is always China to provide a last bulwark against disintegration. China has no interest in seeing the DPRK collapse, since doing so 1) may unleash a destabilizing flood of refugees and 2) much more importantly, its successor state will probably align with, or be absorbed by, South Korea, which is a regional rival and a firm ally of the US. The Chinese will do everything in their power to avoid a scenario in which a united Korean peninsula points like a dagger into their heartlands. Hence, as long as the DPRK’s rulers are united in their will to perpetuate the system, it will not collapse of its own accord.

This simple equilibrium, however, is complicated by outside Powers and the DPRK’s strategic culture. As Nicholas Eberstadt notes, North Korea is “deeply dissatisfied with the current configuration of the international chessboard and fundamentally committed to transforming it”, and the pursuit of nuclear weapons is one way to further these objectives. First, they help the regime legitimize itself domestically. Second, they are believed to deter South Korea and the US from launching preemptive strikes (senior figures in the DPRK have acknowledged outright that the example of Iraq is a great incentive to acquire nuclear arms).

Third, some elements of the Korean leadership may believe that nukes would deter the US and Japan from interfering in a renewed Korean War. Though the DPRK must realize their technological inferiority before South Korea, they may believe that in the absence of US reinforcements and airpower, their own advantages in sheer mass, special forces and infiltration, and NBC weapons may enable them to break through the DMZ and overrun the South. Unlikely? Maybe. But North Korea’s penchant for brinkmanship and unclear level of rationality means that the possibility must not be discounted. Really, all it takes is one low-level hothead to unfreeze the Korean War.

There is no question that North Korea is, if not planning, at least actively preparing for war. Despite its permanent economic hyper-depression, military mobilization remains as high as ever. Nationalism is cultivated, the South portrayed as a “puppet” of American imperialism. North Korea’s side of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) has 500-600 SCUD missiles, which can deliver chemical agents, and 11,000 artillery pieces in hardened dugouts, capable of firing up to 500,000 rounds per hour. This volume of fire is capable of leveling much of Seoul, potentially causing hundreds of thousands of casualties (millions if nuclear weapons are used), and severely damaging the first of the South’s three defensive lines. Whereas in 1994 some 45% of Korea’s military manpower was located at the DMZ, by 1998 it had grown to 65% (and 80% of firepower) and more than 70% today. Tunnels have been dug underneath South Korea fortifications and the North boasts a 100,000-strong special forces, the biggest in the world. At least in public, the DPRK unwaveringly believes in its own military superiority.

Preparing for War

Assume the recent naval incident spirals out of control in the next few weeks. I’m not saying it will – that’s very unlikely, based on past precedent – but let’s just assume it. Though North Korea is as opaque as ever, there are indications that domestic crisis is brewing. Recent attempts at currency reform have failed, triggering what may be imminent hyperinflation (the mastermind behind this reform is rumored to have been executed). Furthermore, there are the challenges of the upcoming leadership transition. An increasingly paranoid DPRK leadership, facing the specter of unrest and renewed famine, decides that a war may be the way out of their increasingly untenable predicament. They begin to prepare a blitzkrieg against the South.

Though the military balance on the Korean peninsula was tipped towards North Korea throughout the Cold War, the situation was reversed in the early 1990′s as the ROK acquired new, modern equipment that was no longer needed by NATO on the Central European Plain. Even as South Korea’s economy continued its relentless surge into a leading global position, the North’s collapsed into a hyper-depression from which it has not emerged twenty years later. By 1998 it was estimated that though North Korea had the equivalent of 5 heavy US divisions, compared to South Korea’s 3.75, this slight margin was more than closed when one accounted for the latter’s better logistics, support equipment, and prepared defensive positions (not to mention 37,000 US troops and aeronaval forces). The tables had turned and it is like that by then the South could have defended itself even without outside support.

Fast forward another ten years to today. The North is now slightly better off than it was in the crisis-wracked 1990′s, having transitioned from militarized Marxism-Leninism to militarized neo-feudalism (nowadays, the Party has withered away and it is the Army that runs the economy). The gap between North and South is greater than ever. The ROK is now an advanced industrial economy, with the region’s third most powerful economy and military (behind China and Japan). On the other hand, the DPRK is the apotheosis of the late Industrial Age national security state – it has plenty of tanks, schools, spies, radios, bunkers, patriotic songs, etc, but lacks the information infrastructure that is indispensable for remaining competitive in the Information Age. As long as it retains its Juche system, it will continue slipping ever further behind.

However, one (dis)advantage of being disconnected and living in a personality cult is that you become pretty confident about your own strength. So back to our scenario of North Korea’s war preparations in April 2010. They will conduct a campaign of strategic deception, or maskirovka, to conceal their true intentions. Even as stockpiles of fuel, munitions, and spare parts are built up on the DMZ, relations with the South will appear to be better than ever.

Nonetheless, it should be noted that the DPRK has the dubious distinction of being America’s “most watched” country. American reconaissance satellites keep a permanent watch on the hermit kingdom and target lists are continuously updated. The primary concern nowadays is to detect North Korean missiles being prepped and fueled, so that the US is capable of intercepting them before launch if it so chooses. But suspicious signs of the buildup will likely be detected, and confirmed for certain hours, if not days, in advance.

The DPRK’s air defense system is extremely dense, and many artillery positions are concealed and/or hardened. However, the system’s obsolesence makes it ineffective against stealth or high-flying warplanes, and it can be easily jammed by modern electronic countermeasures. Though hardened, the ensuing lack of mobility makes them easy game for the precision-guided bunker busters that the US has in abundance. And it is doubtful that concealment will do the North Koreans much good when any armchair general can identify hidden artillery positions on Google Earth!

Pyongyang has over 150 AAA positions, making it by far the most defended city in the world, though the guns and fire-control radar are of 1950′s/60′s Soviet vintage. Source.

What may happen is that an hour or two before North Korean tanks are slated to begin rolling south, on receiving confirmation of an imminent invasion, the USAF and Korean Air Force will launch massive spoiling attacks on North Korea’s DMZ artillery positions, C&C nodes, airfields, critical infrastructure, and supply depots. Below is one scenario of a “Surgical Air Strike” from the 2003 report Stand-Off with North Korea: War Scenarios and Consequences by two analysts from the Center for Defense Information that gives some idea of the immense significance of US air power.

Six B-2s each armed with 80 500-lb JDAMs sequentially launch from Guam. The strike is coordinated with several divisions of B1-s with 12 JDAMs per aircraft and F-117s with two laser-guided precision-guided weapons per aircraft, taking off from other bases in the region. These strikes would be deconflicted with the launch of more than 300 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the various cruisers and submarines positioned in the Pacific. Six additional B2s, flying out of their homebase in Missouri, time their arrival closely behind – loaded with 24 1,000lb JDAMs or 16 2,000lb JDAMs. One thousand targets could be destroyed prior to sunrise. This would prepare the battleground for ground forces to rapidly sweep to the North under a protective close air support umbrella of tactical aircraft from two carrier battle groups and other aircraft and assault helicopters in the South.

The F-117 was retired in 2008, but is now being replaced by the much more capable F-22 Raptor. The scenario remains valid. However, it actually referred to a long-planned surgical strike designed to take out the North’s nuclear reactor at Yongbyon and decapitate its means for artillery retaliation. Obviously, the overall damage will not be as crippling to the North if the US and ROK have advance notice of only a few hours. Nonetheless, America’s bomber forces are at permanent readiness, there is an uninterrupted carrier battle group (CVBG) presence near the Korean peninsula, and the their target lists are always up to date. The preemptive air strikes will substantially weaken the Northern assault given their poor air defense and logistics.

At this point, control of the Combined Forces Command (CFC) of the ROK and the US is transferred onto an American general from Korea. (Though there is an agreement to let South Korea have wartime control from 2012).

Korean War 2.0 – The Tanks roll South

It begins. As North Korean generals become aware that their adversaries have jumped the gun on them, they will order the DMZ artillery to immediately open fire on the South’s first defensive lines, which has 8 out of its 19 divisions, and on Seoul, so as to create a flood of panicked refugees that would clog nearby roads, hampering resupply efforts and reinforcements. There may be initial wave of poor-quality troops (e.g., perhaps conscripted from its 200,000 political prisoners) to clear the minefields and soften up the ROK’s defense lines. Special forces units begin infiltrating the enemy rear, with the help of incursion tunnels beneath the DMZ.

Soon after, the DPRK’s four pre-positioned Army corps begin to move south along the “two major avenues of approach that lead toward Seoul, via Kaesong and Munsan nearer the west coast, and Chor’won and Uijongbu further inland”, as well as smaller operations “along the east coast from Kansong to Sokch’o as well as the Taedong mountains further inland”. Heavily influenced by Soviet military philosophy of the 1970′s-80′s, the North Korean plan is to use infantry supported by armor – emphasizing strategic surprise, mobility, and concentration of firepower, in tandem with special forces operations in the enemy’s rear – to rapidly overrun the South’s defense lines and reunify the peninsula “under DPRK conditions” within 30 days, before the ROK can fully mobilize or bring in heavy American reinforcements.

North Korean attack plan. Source.

North Korean attack plan. Source.

The breakthrough will be very hard for the KPA to accomplish, since they will face multiple prepared, unbroken, and amply manned defense lines across the DMZ. They will be continuously reinforced by an allied operational reserve that includes the US 2nd Infantry Division and two of the three South Korean mechanized divisions. A rapid North Korea breakthrough is very unlikely – historically, “advance rates were rarely more than four to five kilometers a day… when armies in World War II tried to drive through prepared defenses”.

As noted previously, the war will be very costly, in both blood and dollars. In 1994, when war seemed imminent, senior US military leaders estimated that in the first ninety days there would be “52,000 US  military personnel killed and wounded, along with 490,000 South Korean military casualties… as well as ‘enormous’ DPRK and civilian casualties”. Furthermore, up to 80,000-100,000 American citizens could be killed, the war would cost the US 100bn $, and “the destruction and interruption of businesswould cost a trillion dollars to the countries involved and their immediate neighbors”. And this assumed that North Korea didn’t go nuclear, in which case costs would rise by another order of magnitude.

This was back in 1994. Sixteen years later, South Korea and the US have greater potential for minimizing their casualties thanks to technological developments, such as the following:

The United States has been working upon this problem for some years, and an Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) was mounted on the Peninsula in 1996-97 for this very purpose. The Precision/Rapid Counter – Multiple Rocket Launch ACTD, completed in 1997, apparently successfully developed and demonstrated all weather, day/night “precision deepstrike capability” to neutralize the rocket launchers and heavy artillery deployed north of the DMZ.

Whatever the costs of the war, however, it is almost certain that North Korea will fail to attain its objectives. Given the much better equipment, training, surveillance assets, and battlespace knowledge of the Combined Forces, as well as the parlous state of the North Korean military (e.g. its fighter pilots only get 10 hours of training per year, as opposed to 200+ hours for American pilots), its antiquated weapon systems (e.g. the main North Korean battle tank is based on the Soviet T-62), and its economic base (only has enough fuel reserves to sustain operations for 2-3 months), there is little doubt that South Korea will hold its defensive lines. Perhaps a few vanguard KPA detachments will penetrate to within sight of Seoul’s suburbs – where they will be bewildered at the puppet state’s relative prosperity – but that is the best that North Korea can realistically expect.

What if North Korea uses tactical nukes to break through the South Korean defense lines, similar to some Warsaw Pact plans for the conquest of Western Europe? This is a possibility, though not a particularly high one. Both DPRK nuclear tests “fizzled”, i.e. they were unsuccessful, indicating that their nuclear devices are quite primitive and not properly weaponized. (Building a nuclear device is pretty easy, making it reliable and mating it to a robust delivery system is the hard bit). This does not bode well for them given that most estimates indicate that the North only possesses a dozen or so bombs. More importantly, any offensive use of nukes by the DPRK will likely be met by a devastating response from the US; certainly that is the case if they manage to strike Japan or Hawaii (though that is a very remote prospect given that DPRK missiles are liquid-fueled, easily-detectable, and take a few days to “prep”, making them sitting ducks for the USAF). So despite the rhetoric, the DPRK is only probably going to “go nuclear” when it begins to feel it is losing – for instance, in a last-ditch attempt to seize Seoul before the South launches a strong counter-offensive with American reinforcements, or by “nuclear mining” the road to Pyongyang .

“Given the mass of combat power the U.S. and South Korea have available, both in forward stationed forces and in reserve, exposed invasion forces that became slowed or halted would be in dire straits from the defense lines in front of them and to their flanks, as well as indirect fire from artillery”. The Combined Forces will rapidly achieve full air superiority over the North Koreans, and will be able to inflict a lot of damage with minimal interference. US reinforcements will pour in by sea and air, and advance elements of heavy divisions will appear by Day 30. This will set the ground for the third phase of the war – the conquest and destruction of the DPRK as a political entity.

Korean War 2.0 – The March to Pyongyang

The allied war plan, Operations Plan 5027, calls for a “regrouping phase after halting the initial invasion” (expected within 7-10 days of the start of the North Korean offensive), around the “layered defense lines north of and around Seoul”, to be followed by a full-scale counteroffensive whose ultimate objective is Pyongyang and the reunification of the peninsula under the Republic of Korea. This invasion will be preceded by heavy B-1 and B-52 bombardment before the allied advance and the use of amphibious Marine operations to “cut the DPRK’s narrow band in two”.

This advance is expected to encounter fierce resistance. Practically every adult in North Korea has military training and the country has been devoting the bulk of its resources to defense since the 1970′s. Finally, much of the North Korean terrain is mountainous and less favorable to America’s hi-tech assets than the flat deserts of Iraq. Below is a summary of the views of one Chinese military analyst, Zhen Xi, writing in the 1990′s, on how he believes North Korea can defend itself.

NORTH KOREA CAN DEFEAT AMERICA

Chinese military authors also appear to devalue the effectiveness of U.S. forces in a future Korean scenario. According to a colonel at AMS, several factors ensure U.S. defeat “if in the next few years a Korean War erupted.” His main points are:

  • The United States will not have 6 months to deploy and train forces. Instead, “the Korean People’s Army will surprise attack South Korean air bases, ports and communication lines.”
  • “U.S. casualties will not be as low as in the Gulf War. . . . On the Korean peninsula, the population is dense, with river networks and mountains, roads are few, unsuitable to armor . . . casualties will be extremely high.”
  • “North Korea’s mountains are wrapped in clouds and mist; it will be difficult for the U.S. Air Force and high-technology weaponry to give full play to their vast superiority.”
  • Temperatures of negative 40 degrees centigrade “provide excellent conditions” for guerilla warfare.
  • North Korea will not allow the United States to land in the rear.
  • U.S. forces lack numerical strength. During the Korean War, U.S. troops reached over 400,000, but the result was not victory. In the 1960s and 1970s, in the Vietnam War American forces were 663,000 and had great technical superiority, but the result also was defeat. U.S. forces in year 2000 will be 70 percent of today.

These are all more-or-less valid points, but there are a number of caveats that must be taken into account in such an analysis.

First, it should be borne in mind that the bulk of the military mass will now be provided by South Korea, which has around 5mn men in the reserves and a massive industrial base of its own. The most important US contribution will be its surveillance and reconaissance capabilities, air and naval power, and amphibious operations. Such a single-minded emphasis on the US is misplaced.

Second, whereas in the 1980′s the KPA was a motivated and able force, it is far from clear whether that is still the case. There are numerous reports of metastasizing corruption within the DPRK reaching to the highest levels of government. As happened in 2003 Iraq, it may even be possible to bribe some North Korean generals into non-interference or surrender.

Third, likewise it is not at all clear that the general North Korean population will willingly fight for the regime, at least not with the fanatic zeal one sees in DPRK propaganda. Yes, the hermit kingdom remains, by and large, a very closed society. However, hundreds of thousands have emigrated into China, and millions have now been exposed to videos of life in South Korea. Since the early 2000′s, VCR’s have become accessible to better-off North Koreans, along with black-market DVD’s of South Korean dramas and films. Observers report a (relative) relaxation of social controls – not for lack of effort, but simply because the resources available for surveillance have plummeted along with everything else - and increasing disillusionment with the government.

Fourth, another very important thing is that the DPRK’s fertility rate has been at or below the replacement level rate of 2.1 children per woman since the 1990′s. Historically, only high-fertility nations have been able to sustain intense guerilla campaigns or “people’s wars“, since the death of a son is far more tragic – and economically ruinous – when he is your only one. Moreover, most of the troops invading North Korea will be fellow Koreans – yet another disincentive for waging an uncompromising resistance struggle.

Fifth, the importance of the allied technological edge must not be underestimated. When you are losing five or ten soldiers for every one of the enemy’s, the will to fight becomes incredibly sapped. And those are the likely ratios when low-category North Korean units come up against the advancing Combined Forces.

I am not saying that the march to Pyongyang will be like a walk in the park. At least initially, the Korean People’s Army and its military reserves will put up a fight, and as mentioned above, facing the certainty of its own demise, the regime may not shy away from unleashing any nuclear capabilities they may have. Nor are the South Koreans going to be particularly restrained – one authority on the matter informs me that the South Korean officer class hates the Northern elites, and will probably “take no enemies, anyone associated with the party (which means all officers) will be eliminated”. However, there is no way that even a big guerrilla army – poorly trained, logistically-challenged, and armed with antiquated 1950′s/60′s-era Soviet weaponry – will be able to halt the advance of a modern military enjoying advanced space-based surveillance systems and complete air and naval superiority. An eventual Combined Forces victory is assured, unless…

The Specter of Escalation

Crossing the DMZ with the intention of toppling the DPRK and replacing it with a government allied with or integrated into South Korea will put a whole set of new dynamics into play. Though China has no intention of aiding North Korea in aggression, it views the establishment of an American bridgehead on its Manchurian border with trepidation and may intervene under extreme circumstances, such as an all-out American and South Korean drive for “regime change” in Pyongyang.

If this were to happen, all bets are off. China will probably be able to roll back the invasion forces to the DMZ. After all, it managed to do this in the 1950′s, when it was much more militarily backwards relative to the US. Now, it will have a big preponderance over land, while its new “carrier-killing” ballistic missiles, submarines, cruise missiles, and Flanker fighters are now, at some level, able to deny the seas off China to the US Navy, while its anti-satellite tests and cyberwar prowess means that the American dominance in space and information ought not be taken for granted either. Now I am not saying that the People’s Liberation Army comes anywhere close to matching the American military; however, it might well already have the ability to defeat it in a local war on China’s borders. If China is successful, it will re-establish North Korea as its own protectorate, although under someone more rational and reliable than Kim Jong-il (though needless to say this will also completely sever its economic relationship with the US and cause a severe, but temporary, economic contraction due to the collapse of its export sector).

There will be a cascade of consequences elsewhere. Taiwan may use the opportunity to declare independence, provoking a second war in the region. Though the US says that it will not come to Taiwan’s aid if it does this unilaterally, America will probably change its mind if it is simultaneously embroiled in an intense local war with China on the Korean peninsula! Other actors opposed to American hegemony may view this as a chance to undermine the overstretched superpower. For instance, Russia could orchestrate a new war against Georgia and China may even persuade Iran to mine the Strait of Hormuz in exchange for security guarantees and technology transfer. All these dominoes going down may even precipitate the collapse of the increasingly fragile Pax Americana.

But this is all speculation. I will end this article on something a lot more fundamental – the fact that North Korea is running out of time. Having abandoned the aptly-named “sunshine policy” (1998-2008) towards the DPRK, today’s South Korea has ambitious plans for a military modernization designed to achieve full-spectrum superiority over its northern neighbor by 2020. This involves making the ROK Army more network-centric, acquiring top-end ABM and space capabilities, and increasing automization (e.g. gun sentries). North Korea is digging underground to conceal its military assets, but these efforts are in a race against improving bunker-busting bombs and underground imaging technology. On current trends, it is quite likely that by the 2020′s, North Korea will even lose its ability to pose a credible threat to Seoul. Even if, against all odds, the DPRK manages to develop nuclear-tipped, solid-fuel ballistic missiles – i.e., which can be prepped for launch within a few minutes – they will be rendered irrelevant by the proliferation of advanced ABM systems in the Western Pacific. This means that North Korea’s “window of opportunity” to reunify the peninsula is closing fast (if it was ever open in the first place). If it is to have the smallest, non-zero chance of success, it has to strike very soon. Is North Korea’s recent bellicosity and abrogation of the 1953 Armistice mere coincidence?

Now I should stress again that the scenario I have painted is not likely to unfold as I predict. Quite simply, for all its bluster, the North Korean regime may well simply be too fearful of its domestic position, too satisfied with its creature comforts, too post-ideological and disillusioned, to risk undergoing the ultimate trial of its own strength and intelligence – war. But it is not impossible.

Comments

  1. georgesdelatour says:

    Good article.

    A few thoughts.

    1. The differences between North & South Korea are so massive – far greater than between East & West Germany. Absorbing the North would be a daunting task for the South.
    2. China doesn’t want a unified Korea with US troops on its doorstep. But neither does it want millions of North Korean refugees coming to China. There may be some in the political class in China who feel that, in the long run, North Korea is doomed. So maybe there’s scope for creative diplomacy between China, South Korea & the US. Reunification in return for the departure of all US troops, and agreed restrictions on the size of the Korean military north of the cease-fire line. Even a reunited Korea isn’t a serious rival to Chinese hegemony in the region. Bear in mind the US does sometimes keep its word. Kennedy promised the US would not invade Cuba if the USSR removed its missiles and, amazingly, the US has never broken the undertaking.

    • Re-1, agreed – reunification will be difficult. However, Plan 5027 does call for it. I don’t doubt it will eventually happen post-DPRK, if China acquiesces, because the Koreans are one people, very homogeneous, and the border is unnatural. While the economic chasm is huge, it’s not insurmountable. Unlike West Germany, the Republic of Korea does not have a huge welfare state – so fewer obligations to its northern half. Second, the non-economic differences shouldn’t be overstated. For instance, both nations are industrialized (if in a degenerated form in the North) and both have experienced the demographic transition linked to industrialization.
      Re-2, a feasible scenario. Perhaps this kind of deal will be hammered out with the Chinese as the South Koreans advance on Pyongyang. After all, despite its military modernization, China is still non too keen to face off with the US for at least the next decade.

      • AK, I think the mental obstacles to unification may be the biggest of all. The North Koreans have been enclosed in the national equivalent of a cult compound since the 1950s. They’ve been fed all their lives with quasi-supernatural tales of the wonder-working powers of the Great and Dear Leaders, as well as horror stories of South Korea, presented as the worst country on earth. By contrast, East Germans watched West German TV, circulated around the Eastern Bloc with its widely varying standards, preserved traditional German culture (even having a strong Protestant Church), and enjoyed a pretty good standard of living. And German unification was STILL difficult.

      • A Reunified Korea will be democratic.

        Korea will hate US for reneging on it’s military alliance promise. Though S. Korea may have taken over the North, (China-US agrees to not get involved), S. Korea will view US as a devil for reneging on it’s defense promises.

        Korea will fall in the orbit of China, with US troops expelled from the country.

        The China-Korea bloc will be a natural geopolitical strategic counterbalance to the US-Japan block.

        Even Japan will question US willingness to defend her country, and may tilt towards China and revolt against US occupation of her territory.

        US will no longer have the support for international quagmires and her international reach as ‘world’s policeman’ will have receded away from Asia-Pacific.

        China’s Monroe Doctrine in Asia will eventually win out.

        • @wow
          Bullshit. I’m a Korean, and although some of us may not like the American troops stationed there, we hate the ‘Communist’ Chinese even more. America will not renege on the military alliance, as we serve an important part of keeping the Chinese in check. If South Korea does defeat the North, a transitional government would probably be set up under the guidance of the South Korean Government until the North becomes better equipped for a unification. As long as America stays by our side, Korea will never join China. Throughout thousands of years, China has barely done anything good for Korea. America has saved us from the communists.

        • I do not fully agree with your the statement, The reason being is we have to ask our selves how far is the U.S welling to go in order to help South Korea?
          The answer is in fact quit complecated; in dealing with the two party system over here.
          If the Republicans rule I could see some help but not much even though they are warmonger they don not consider South Korea in much light or importants, However if the Demoricats or in power it might be different it is hard to say so in reality you are most right even though I wish you were wrong.
          P.S It also depends on factors such as how far china is welling to go as well. Since I know so little about China I can not state what I think on this part.

    • Things do not look good for US in Asia.

      US might as well negotiate to allow China include reunified Korea under it’s “sphere of influence” and US retreat back to Japan.

      US isn’t a reliable ally when it comes to the defense of S. Korea – US doesn’t have the appetite to engage in MORE international quagmires in light of mounting debt and unpopularity of costly wars abroad.

      China, is stronger than ever, and given it’s authoritarian regime, it doesn’t have to rely on “domestic support” for a war like US.

      China can engage in a costly war and stifle dissent, whereas popularity of wars decide elections back in US.

      • Not all wars here in the U.S are populare by the people at large espically the Iraq war but people are stupid sometimes espically when it comes to the party system here in the States. Being that if my father voted republican then I will for them. I would only hope that if a war happened in Korea that the U.S will keep its word to S. Korea.

  2. Giuseppe Flavio says:

    Hello Anatoly,
    Eric Kraus has changed address, the new one is
    http://invest.open.ru/en/desktop-invest/analytics/comments_Eric_Kraus/

    Thanks for your blog.

  3. Wow, I don’t know where you find the time to put together such frequent, well-researched pieces on events so recent. Very nice work.

  4. Phenomenal piece on a footing with Gary “The War Nerd” Brecher’s better work. Cogent, well-written, and substantiated with glitzy imagery.

    Thanks, SO.

    Humbly yours,
    Sess

    • Thanks, A Good Treaty and Sess (and Giuseppe about Eric).
      PS. I’m a fan of the War Nerd and being favorably compared with him is a high compliment in my eyes – even though I don’t think I deserve the accolade!

  5. There’s going to be a two-state solution in Korea for a while even after the process of reunification begins. 23 million North Koreans have so much more incentive to emigrate to the South than East Germans did to the West, it’s not funny.

  6. North Korea has long fascinated me as perhaps the last stronghold of Pure Stalinism on earth. It may be starving, but it probably leads the world in per capita production of propaganda. I’ve read and enjoyed (in a perverse way) such classics as “Kim Jong Il: The People’s Leader” and “Kim Il Sung on Socialist Pedagogy.”

    As noted above, re-unification is not going to be an option anytime soon. North Korea is so far behind the South, it would be like trying to unite Chad with Norway. East Germany was an opulent liberal paradise by comparison.

    • Same with me! Just two minor quibbles…
      1) The US, China, Russia, etc, produce far more propaganda than North Korea. It’s just that the latter’s is the most crude, i.e. identifiable as propaganda!
      2) I don’t share your taste for their literary classics, but I do greatly appreciate their martial music, which I find to be very inspiring in a certain way. I even work out to some of it at the gym! ;)

  7. Couple of minor comments.

    One, “Contrary to popular opinion, the North Korean regime is essentially stable.” What popular opinion is this? I don’t know of any informed observer who thinks the DPRK is going to collapse any time soon. As for “popular” opinion of the DPRK, I think it begins and ends with ‘they so crazy’.

    Two, WRT China, you make two related but different statements: “China has no interest in seeing the DPRK collapse” and “The Chinese will do everything in their power to avoid a scenario in which a united Korean peninsula points like a dagger into their heartlands.”

    I agree with the first, but am much more skeptical about the second. Certainly China has many reasons to like the status quo. OTOH, the DPRK is not all that good a neighbor. A two-state solution involving a weak, neutral, demilitarized DPRK would be much better. And a one-state solution might be perfectly acceptable to China if it limited or reduced US influence. After all, it’s only the threat from the North that makes the presence of US troops acceptable to the fiercely nationalist South Koreans. Remove that threat, and the US alliance becomes, at best, a highly irritating and unequal relationship in urgent need of renegotiation. It’s not hard to imagine a victorious South Korea simultaneously embarking upon a long project of reunification, kicking US troops out, and renegotiating a new relationship with China. After all, Chinese capital is going to be absolutely essential for rebuilding the devastated north.

    (I note in passing that the German experience of the last 20 years has been studied almost obsessively by the South Koreans. They think about reunification a lot, and they have plans.)

    I’ve seen other analyses of this scenario, and they all seem to take Chinese hostility to an ROK victory for granted. But I can’t think of one that has based this on Chinese sources; it’s always just assumed. I’d be interested to know what formal statements (if any) China has made on this point.

    Three, WRT a possible Korean War II, note that there’s one fairly huge difference between 1950 and today: modern China is fully integrated into the international system, and communication channels between Beijing and Washington are wide open. This is a stark contrast to 1950, when Truman and Mao had literally no idea what the other was thinking. Any Chinese military action in Korea would be preceded by a period of intense diplomatic engagement. I can imagine that engagement failing, sure — but I can’t imagine it not happening.

    Doug M.

  8. great read this is something ive always been very interested and youve really done your homework.

    Ive also read some articles that one of the biggest variables in this potential conflict is the effectiveness of North Korean special forces and that it is the biggest variable. According to some war game scenarios we used in the early 1990s they were so effective that they prevented our aircraft from even getting off of the ground and turned our bases to dust. They put a lot of emphasis on their special forces.

    At the same time, with 100,000 special forces, how “special” can they be? Special Ops defectors have come at a much greater rate than before, and do not enjoy the same privelidged treatment they got within the past decade with much more ineffective equipment. Probably quite watered down, but what if they really are as elite as they say? They might not be navy seal elite, but if they are green beret elite, that proves a potential huge thorn in our side.

    How effective do you project them to be?

    • I don’t know. On the one hand, according to the YouTube videos they are very impressive, jumping over moving cars and breaking bricks, on the other hand, as you correctly point out 100,000+ (recent news claim 180,000) special forces aren’t likely to be super-special, especially in a country of 24mn (the US has c.51,000 special forces out of 307mn people). Though the possibility can’t be excluded given the hyper-militarized nature of the DPRK.

      COUNTERING NORTH KOREAN SPECIAL PURPOSE FORCES by Troy P. Krause is a detailed report on the issue from 1999. His conclusion is that though Special Purpose Forces are formidable, their effectiveness can be largely curtailed by intelligent use of existing military assets, e.g. using Apaches to interdict Northern amphibious forces offshore.

      PS. If you liked this, please feel free to stick around. I intend to do a similar writeup for Iran vs Israel/USA within the next few weeks.

  9. PS. Randy McDonald has a post at demography.matters On migration and population in reunification-era Korea. I left my comment there.

  10. Dr. Strangelove says:

    Excellent article. But I quote General Ludwig Beck “it’s a military operation, nothing ever goes according to planned”.

  11. THanks for good insight. I dont think Norths top people want a war as They want to keep their fat belly as they are now. Next few years will be very unstable in North korea as Kims days are coming to and end and He wants another of his son take over, so I hear he has been eliminating few to pave the road for next successor. I do believe its all about this successon event that is what this escalation and threat is all about. NOrth is big lier and bluffers and con man( from past history) who has no true sense of reality whats going on surrounding them. World now a days are not fought with bullets. The economy its the power, we can see from looking at changed policy in China. Talking is cheap, nonsense threat makes NK look as clowns in my view. Again most important reason that I think north wont event want a war is that, one they cant sustain it. coast too much for them. Two top officials are greed and have been well fed and spoiled, they prob dont want to abandon their wealth to join its insane clown of north.

  12. I think there would be a small chance the North may be able to enter Seoul and do significant damage if not capture it. I see it this way:

    Day 0 Mid day(day before invasion): American satellite reconnaissance confirms North Korean invasion. South defensive perimeters put on maximum readiness, bombers launched.
    Day 0 Night first joint US/SK air strikes begin to strike the northern side of the DMZ. Northern HQ recognize the presence of stealth bombers, go underground and launch relentless pre-planned (as in they launch it before the time when they planned to) artillery assault from all batteries. North Korean ships deploy mines, as it is their only chance of defending their waters.
    Day 1 Morning, heavy damage to major chokepoints in NK infrastructure, most dug in artillery positions and individual HQ of crack NK units. North Korean air activity begins, and artillery bombardment resumes with improved precision.
    Day 1 Evening NK air forces nearly totally obliterated in assault Southwards, SK first line of defense in shambles. 10-30,000 SK casualties. NK shores 90% mined.
    Day 1 Night Better coordinated and concentrated air attacks on North Korea begin under cover of night. Serious NK casualties begin to mount, as the North prepares for full out assault 3-5,000 NK casualties.
    Day 2 Sunrise, the North Korean invasion begins, fast attack boats transfer special forces on the flanks of the SKs, 50-200,000 NK troops, supported by tanks and artillery, cross the border. Total air supremacy over the DMZ is achieved by the allies, and serious action begins to be taken against NK air defense.
    Day 2 Sunset Casualties mount for both sides. 40-80,000 SK casualties, mostly due to intense artillery fire. Air and sea strikes annihilate 30-40% of the North Korean artillery around the DMZ. 30-45,000 North Korean casualties due to human wave tactics. 500-900 tanks lost.
    Day 3 North Korean troops near Seoul. Most of NK air defense destroyed. 60-100,000 NK casualties 90-130,000 SK casualties. Artillery bombardment loses any value it had because of distanced targets, and destruction of most artillery pieces.
    Day 5 Northern casualties mount. Most of North Korean navy destroyed, most mines cleared. NK intensely bombed. Seoul heavily entrenched. High portions of the population on both sides of the border are mobilized into military service.
    Day 6 NK advance grinds to a halt. NK- 150-250,000 dead, missing or captures, 130-170,000 SK casualties.
    Day 8 NK forces torn apart near Seoul, massive casualties, NK artillery non existent, most NK tanks destroyed. Marines begin landings on the flanks of invading NK forces and in North Korea itself.
    Day 10 Hordes of Northern soldiers surrender, the invasion breaks apart. 320-400,000 NK casualties. 160-200,000 South Koreans.
    Day 25, US Marine landings, massive air strikes and quickly moving SK forces pay off. Allied forces advance on NK capital. 500-750,000 NK casualties.
    Day 40 As allied forces near Seoul, the North Korean government unconditionally surrenders, in return for not being executed or turned over to their subjects.
    The end.

    This isn’t me making it up on the spot, actually a simplified part of an earlier analysis by me.

  13. I found this article accidentally when googling for more information about the yesterday’s artillery incident on the korean-peninsula. It is clear you have put more thought into the situation than I have and have more relevant knowledge, so I would like to know how you think this recent development will affect the situation?
    Thanks,
    Steve.

  14. sinotibetan says:

    Anatoly,
    I chanced upon this article of yours because of a recent comment on it.
    You never cease to amaze me! An interesting read. What are your thoughts regarding the recent North Korean attacks on South Korea?
    My thoughts about the Koreas – in the near term: frequent tensions but no all-out war and no unification. At the moment, China is not too keen for a Unified Korea which would be , at least ‘nominally’ pro-Western because in the event of a war, South Korea will win – albeit with enormous casualties and economic ruin and that United Korean state will be heavily indebted to ‘Big Brother’ ,the USA. Koreans(North and South) – yes, ethnically homogenoeus : yet there are historical differences – the North being descended mostly from those of Koguryo and Balhae states; the South being descended mostly from those of Silla and Baekche states. Economically the North are poverty-stricken while the South almost first world status. The South Koreans really don’t want a united Korea but becoming poor by doing so. The USA is not keen to become embroiled in military adventures that will hasten its coming economic demise.
    The distant future- too uncertain to predict.
    My two cents.

    sinotibetan

    • I’m 100% agreed with this assessment.

      China is a key player and it will do its utmost to prevent North Korea from blowing off – at least until the balance of power in East Asia definitively shifts in its favor from the US.

  15. Don’t trust China. I had a history teacher who fought in 1953 constantly remind us how dangerous China could be to our existance. They are supplying N. Korea with weapons.
    The next few weeks are critical. Please keep us updated with your thoughts. Great thread!

  16. As one who served in Japan for 15 years with the USN, we were well aware that the North had agents in country for years and that they were always ready to mount operations against our bases should the flag go up. The NKSOF were trained to go after concentrated soft targets on then lightly defended bases like Atsugi and Yokosuka, kill the crews who support the ships and aircraft and do as much damage as possible. The NKSOF’s best prize would be to catch a carrier in port Yokosuka for a suicide assault.

    You can’t leave that possibility out of any war scenario.

  17. It seems that the world is now in a total chaos if the Second Korean War commences,
    knowing that both countries have hidden nuclier weapons who can destroy our planet.
    consider the consequences if the north korean army invades south, they would taste the
    wrath of US, China will help its ally North Korea until all the countries are involve that would
    happen by launching alot of nuclier and ballistic missiles by the nations!
    if the Second Korean War commences,the world will be a sea of fire by then!.

  18. sinotibetan says:

    Hmmm….
    The wikileaks scandal …if we believe it…seems to point that younger political elites in China are not so friendly to North Korea. Will the Chinese abandon its ertswhile ally North Korea for a united Korean peninsula?

    I doubt it. As someone said, don’t trust the Chinese, and from our history(I am of Han descent), there is some truth in that statement – in the past(eg our famous Art of War by Ssun Tzu), we are OK with deception as long as we achieve our aims. But then, it’s true with all nations also.

    Then again, I doubt there’ll be a new Korean war. China’s not keen for it. Neither are the Americans. Neither are the South Koreans and North Koreans. I believe it’s theatrics by North Koreans to get attention from China to prop up the current regime economically now that there might be a transfer of power from the older Kim to the younger Kim and perhaps regime instability is feared by the older Kim. Whether it will be a full-scale war(which can escalate to a bigger war since it will mean a face-off between USA and China)depends on how desperate the North Korean regime is. Most likely, in the short term, China will have to ‘back-up’ this so-called ‘ally’ as that country is not yet ready nor powerful enough for a war with the USA.

    Interesting times lie ahead.

    sinotibetan

  19. Excellent article! Kinda old, but still relevant given recent circumstances. Many great points were made, but I’m not too sure if China, or the US for that matter, would react with full military power. You didn’t mention much about the US economy playing a factor. A majority of Americans are tired of the decades long minor-scale war in Afghanistan and I think it would be hard to convince the public at this point to commit even more money and lives for another couple of years. There is also mutual understanding between China and the US that both countries could impose certain domestic legislation that would have a huge negative impact on the others economy. Because of this I believe that if the war resumes it would eventually settle into a proxy war by the North and South with support from the US and China; lasting for about half a decade. What are your thoughts?

    • No chance.
      South Korea, even by itself, has the capability to defeat North Korea in a protracted war. For a start the DPRK only has a 3 months fuel supply for its military even by generous estimates.

  20. I think China sees an eventual benefit if and when the Kim’s go by the wayside. China needs Southern port access to the Pacific for its growing industrial centers in Manchuria and North Korea provides three existing sites on it’s East Coast. Of course they can’t use them now because of Kim’s mistrust of their intentions.

    We don’t want a swift collapse of the regime, that’s a nightmare. There’s no way South Korea could financialy or materially support a sudden overnight absorbtion of the impoverished North.

    Perhaps there’s behind the scenes planning we don’t know about?

    Studies have shown that North Korea will cease to be a viable state by 2020, it’s military so decreped by that time that any invasion of the ROK would be laughable suicide. But here’s the danger…Kim’s most die hard military generals may opt that suicide is worth it and may go all for broke with invasion.

    To be honest right now? The United States lacks the rapid capability to stop a full on North Korean invasion. We have 50 percent less the marintime capability that we had in 1950 and with so many world wide committments we couldn’t get enough in theater on the ground to be no better than speed bumps. Any resistance to a NKPA onvasion will depend on the ROK’s ability to fight and on hand American airpower.

  21. sinotibetan says:

    “Studies have shown that North Korea will cease to be a viable state by 2020, it’s military so decreped by that time that any invasion of the ROK would be laughable suicide. But here’s the danger…Kim’s most die hard military generals may opt that suicide is worth it and may go all for broke with invasion.”

    Possible. But then I think no one really knows the true state of the ruling elites in North Korea. Although many political analysts have predicted an imminent collapse of the North Korean state, reality has dismissed their predictions. We shall see if these ‘studies’ are right in 2020.

    sinotibetan

  22. a person says:

    A Korean reunification will be unlikely and hard. But if they successfully reunify, things that happen in the video game Homefront will be extremely unlikely. But the Koreans will not view the U.S as enemies but rather allies because they reunified the Koreas and created a lasting peace. Korea will possibly have a new capital but they will possibly have a crappy economy. The reunified Korea will be democratic but there will be former KPA troops fighting to the death just to divide the Koreas again. But this is very unlikely.

  23. WillisHadrinus says:

    Fantastic read, but a crucial flaw. I think it is wrong to suppose that a unified Korea is in the U.S.’s interests. With Korea divided, this gives the US legitimacy to station troops, and to establish a strong geo-stratigic anchor in the North Pacific region. This is contrary to your point which believes that China would get involved on account of preventing “a dagger into their heartlands”. A unified Korea, over time, would need no reason to station a foreign power’s troops there. China would inevitably benefit from a unified Korea, because ultimately over time their trade relations would evolve significantly and inevitably South Korea would grow a stronger and more important relation with China than with the US. South Korea is strong as is, imagine if it was unified. The United States benefits from a divided Korea, with a hostile hermit kingdom ran by pseudo maniacs. This instability is like a black hole for global powers to get sucked in to. With South Korea needing American troops in their country it not only provides this essential geo-pivotal anchor, but also acts as a buffer between Japan and China, (which could, in a way, undermine US supremacy in the region if they were to ever seek a economic alliance.)

    • alexinportland says:

      But for the need to contain North Korea, the US has no reason to station military assets on the Korean pennisula within easy range of Chinese missile defenses. Reunification would allow the US to maintain a strong presence in the North Pacific from existing an better equipped naval and air bases in Japan and Guam. Ultimately, a Korea reunified by the South is best for both the US and the PRC in that it would exist as a mostly demilitarized buffer state.

      • There is only one reason to retreat American forces from SK and that is to contain/integrate North Korea as that is the only reason why NK can keep its ultra nationalist state going. But the US would rather keep its jet fighters within range of Beijing and Vladivostok. Nor would a unified Korea be a likely example of a demilitarized state. In fact i would expect it to behave like a Gaulist France. A friend of the US in Name only, a large Force de frappe and a large military. Add the Korean minority in China and the not so clean Korean war and the last thing Washington wants to happen is a unified Korea

  24. Agreed, any attempt of a DPRK invasion on the ROK is bound to fail and will almost certainly guarantee a demise to the current regime. For more specific details regarding 2020, the ROK will have by then produced hundreds, if not thousands of their new K2 Black Panther MBTs, mostly or entirely replaced any of their remaining older US equipment (artillery, F4 and F5 fighter jets, M48 and the such, ) and if things go well, their current on-going development of KF-X stealth fighter program (joint with the Indonesians) would be in active service. Not to mention the ROK Air Force is also planning to procure stealth fighter jets before 2020 itself – for their F-X Phase 3 Program, given the option whether to pick the F-35 Lightning II, Sukhoi PAKFA or the F-15 Silent Eagle – the decision is to be made later this year.

    The DPRK’s boasts on special forces is exaggerated, at least in my opinion. Since the DPRK lacks the logistics, industry, training and the such, there’s no doubt it will also have an effect on their SF – no matter how large it is. I suspect at least one South Korean 707th SMU operative is the equivalent of several North Korean SF – against the Navy SEALs, Delta Force, Green Berets, CIA Special Activities Division etc. it’s a no-brainer. The North’s SF also would be much more far behind in the whole network support details and wouldn’t be able to operate as flexibly.

    Aside from surrendering and/or bribery, there’s also a possibility of entire North Korean companies, battalions, regiments/brigades and even divisions changing sides – especially since many are lacking food, yet alone something that’s worth filling their stomachs. Discipline would be difficult to maintain in the heat of fighting a better-equipped and similarly numerous opposition, especially if food shortages are rampant.

    • alexinportland says:

      I agree. I am also reminded of the Highway of Death in the Gulf War in which Saddam’s conventional armored assets were destroyed by superior US air power. I see the same scenario in Korea since the US and ROK will quickly establish air superiority and obliterate the NK invading forces. The 10s of thousands of NK regulars and conscripts trapped behind the DMZ will either face annihilation from US and ROK airpower or surrender.

  25. North Korea. I have never been there, but I have a deep affection for the country. To me, it is by far the most unique and interesting country on planet earth. I’ve done tons of research, so I “know” a lot of little facts and figures about the country. And the more I learn, the more questions I ask and the more I say to myself “wow. you won’t find a country like this anywhere else, this is an extra sparkle to the hidden gem (or in this case, an extra soot cloud from magic coal lump :3), the more I learn about this country the more I realize that this is the kind of country that is unlike anything ever seen in history before, and its impossible to try to mention everything that is so strange and unique about the DPRK that if you’d get mad if you did try to explain it.

    The more pictures I see of pyongyang and the more propoganda I see, the more the DPRK looks like a cartoon; a fantasy from an alternate world. Pyongyang, especially at night, looks like it was drawn by an artist…North Korea can very very very easily become a story drawn by someone such as Hayao Miyazaki. It has this retro-ish theme/feel mixed with this asian feel that I can’t seem to explain. You can see it especially inside their theatres. And in an unexpected strange way, it fits the narrative of this dictatorial state with a dear leader etc. I’m not saying I support the kim regime. BUT, if the DPRK were to be destroyed and the Korean Peninsula re-united, a very interesting part of human civilization will forever be destroyed, replaced with more of what we’re already so used to (and quite frankly have enough of…)…And if you look at the north what do you have a home for everyone, large, extensive public spaces for everyone from all walks of life to equally enjoy. A 99% literacy rate, (although one source, which has a hit-miss credibility mentioned the qualifications for being literate in the DPRK is being able to write the names of Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung, but right there you can already see the magnitude of their uniqueness. They’ve accomplished what city planners in capitalist society cannot seem to achieve: High-density without all the ugliness that usually comes with it. Yes their people starve, but if you look at how north korea operates, how it will plan things out, you realize just how smart they really are. Full of potential, all they need is the right leader. They don’t need south korea. They don’t need a society where they break their backs to bring in wealth for some fat pig’s wallet. All they need is some good economic management and they’d be fine like how they were back when Kim Il Sung was in charge. How would south korea change the former DPRK? I saw a disturbing and quite terrifying article about what would happen were Pyongyang to become capitalist. About turning kim-il-sung-square into a shopping plaza of some sort (with a swimming pool if I remember correctly.)…If the DPRK were to be taken over by the south…I hope the newly capitalist Pyongyang doesn’t go the way of east berlin and destroy its unique sociailst planning and heritage. Pyongyang MUST be preserved! the south should just build up the infrastructure but should never demolish anything that survives a second korean war. North Korea is the only nation in the world that is the way it is in every way…Pyongyang is considered boring to live in by the few westerners who have lived there. But that’s probably because there aren’t many places to shop. Maybe it’s because the few westerners who lived there have never learned to live without the constant noise from annoying adverts and shoes they don’t even need. Maybe it’s because they don’t know how to go to the damn (excuse my french, but because I was born in france, I’m excused :P) park and just relax for once. North Korea is the one place where you can get a break from the constant nonsense you find in everyday capitalist society. In the DPRK there is no such teacher or someone who does society good by contributing daily just barely getting by with their 1990s honda while some spoiled 16 year old speeds by in a jaguar. There is no such thing as a sweatshop. Here in downtown Los Angeles there are sweatshops. Here in downtown Los Angeles you have minorities asking for spare change and getting rounded up by the police. You don’t have that in the DPRK. You think capitalism works? It doesn’t work, there are so many broken promises. There are million in the US who work harder and lift more fingers in one week than donald trump ever will in a lifetime, and yet they have to sleep in their cars, if they have one. Or they must choose between themselves and their kids when it comes to eating. The system has become a slave-house for the few billionaires who control the government and consistently buy elections. Outside the US, you have factories that gate in their own workers and force them to live in worker housing paying the company for utilities. You have factories with nets set up around them so that workers can’t commit suicide via jumping off/out the building. People see a shiny iphone and they forget about he blood daimonds or the factory slaves used, yes used, to create that phone. You have the US, invading free countries that have fought against its corporate interests and replaced them with dictatorships that will support corporate interests. And in the DPRK, especially during the years of Kim Il Sung, they had food, electricity, housing…if you get rid of north korea, that will be lost forever. The least the south should do is preserve the heritage and legacy of a defunct north. Berlin did a terrible job doing that. Lets hope south korea doesn’t go that same route.

    I found this great video showing north korea…a drive from sariwon and into pyongyang…watch it, and just try to tell me of another city like that. Just try to tell me what’s not to love about DPRK urbanism.

    • Thanks for the very informative video. Far too many intelligent people base there opinions on heresay, personal beliefs and what they read and hear about in the Western media. A wise man once said, a man with a fact will always be at the mercy of a man with experience. That said, according to the 14th Dalai Lama, the CIA supported the Tibetan independence movement “not because they (the CIA) cared about Tibetan independence, but as part of their worldwide efforts to destabilize all communist governments”. So, if one wants to know when the 2 Korea’s will collide, history shows the CIA are the best ones to ask…..speculation unnecessary.

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