by ARIC GONZALEZ and GRANTLEY WATERS
The country of North Korea has earned an infamous reputation in the minds of many Americans today. It is a topic consisting of nearly nothing but controversy and has been once been called a “humanitarian nightmare” by National Geographic’s Lisa Ling in her 2006 documentary, “Inside North Korea.”
The inhabitants of North Korea are taught from birth to revere the country’s leader as a deity and are often mistreated and malnourished by the decisions of this leader. Likewise, they are also indoctrinated to view other countries and their citizens as inferior and dangerous. The United States in particular is envisioned as a great enemy that stands in the way of their “Great Leader’s” progress.
How Did We Get Here?
According to an article on Khan Academy, the tensions between the nations really began 73 years ago after Japan lost its hold on Korea due to their defeat in World War II. During the Cold War, the communist Soviet Union backed the northern section of the country, while the United States backed the south. As the years went on, conflict sparked when in 1950, the Korean War began.
The war lasted about 3 years and resulted in a stalemate between the two factions. Many people do not realize that the war has still not officially ended; the conflict resulted in an armistice between the two countries which was signed on July 27, 1953. An article from the Arms Control Association claimed that in the 1980s, the Soviets also assisted the North Koreans in building their first nuclear power plant. Shortly after, North Korea ironically became a member of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) with South Korea; this agreement prohibited the production of nuclear weapons.
Regrettably, this consensus did not last. During the 1990s, President Bill Clinton attempted to negotiate an agreement that would prevent further nuclear advancements in North Korea, but the president’s term expired before this could be done. The early 2000s marked the return of the country’s weapon testing, although no nuclear tests were successful at that time.
The Arms Control Association also stated that in the beginning of 2016, North Korea released a statement announcing the detonation of their first successful hydrogen bomb. Shortly after, the United States declared that a missile defense system had been instituted in the case of a nuclear attack.
Tensions between the nations only increased as the U.S. continually condemned ballistic missile testing conducted by North Korea. North Korea, on the other hand, maintained its right to conduct testing as a sovereign nation. Peace was maintained, although Kim Jong Un ignored the United Nations’ demands to suspend all nuclear activity. Missile testing continued into the next year, resulting in sanctions being put on North Korea by the United States.
As reported by 38 North, North Korea conducted numerous range-based missile tests throughout 2017 in order to prove its capabilities. In September 2017, new U.S. President Donald Trump soon established a rather hostile relationship with Kim Jong Un.
While these hostilities have not resulted in open violence, they did put the American people on edge, as the notion of North Korea having nuclear power had been a long time fear.
An article by The Heritage Foundation in late 2017 revealed that North Korea now possesses the ability to hit the majority of the U.S. mainland. While the U.S. does possess a limited missile defense system, it is speculated that North Korea’s missiles outnumber its capabilities. In early 2018, the CDC issued a press release on safety measures to take in the event of a nuclear event, though the scenario was deemed “unlikely”.
The most recent issue is the 2018 Winter Olympics, which the International Olympic Community addressed by stating that a temporary Unified Korea would be created for the sake of the events. This so-called charm offensive has become quite a controversial move, as many question the integrity of North Korea’s word.
The threat of nuclear war has been genuine in the past. The Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 was the closest the world has ever become to being annihilated by nuclear fire. While the relations with North Korea have certainly not reached that point, it is vital to remember what is at stake when consequential matters such as this come to light. Everyone would suffer substantially in a war of that caliber. While fear cannot consume our resolve, it is crucial that everyone is aware that there is no promise of tomorrow, and that it is our actions that determine the future.