The Consequences of Korean Extremism

Worsening inter-Korean relations means that both North and South Korea will become far more vulnerable to neighboring powers’ strategic maneuvers. As a result, growing hostility between North and South may prove far more lethal to the well-being of all Koreans than former South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun’s recent tragic suicide and Kim Jong-il’s futile nuclear fireworks.

SEOUL – Once again, the Korean peninsula is experiencing one of its periodic bouts of extremism, this time marked by the suicide on May 22 of former president, Roh Moo-hyun, and North Korea’s second test of a nuclear device. Roh’s suicide is a disaster for his family and a national shame, while North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s nuclear blast is something of a temper tantrum, but one which may have dire consequences for the two Koreas and the world.

The North Korean bomb, estimated at four kilotons, does not come anywhere near the magnitude of the atomic bombs of 15-21 kilotons that America dropped on Japan 64 years ago. Indeed, this vainglorious attempt by Kim Jong-il reminds Koreans of the mother bullfrog in Aesop’s Fables who puffed herself out to imitate an ox.

Yet North Korea’s world-defying belligerency is not utter madness. Rather, it is a by-product of its own acute fears of regime collapse.

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