The heart of darkness: North Korea at night
A night-time satellite view of the Korean Peninsula shows a zillion lights sparkling up from South Korea while North Korea is a blank, black void. For eye-opening photos, visit: www.globalsecurity.org/military/dprk/dprk-dark.htm and page down.
South Koreans and North Koreans are virtually the same people, so why are the South Koreans so prosperous and the North Koreans so poor? Because North Korea has a medieval, communist economy and South Korea has a modern, capitalist economy. It’s that simple. Also, North Korea is ruled by Kim Jong Il, a dumb-like-a-fox madman.
Yet brains are not in short supply in either Korea. North Korean’s scientists produce nuclear weapons along with missiles capable of reaching neighboring countries such as Japan and China. At some point, the North Koreans will develop missiles able to reach our Left Coast cities such as San Francisco, Seattle and others.
The American Left derisively called it “Star Wars” when President Reagan started us on the long road toward an effective, anti-missile defense system. Today, Star Wars is more effective than we are willing to admit. Ironically, it shields even those who opposed it.
Thanks to Star Wars, the threat posed by North Korean dictator’s Kim Jong Il’s missiles is minor compared to that of a standing Army that matches that of South Korea. So, another ground assault on South Korea would plunge the world into another Korean War with almost unimaginable consequences. While our Navy’s cruise missiles and the smart bombs of our Air Force would reduce Kim Jong Il’s key facilities to rubble, that wouldn’t happen in time to prevent the destruction of Seoul and northern South Korea.
As usual, the United Nations is useless; however, North Korea’s regional neighbors might find ways to pressure Kim Jong Il into keeping his troops and his missiles at home.
Post Korean War, South Korea, like post-war West Germany, is one of the world’s economic miracles. Better yet, South Korea is a constant friend to America. In fact, South Korea sent three fine infantry divisions to help us in Vietnam: the Capital “Tiger,” the White Horse and the Blue Dragon Divisions. The Capital “Tiger” Division was located on the eastern boundary of the 1st Air Cavalry Division. We came to envy their unique, Oriental rules-of-engagement that caused the Viet Cong to flee their Tactical Area of Responsibility (TAOR) in panic.
During the U.S.S. Pueblo Crisis of 1968, yours truly spent several months in South Korea as we prepared for a crew rescue that President Johnson, eventually, decided not to attempt. While some devastation from the Korean War was still evident, it was clear that tremendous economic strides were being made. Then, twenty years later, Wonder Wife and I attended a media conference in Seoul. By then, the tiny nation’s economic progress was truly astonishing.
Hong Kong, now under Red Chinese rule, used to be the shopping delight of the Orient. Now, it is Seoul. If you go, be prepared to take along some empty luggage or, better yet, purchase some reasonably priced bags to carry home those irresistible items.
The only sad part of our stay was the short trip up to the DMZ. Looking into North Korea was far worse than looking from West Berlin’s Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin.
Our visit to Seoul was on the eve of the 1988 Summer Olympics. With their typical drive and efficiency, the Olympic Stadium was completed well in advance. We were invited inside and yours truly could not resist the opportunity to run, albeit in sneakers, a lap around the Olympic track. Fortunately, no one had a stop watch to record what was, no doubt, the slowest time ever recorded on that field of Olympic glory.
South Koreans make wonderful friends. They are smart, tough, and adore America. But, rather than emigrate here, they, for the most part, prefer to take the principles embodied in our Declaration of Independence and in our Constitution and try to apply them at home.
William Hamilton, a syndicated columnist, a featured commentator for USA Today and self-described “recovering lawyer and philosopher,” is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy and The Panama Conspiracy – two thrillers about terrorism directed against the United States.
©2006. William Hamilton.