So, what is the fuss all about? North and South Korea effectively remain at war, not having signed a peace treaty but an armistice agreement. Both the countries have declared their desire to formally end the war with a peace treaty but as with the re-unification, it hasn’t happened yet.
North Korea recently threatened the South with consequences if it allowed the North Korean defectors to disperse leaflets over their territory that denounce the Kim dynasty. Relations have particularly been strained since the beginning of this century. North Korea has declared that it is developing a nuclear weapons program along with Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles. These programs when integrated can have devastating consequences for not just South Korea and countries in the region but the missiles with nuclear missiles can effectively reach United States.
Add to that the shelling of a South Korean island by the North Korean forces in 2010 and the destruction of a South Korean Navy ship that claimed 46 lives, also blamed on North Korea. And, a North Korean soldier recently defected to South Korea by killing his Platoon Leader and Company Commander by crossing over the heavily fortified De-Militarised Zone along the 38th Parallel, a place described by many as “Hell on Earth”.
There are people suffering in North Korea and the government is not doing enough for them. There is a severe shortage of food and clothing. The world community has also cut back on its aid because of continuing development of the Nuclear Weapons program and the long range missile tests. The World Community also fears that aid provided is not reaching the majority, for whom it is intended. Well, they might be right but the leadership was never so indifferent to the needs of its people in the past.
After the Korean War, North Korea began a program of rapid industrialisation. In fact, North Korea became one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Many Chinese nationals even migrated to North Korea when a famine struck China in 1960s. North Korea was a utopian state. The government cared for its people. There was stability in the country in comparison to the uprisings and political instability in the South.
What happened next? A self-reliant state turned into a country that required constant aid packages from other nations to feed its citizens. Famine and drought struck the country in 1990s claiming up to 2 million lives. Following the natural disasters, North Korean government came up with military first policy.
Researches have suggested that about 60% of children in the country suffer from malnutrition, the effects of which will be felt by future generations as well.
Where did it all go wrong? The collapse of Soviet Union coupled with some bad policies and the natural disasters was all it took to move the country to the rear, away from development while the other half of the Korean peninsula prospered.
The best way for North Korea to feed its citizens is by stopping the Nuclear Weapons program in the short term. It will certainly earn them some goodwill among the world community.
For the cat and mouse show to end, the leadership in the North must work along with their brothers and sisters in the South to create a united Korea that cares for its people and create a peaceful state; for they all share the same roots and have for decades faced the threat of destruction.
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