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Latest flare up in the Korean peninsular
November 23, 2010 12:07 AM   Subscribe

Artillery rounds are being fired across maritime borders between the Koreas. At least one soldier is dead. In what appears to be a response for South Korean military exercises (accompanying commentary from a blog which to be run by North Korea is here), the North Korean army has fired numerous (at least 200, according to CNN) artillery rounds on an island in South Korean territory, resulting in one South Korean marine dead and 15 wounded. The South Korean army has responded by returning artillery fire and deploying fighter jets but is seeking to limit the scope of the conflict. At the same time, there have been signals that South Korea was seeking redeployment of US nuclear weapons on its soil. This just one day after revelations about North Korea's uranium enrichment facilities.
posted by butwheresthesushi (150 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
this is somewhat disconcerting.
posted by sarastro at 12:09 AM on November 23, 2010


I thought this border was always under dispute and every few years that shot at each other to prove that they still can't get along. Good thing they do that, I would hate to see either side decide to just give up and not kill people to prove a point.
posted by Felex at 12:13 AM on November 23, 2010


I;m living in Seoul right now. Before I left work I asked my co-worker, "Did you see the news?" his reply was "What news?". These kinds of things always unnerve me, but most of the Koreans I've spoken to in the last hour are just sort of "Eh." about it.

Also: This stuff always happens just before payday and takes the exchange rate for a ride. Thanks for nothing, North Korea!
posted by GilloD at 12:20 AM on November 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


"German Bund futures rose on Tuesday, matching a sharp rally in U.S. Treasuries after reports of North Korean artillery fire at a South Korean island pushed investors towards safe-haven government bonds."

The usual markets response.
posted by Ardiril at 12:25 AM on November 23, 2010


I hope I didn't survive growing up in the 70s and 80s to see the nuclear holocaust kick off here, a day after my daughter's fourth birthday. Because that would, you know, suck.
posted by rodgerd at 12:27 AM on November 23, 2010 [14 favorites]


This guy is doing a good job translating Korean headlines to English for the Twits.
posted by Jimbob at 12:30 AM on November 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


"I thought this border was always under dispute and every few years that shot at each other to prove that they still can't get along"

True, but the DPRK recently unveiling it's shiny, state-of-the-art uranium centrifuge and that might be a game-changer this time around.

I'm surprised (and saddened) that a ROK marine was killed, but also surprised that a gaggle of civilians weren't blown up. It looks like a number of civilian houses were annihilated.

I was just joking to a friend about how much safer I feel in Daegu rather than Seoul.
posted by bardic at 12:42 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Surely the North doesn't think this will stop that military exercise. It's probably meant to impress and frighten people back home, and shore up support in the face of whatever response South Korea makes to the provocation.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:45 AM on November 23, 2010


Is the South still feeding the North? Shouldn't they just decide to let a few (thousand) of them starve until they start turning their swords into ploughshares?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:49 AM on November 23, 2010


Kim III taking the howitzer out for a spin
posted by clavdivs at 12:52 AM on November 23, 2010


Best wishes to our Korean Mefites, that they get to stay safe and out of harm's way today.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:54 AM on November 23, 2010 [39 favorites]


This must be that 3AM phone call Clinton was referring to.
posted by marco_nj at 12:54 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


This seems like an escalation (albeit) limited. The North also sank a ship earlier this year. I don't think there's any way to negotiate in good faith with the Northern regime. Humanitarian aid gets re-directed, capricious acts of violence occur regularly. Neat thing to do is tell them to get fucked and respond as appropriate.
posted by awfurby at 12:56 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is the South still feeding the North? Shouldn't they just decide to let a few (thousand) of them starve until they start turning their swords into ploughshares?

The famine of the 1990s killed (potentially) millions of North Koreans yet the DPRK still remained one of the most militarized societies in the entire world, beginning work on a nuclear weapons program during this time. As far as I know famine is still a problem, and still kills people, yet North Korea adopts the same posture to the rest of the world over and over again. There is no reason to think thousands of civilians dying would have any effect on national policy.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:57 AM on November 23, 2010 [9 favorites]


"Is the South still feeding the North?"

Yes, along with the US, Japan, and China.

It's way more complicated than you make it out to be. Although there are North Koreans starving as we speak, even with the on-going aid.

"until they start turning their swords into ploughshares"

We aren't dealing with rational actors in the North Korean regime. The country has endured multiple famines and the state is no closer to a revolution than it ever was before.

The leaders are pretty smart however, and there's nobody better when it comes to brinksmanship.

IMO there's potentially a qualitative difference this time around re: North Korea's nuclear bomb making capability. So fuck it, maybe this is the time the quasi-symbolic border dispute leads to an all out war. If so, I was planning on having a few drinks tonight anyways.
posted by bardic at 12:57 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


"neat" should be "best" btw.
posted by awfurby at 12:58 AM on November 23, 2010


God, I hope I'm not proven wrong on this, but I've been fascinated about Korean politics for years, and don't think war is in any way inevitable or even likely.

The south doesn't want war; for starters, the cost is more than they can bear -- Seoul would suffer incredible devastation from DPRK (North Korean) artillery. And even if they could press a button and eject the DPRK leadership, and peacefully reunify the peninsula under Southern leadership, they get a lot of semiuseless land, millions of brainwashed, malnourished, unskilled North Koreans, and no assets. It's an order of magnitude more difficult than the German reunification (there were 4 West Germans for every East, there are 2 South Koreans for every North); due to isolation, even the languages have started to drift apart.

The north doesn't want war, or to be precise, the leadership of the DPRK don't want war. Kim Jong-Il has a pleasant life with all of the luxury goods he wants; he has millions of people worshipping him. And it's pretty clear that the DPRK can't win a war against the South, much less if you add the US into the mix. Yes, they have a huge army and loads of artillery and so on. A porcupine has thousands of quills, yet it'll never attack you. I suggest that, although they are shitheads, the leadership is smart.

They are playing in a region where the neighbours (the DPRK propaganda site mentions the 'six country talks') are the world's #2 and #3 superpowers (China/Russia, you argue the order), an economic superpower (Japan), a decent regional power in the South that has significant financial and military muscle, and the US of course, who is interested in everything everywhere. That's the definition of a high-stakes table, and North Korea has been playing poker against these guys for 65 years, from a deck of 2s, 3s, 4s and 5s. You don't do that by being dumb or insane or crazy or ideologues, you do that by being clever as hell and bluffing for all you're worth. And every once in a while, pulling some crazy shit, like shelling a random island, or showing off your uranium centrifuges. So they can't tell if you're bluffing or crazy.

The other thing is that the DPRK happens internally to need shows of strength right now, since Kim Jong-Il is reportedly sick as hell and his son Kim Jong-un is being moved into position. A good fight against the provocative actions of the puppet leadership of the South and their US imperialist cronies will help reassure people that the "Brilliant Comrade" (Jong-un) is just as capable as his father, the "Dear Leader".

It's terrifying and stupid, but the DPRK need one of these shenanigans every once in a while to convince the rest of the world that they're still unpredictable, and that they just might do it. I don't think so, but -- and this is the beauty -- despite all of my blather here assuring you all otherwise, I just can't be sure.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 12:58 AM on November 23, 2010 [141 favorites]


Another twitter account to follow.

"3 hrs. into crisis not one ROK gov't official has appeared on TV to speak to reporters or the nation. Residents on Yeongpyeong describing scene of utter chaos. Mountains, homes ablaze from DPRK artillery attack."
posted by naju at 1:00 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Homeboy Trouble, thanks for that. Over the last six months I have 'un-plugged' from media (no radio or TV, or newspapers) yet get up this morning and see this on Twitter, have started looking at media reports, and felt ill. I know it is easy for people to make sarcastic comments and make light of it all, but your assessment is making me feel a little less queasy.
That said, when you have a mad leader who is ill in the process of handing leadership over to a potentially screwed-up son with a point to prove surrounded by a despotic ruling class, it is hard to figure out how things are going to run.
posted by Megami at 1:01 AM on November 23, 2010


Is the South still feeding the North? Shouldn't they just decide to let a few (thousand) of them starve until they start turning their swords into ploughshares?

The NK leadership will be happy to let them starve while forcing them to beat those plowshares into swords at bayonet point. The motive behind the international food aid really is humanitarian.
Mostly.
posted by clarknova at 1:05 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't forget that China doesn't want a war, either. With the DMZ so heavily mined and defended, a lot of the refugees would head for the border with China. And China doesn't want them anymore than South Korea does. It's sad, but my wife's high school students feel almost no responsibility for or connection to North Korea. To them it's a problem for their grandparents
posted by GilloD at 1:05 AM on November 23, 2010


This may be too glib, but it seems like a timely retort by the DPRK on the heels of Obama's recent Asia trip, which appeared to be a dud from a policy perspective. Throw in the daring, "Fuck you, impotent Western running dogs!" of the uranium story and the recent news that Kim Jong-un would be succeeding Kim Jong-il, and it seems like a ripe time for the DPRK to assert itself militarily.
posted by mosk at 1:05 AM on November 23, 2010


The NYT article does a pretty decent job of putting this in the context of the more recent military back and forth on the peninsula.
posted by IvoShandor at 1:08 AM on November 23, 2010


The south doesn't want war; for starters, the cost is more than they can bear

of course they don't and of course it is - the problem being, it's not up to them

The north doesn't want war, or to be precise, the leadership of the DPRK don't want war.

no, they just want to take insane chances to "win", whatever it is they define as "winning" - the problem being is that this kind of brinkmanship is way too easy to miscalculate

and i really wonder if this time they have miscalculated

look how world war i started - no one wanted a war - they just miscalculated how far they could bully their opponents

if they haven't done it this time, eventually n korea will miscalculate and shit will get out of hand
posted by pyramid termite at 1:14 AM on November 23, 2010


Why is China letting North Korea do this?

Distract the U.S. From other matters maybe?
posted by dibblda at 1:16 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Apparently the aerial view of Yeonpyeong post-attack.
posted by naju at 1:19 AM on November 23, 2010


The other thought I had on the subject is that China doesn't want war. (Last time, Kim Il-Sung did a great job of playing Stalin and Mao off of each other until Mao agreed to back him). China has a role to play, but the DPRK are definitely their own master. To start with, South Korea is now a prosperous trading partner. Secondly, if the government of the North fails, the refugees can't go south -- why would they, the South is a puppet imperialist state and China is a noble socialist one -- because the DMZ at the border has so many landmines it's impassible. Just a 2 km strip of the densest landmine field on the planet. So China has 25 million refugees going across the Yalu river in an area with a sizable Korean minority in place. And thirdly, there's a benefit to the fact that when you hear someone describe an "East Asian dictator with a nuclear weapons program and an atrocious human rights record", Hu Jintao doesn't pop into your head.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 1:20 AM on November 23, 2010 [8 favorites]




Apparently the aerial view of Yeonpyeong post-attack.

I'm seeing reports that that's actually an old photo of Baghdad and not Korea.
posted by item at 1:24 AM on November 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Why is China letting North Korea do this?

Why do you believe China has a say?
posted by molecicco at 1:25 AM on November 23, 2010


Thanks MeFi we had some great threads. See you on the other side of Armagedon. I hope.
posted by humanfont at 1:32 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Molecicco


They seem to prop up north Korea.


If you hold the purse strings, you have a say. If China told the Kims that they were shutting down the border you can pretty much expect NK to shut it's mouth and stop attacking the south.
posted by dibblda at 1:34 AM on November 23, 2010


I hope I didn't survive growing up in the 70s and 80s to see the nuclear holocaust kick off here

Could be bad, but nuclear holocaust is not on the table. It's possible that NK has a few shitty poorly cobbled together fizzy atom bombs, but they don't have any real delivery systems of the type required to cause armageddon. The worst that could happen is one or two megadeaths. Hope this helps, have a nice day.
posted by Justinian at 1:39 AM on November 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


I don't think anyone is expecting NK to obliterate the planet using their own nuclear weapons - it's the Dr Strangelove stuff other parties might try after the nukes start flying that have people worried.
posted by Dr Dracator at 1:53 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


North Korea is NOT a puppet state the way, say, East Germany was in regards to the USSR. NK may be propped by the Chinese, but that's more because China doesn't want to deal with the NK problem on their own soil. While the Chinese may have *some* influence over NK (mainly through foreign aid channels), I think they're reluctant to get stern with them because they don't have any reliable intel on just where on the insane-o-meter the DPRK leadership is these days. What's to stop NK from taking their crazy on the road to China? As long as the DPRK is saber rattling their kin to the South, China doesn't have to worry them coming across their border.
posted by KingEdRa at 1:54 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


gnossie: "Oh sheesh. Is this really what Metafilter is for? Linking to CNN? This post shouldn't be here."

Missed the other seven links which weren't to CNN, did you? Flag it and move on if you don't like it - I tend to think this is pretty important and would like to discuss it.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:03 AM on November 23, 2010 [32 favorites]


President of South Korea must be a tough job. How do you reassure your people that they're safe and you're responding appropriately to this latest provocation when you really can't do anything of the kind? Dealing with North Korea must be a bit like theater, except the cannons are real and people are actually killed sometimes.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:19 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think anyone is expecting NK to obliterate the planet using their own nuclear weapons - it's the Dr Strangelove stuff other parties might try after the nukes start flying that have people worried.

Who? The Russians? France?
posted by Justinian at 2:19 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think anyone is expecting NK to obliterate the planet using their own nuclear weapons - it's the Dr Strangelove stuff other parties might try after the nukes start flying that have people worried.

They wouldn't destroy the world, but obliterating Seoul, and perhaps Tokyo doesn't sound like a lot of fun to anyone.
posted by delmoi at 2:27 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]




If all the killing machines have any purpose at all, they should be used to kill the regime and set the NK people free.
posted by eeeeeez at 2:39 AM on November 23, 2010


I'm in a suburb about half an hour outside of Seoul.

I pointed the news out to my co-worker. She sighed and said "Not again." It seemed to rank about a 2 on ger annoyance meter. More than if she'd tripped. Much less than something like having to do extra paperwork.

On the bus home I talked with a guy who is doing his military service at our school. "My friend is there," he told me. "He's a soldier. He called me and told it was happening." He was anxious that the conflict would become an emergency situation because if that happened he'd be called to become a soldier. Then we got off the bus: he went to the gym, I went home.

So while there is concern (amongst my very small sample size of the Korean population), normal life is plodding along.

Though I did see a helicopter in the sky!
posted by festivemanb at 2:48 AM on November 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Easy way to see if shit is really likely to happen: if this changes from India/Pakistan-style artillery handbags to an actual DMZ incursion by either side. Other than that, I'd also have to agree that it's all DPRK dramas.
posted by jaduncan at 3:05 AM on November 23, 2010


I was a little freaked out about this a few hours ago when it was on-going, but as of now it seems as if this event paled in comparison to the sinking of the Cheonan, and the South Korean government did its damndest to "contain" that issue as an isolated act of aggression rather than a causus belli

Then again, maybe it's wishful thinking. I'm not in the mood for World War III quite yet.
posted by bardic at 3:34 AM on November 23, 2010


Related note. During the Korean war there were many atrocities committed by both the US troops and the South Korean forces. Gen McCarthur stepped in to make sure only those photos showing such crimes by North Korea were allowed to be published. I have an article about this at my site today. A reconciliation group formed after the fighting ceased to placate all involved.
posted by Postroad at 3:41 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know that Uranium would change thing between N & S Korea. I thought they had more than enough chemical warheads to kill 3/4 of Seoul? I think they're pursuing nukes so that they can threaten Japan (or maybe the western US).
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:16 AM on November 23, 2010


No, the real sign that something's afoot would be the attempted evacuation of Seoul. The hell of the strategic situation is that so much of South Korea's population is in the north's artillery footprint... the South is likely to hum and sing and smile, right up until the first shells land in the suburbs.

What they're likely to do in lieu of all-out war is to capture or sink appreciable portions of the North's navy and blockade their ports, and this nonsense has likely pissed off Beijing to the point where they'll go along with a blockade for a while.

But this is unlikely unless the North steps things up further. What's more likely is that the sugar-daddies turn off the taps for a bit.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:23 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


That's great is starts with an artillery strike, sunken ships and airplanes. Eiminem is not afraid.
posted by humanfont at 4:25 AM on November 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


In many ways, North Korea reminds me of an abusive, alcoholic parent. Everyone around it suffers from its behavior, and believes appeasement will help keep things quiet and stable, hopefully nudging it towards changing its ways. What ends up happening is that support legitimizes and enables its bad behavior, but on the other hand, making a direct intervention could lead to disastrous consequences. So I just don't know. I'd hate to be one of the people in charge of taking a decision in this case, and hate even more to have my very life depend upon those decision-makers.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:33 AM on November 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


If all the killing machines have any purpose at all, they should be used to kill the regime and set the NK people free.

Ok sure, freedom is great and insane dictators are mad, but what does this even mean? At a very real level, the entire North Korean regime is inseparable from the people. There are essentially no civic institutions that aren't departments of the state and party. Kill the regime and what's left exactly?

Suppose the US and South Korea invade tomorrow (The Atlantic played this game in 2005). First of all, you have the very real question of China's role in such an invasion. China will want to prevent refugees from flooding the border, so it moves troops to the region. China is supposed to join the North Koreans against us under the 1961 treaty, but let's presume they don't, not just because it seems reasonable, but for peace of mind if nothing else.

So after the invasion, we're presiding over a citizenry that could easily have just lost a million members, been exposed to who knows what chemical and biological weapons, has been brainwashed since birth to believe that a US/South Korean invasion is their worst possible nightmare, has few useful skills and minimal exports, and oh yeah, is absolutely fucking starving to death, especially as whatever meager food stocks exist will have been diverted to military use. If everyone isn't too damn tired to fight, we could easily see insurgent attacks from loyalists long after the invasion. Add to this the crumbling and non-existent infrastructure that will be even more non-existent after war, the lack of any remotely recent tradition of political leadership and discourse, and absolutely no economy. What on earth does anyone do with that?

The North Korean regime is a horror of horrors, but there's no good way out of this. That's what makes this such a hard problem. Setting people free is only possible when someone else is holding them captive. When the population is held captive by their own minds, tanks and shells will just deepen their resolve.
posted by zachlipton at 4:54 AM on November 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm in Korea now, am I reckless or stupid for not feeling scared by this?

Honestly, I think the North Korean leadership is far more rational than people give them credit for, yes they're reckless and unpredictable but they know there's a line they can't cross. North Korea doesn't want war and I think "winning" to them is just surviving and allowing the continuation of the regime. While provocations like this may seem reckless, they are really calculated and reasoned maneuvers that solidify Kim Jong Il's leadership, and the future leadership of his son.

I don't know what's the best strategy to deal with the North. I'm starting to think the most realistic solution is to wait for the old leadership to die off and hope the younger generation are less authoritarian and allow the country to open up. Of course, that's a big assumption and how many poor North Koreans are going to starve to death or disappear to death camps in the meantime? It's just all around a tragic situation.
posted by Shesthefastest at 4:56 AM on November 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


This doesn't have anything to do with the nail clippers I brought on the plane, does it?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:16 AM on November 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm starting to think the most realistic solution is to wait for the old leadership to die off and hope the younger generation are less authoritarian and allow the country to open up.

I really hope that's not the consensus view among other Koreans. Or perhaps the news there is different.

North Korean dictator-in-waiting orders deadly artillery attack.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:36 AM on November 23, 2010


"North Korean dictator-in-waiting orders deadly artillery attack."

Interesting that the source in that is an DPRK watcher in China. Wonder why the Chinese would be interested in pushing the line that this is Dear Leader Jr. flexing his muscles. Surely that just amps up the tension?
posted by Happy Dave at 5:42 AM on November 23, 2010


Is it outside the realm of possibility that it's not a clever ruse by Chinese manipulators but rather an accurate reading of the situation? Isn't this what everyone predicted would happen during the transition?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:47 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


No, not outside the realm of possibility at all. And I realise that a Chinese academic's opinions are pretty far from an official Chinese statement. However, playing Kim Jong-Un up as 'dictator-in-waiting' does sound like the beginnings of justificatory rhetoric, i.e. 'of course we had to take him down, he was a South Asian potential Hitler'.
posted by Happy Dave at 5:53 AM on November 23, 2010


Although on re-reading, that might be coming from the Sydney Morning Herald, rather than said academic.
posted by Happy Dave at 5:54 AM on November 23, 2010


Honestly, I think the North Korean leadership is far more rational than people give them credit for, yes they're reckless and unpredictable but they know there's a line they can't cross.

I would hope that North Korean leadership is in fact aware of the DMZ.
posted by clearly at 5:56 AM on November 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


I just want to clarify that I'm an American temporarily living in Korea.

Also, if the article you linked to is true, it does support my comment that this attack is a calculated move to cement the legitimacy of Kim Jong Un's role as successor.

And what I meant by my comment is that the various strategies of giving aid or denying aid to North Korea haven't resulted in any change from Kim Jong Il, he clearly isn't going to voluntarily be less of a dictator. And the giving of food aid is problematic because much of it gets squirreled away by the leadership, not much of it reaches the people in the countryside. I was suggesting that subsequent generations that are further removed from the revolution and the Korean War would have less of a dedication to the state ideology and thus be more willing to reform. I did say that it was a big assumption to make and the article you linked to isn't encouraging in that regard.
posted by Shesthefastest at 5:58 AM on November 23, 2010


Koreans killing Koreans.

Like Vietnamese killing Vietnamese.

Like Chinese killing Chinese.

Like Americans killing Americans.

All this North vs South shit is getting old.
posted by bwg at 6:04 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


All this North vs South shit is getting old.

Don't forget East vs. West (RIP Tupac/Biggie).
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:08 AM on November 23, 2010 [18 favorites]


BBC: 1347: Yonhap reports that hours after the incident, North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-il, and his youngest son, Kim Jong-un, toured a soy sauce factory and a medical school in Pyongyang.

posted by R. Mutt at 6:38 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


The North Korean regime is a horror of horrors, but there's no good way out of this.

When I wax pessimisitic about the American political system, I'm often challenged, "What's your solution?"

I always want to reply, "What's the solution for the North Koreans?"

Who says there has to be a solution?

Sometimes you're just screwed.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:46 AM on November 23, 2010 [11 favorites]


I pointed the news out to my co-worker. She sighed and said "Not again." It seemed to rank about a 2 on ger annoyance meter. More than if she'd tripped. Much less than something like having to do extra paperwork.

I'm glad I read that this morning before listening to NPR on the drive to work - where the guy being interviewed on Morning Edition took pains to emphasize that this was the Worst Thing Ever (since the end of the Korean War), despite the fact that South Korean TVs were not pre-empting their normal shows and university students were laughing as they strolled across campus.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:50 AM on November 23, 2010


Can't missiles from North Korea hit San Francisco at this point? You'd think we'd be taking a far more active role in this... oh, wait, we tried that once, and we were there for two years--or eleven years, depending upon whether or not you cleave to Alan Alda's version of the war.

(Trivia: because it was 2 1/2 hours long, in the days before VCRs were common in consumer households, and nobody wanted to leave the room during commercials lest they miss a single minute of it. 77% of households watched the episode. Three minutes after Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen ended, the water-flow in New York City increased by 300,000,000 gallons, thanks to most of the population of the city finally going to the bathroom and flushing the toilets.

What this has to do with North Korea firing missiles at South Korea, I don't know, but it's an interesting tidbit.)
posted by tzikeh at 7:00 AM on November 23, 2010


FWIW: "Rumors of the havoc wreaked by widespread simultaneous toilet flushing after popular broadcast events (such as the final episode of TV's M*A*S*H in 1983) have been spread for decades, dating as far back as the 1930s Amos 'n' Andy radio program."
posted by BeerFilter at 7:12 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks MeFi we had some great threads. See you on the other side of Armagedon. I hope.

I can only hope that was sarcastic -- if not, man, turn it down a notch. The sky isn't falling and the world doesn't face anything approaching the risk of nuclear annihilation. The greatest risk is to those living in Seoul, who are within range of an awful lot of artillery shells. There is no conceivable reason that the Chinese government would engage in a full-out war with the United States over events on the Korean peninsula -- this is not 1950, the Chinese government is an entirely different kind of beast than it was then, with an overriding interest in internal stability and building up their national economic power, both of which would be threatened by a full-scale conflict. The Chinese see the DPRK as an annoying thorn in their side rather than an ally for whom they will spill blood and treasure.
posted by modernnomad at 7:23 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think that the Chinese still see some reason to support North Korea, since the two governments both continue to use communist ideology as a justification for their decidedly non-communist despotism. This makes them allies at least in theory. There are certain truths (such as the abject failure of Maosim) that the government of China is still not willing to admit. Nonetheless, I agree with modernnomad that China will not go to war on behalf of North Korea, a nation which is of no real importance (militarily, economically, or in any other way) to China. China may still want to block UN action against North Korea. An alliance of convenience between North Korea and Iran would not seem to be impossible, although ideologically the two countries share nothing other than a hatred of the US. If there is a serious conflict between the two Koreas which does not draw in the rest of the world, it would still have serious economic consequences, given that South Korea has become a significant part of the global economy.
posted by grizzled at 7:45 AM on November 23, 2010


Unless more Korea hands or stav shows up, the Marmot's Hole is probably a better source of info about what's going on in Korea than this MeFi thread.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:51 AM on November 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


The always-erudite commenters in my local newspaper are pretty convinced that this is Obama's fault.
posted by COBRA! at 8:01 AM on November 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


"Rumors of the havoc wreaked by widespread simultaneous toilet flushing after popular broadcast events (such as the final episode of TV's M*A*S*H in 1983) have been spread for decades, dating as far back as the 1930s Amos 'n' Andy radio program."
Snopes is usually better than this, but there is some truth to this one. (Granted, instead of Football in the US, it's Hockey in Canada, and no actual "havoc" ensued. But still... how did we get on this topic?
posted by schmod at 8:07 AM on November 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Truly fantastic mispost.
posted by aramaic at 8:26 AM on November 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Unless more Korea hands or stav shows up, the Marmot's Hole is probably a better source of info about what's going on in Korea than this MeFi thread.

Not that there is anything wrong with the Marmot's Hole thread, but this thread is perfectly informative, if you tune out the nonsense. Homeboy Trouble's analysis is pretty much entirely correct.

My credentials for saying that? I recently left Korea after five years, during which time I discussed North Korea with a lot of very well-informed and well-connected people (some of whom you've probably seen on TV today, others who had access to classified security briefings).

One of the problems is that no one knows what's going on inside the DPRK leadership. That's very unusual in today's world, that there are simply no reliable first-hand or second-hand sources of information about a major world player. There's an information vacuum there which lends itself to weak analysis and wishful thinking.

Regarding China and the DPRK, China wants stability, for obvious reasons. The North's leadership wants to stay in power; assume that's the reason for every action they take and you won't go far wrong. Most of the time these aims are compatible and that's their friendly international relationship. However, sometimes the DPRK leadership needs to sacrifice a little local stability in order to maintain its grasp on power. Perhaps it wants to resurrect the six-party talks and get some more concessions. Perhaps it needs to ensure that Kim Jong Un has enough authority with the generals to take over at a very young age for a Confucian society. Perhaps the generals are more powerful than we think and they are acting autonomously to ensure that the 'Military First' policy continues. The wisest thing anyone can say is that we don't know and we can't know - see above.

Anyway, China won't like this sort of dangerous provocation, but the North is just as ready to call China's bluff as anyone else's. They trust China's not going to do anything to threaten regional stability. In fact, despite the fact that no one apart from the DPRK leadership likes the status quo, everyone (ROK, China, Russia, USA, Japan) believes that it's much better than the alternative. That's why it's so hard to see a happy solution to this problem.

If you want to learn more, Brian Myers has some interesting ideas (he can at least read source documents, which a lot of Korea experts can't) and Andrei Lankov has been watching North Korea closely for a long time. Pay attention to genuine specialists like them and ignore anyone who doesn't have a trail that shows they've been studying Korea for at least a decade.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 8:48 AM on November 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


Try to contain your melodrama here.
posted by DrPavlov at 9:07 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know, right? One dead, 15 wounded, sheesh! Chill already.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:08 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


You kids wouldn't have been able to hack the brinkmanship of the 80s.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:14 AM on November 23, 2010 [9 favorites]


"... decidedly non-communist despotism ..."

What does that even MEAN?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:16 AM on November 23, 2010


You kids wouldn't have been able to hack the brinkmanship of the 80s.

This is beyond 'Brinkmanship'.
posted by clavdivs at 9:24 AM on November 23, 2010


My mistake, this is clearly the apocalypse.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:31 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe not the apocalypse, but can we agree it's, uh, terrible?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:35 AM on November 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Marisa, you're totally harshing entropicamericana's snarky unaffected hipster derision of others' legitimate concerns. LOSER!
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:39 AM on November 23, 2010


Busty Old Fool, Homeboy Trouble, and some others have a good take on this.

The DPRK has been something of a thorn in the side of China for at least a decade or more, and China just has not dealt with the situation. I imagine ideology and historical tradition are at play, but more importantly, the Chinese simply don't have the influence in North Korea that they would like to have, or would like everyone to think they have. They have spared themselves some embarrassment by not confronting NK quietly or otherwise, but you can be sure they are concerned about the situation.

The Chinese also really do not want to see war in Korea, but their options are limited. I don't think they would come to NK's aid as they did in the 1950's, but they would be very angry at the exposure of their weak relationship with North Korea. A war would very embarrassing for them because of the exposure of their failure to reign in North Korea, but also for the possibility that they would be exposed as they abandon their "close ally" in it's most dire hour.

The North Koreans are neither crazy nor stupid, but they are becoming more and more desperate. They have played their role masterfully for the last 50 years, but they are becoming irrelevant as the Cold War is essentially over. Years ago, after the Soviet Union fell apart, some analysts correctly announced that we were moving from a situation of high tension/high stability to one of low tension/low stability. North Korea is one of the final remaining chapters in the close of the Cold War.

It is also a uniquely dangerous situation. The Americans would be loathe to militarily engage North Korea right now - not because of nuclear fears, but the possible damage to the relationship with China could be catastrophic, if not leading to outright war. The U.S. has enough on it's plate right now.

On the other hand, a good war might be just what we need to recover from the Great Recession...(some gallows humor for you :)
posted by Xoebe at 9:40 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's unfortunate, yes.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:42 AM on November 23, 2010


Let's say tomorrow there's all-out war between DPRK and South Korea. Is there really a danger of a nuclear holocaust? Does the DPRK actually have allies with stockpiles that are willing to commit to something like that on their behalf?
posted by tehloki at 9:51 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can't missiles from North Korea hit San Francisco at this point? You'd think we'd be taking a far more active role in this... oh, wait, we tried that once, and we were there for two years--or eleven years, depending upon whether or not you cleave to Alan Alda's version of the war.

Probably not yet. Their longest range missile, the Taepodong-2 could theoretically hit the western US, but I don't they've ever had a successful test of it. It's also believed that at long ranges it would be very inaccurate and unable to carry much payload.
posted by justkevin at 9:53 AM on November 23, 2010


There really isn't a good solution for North Korea. The south certainly doesn't want the regime to fail. The thought of millions of refuges streaming across the border is one that I am sure keeps the government up at night. With the Juche idea, the north will always pull these type of stunts to show that they are in control and can do whatever the hell they want. Then they will use the incident to negotiate for more aid.

They need something to barter for aid and it sure ain't going to be vinalon, it's not like they're printing money. Oh wait, they actually are. It's estimated that North Korea is one of the main sources for counterfeit US currency. Here's a great article on counterfeiting in North Korea.
posted by misterpatrick at 9:57 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


It is unfortunate, but this is how North Korea celebrates regime changes. Our choices are basically ignore them, or accept that as a world we've got a duty to the people suffering in durance vile. As a world, we've pretty much chosen option one. It is completely horrible though. It isn't going to start WW3 because nobody is willing to go that far, with the possible exception of the North Korean leadership. They could literally start crucifying their population and nothing would happen to them. That is how fucked we are on the global level. I wish I still thought people would go to war over stuff like this.
posted by Peztopiary at 10:04 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let's say tomorrow there's all-out war between DPRK and South Korea. Is there really a danger of a nuclear holocaust? Does the DPRK actually have allies with stockpiles that are willing to commit to something like that on their behalf?

The use of just one or two low yield nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula would do a lot of things. For one thing, millions of people would be killed. Second, South Korea's economy (one of the top 20 in the world) would be destroyed, and this would have implications for not only regional security for years to come, but also to the world economy. Fallout would create havoc not only with Japanese agriculture, but would likely reach the western coast of North America. The ozone layer in the northern hemisphere would be seriously affected.

If NORK used conventional weapons (ie, artillery bombardment) against Seoul and Gyeonggi, thousands of people could die, South Korea's economy would be seriously damaged, and the world economy would be threatened with recession or even depression.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:07 AM on November 23, 2010


And if NK did decide to go nuclear, then it would probably pretty quickly devolve into a "death by cop (read: foreign nukes)" suicide mission and they could just decide to deploy them at not just South Korean targets but Tokyo and perhaps even China. Who knows. As far as it becoming an international conflict and epic nuclear holocaust, no, probably not, not right away, but new tensions/conflicts might arise after a few million people die and a couple of countries are destroyed.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:13 AM on November 23, 2010


I wish I still thought people would go to war over stuff like this.

The problem is that it's not that easy. You go to war to effect regime change in North Korea, now you have a war in which it's not that hard to run up to millions of deaths. And then you have to have some combination of the US, South Korea, and/or China trying to work with a population that's been brainwashed from birth to think they're the very definition of Evil. Humanitarian crisis that makes Iraq look like a cupcake party. It's not just "march in, take out the bad guys." The best case scenario still involves the death of hundreds of thousands and catastrophic damage to one of the world's biggest economies, wrecking the livelihoods of millions more.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:19 AM on November 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Though I agree with you, Tomorrowful, it's not like millions haven't already died needlessly under the current regime because of preventable famine and casualties from work camps.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:21 AM on November 23, 2010


My mistake, this is clearly the apocalypse.
It takes courage to admit ones mistake.
posted by clavdivs at 10:23 AM on November 23, 2010


The use of just one or two low yield nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula would do a lot of things. For one thing, millions of people would be killed.

Millions of people from a low yield weapon?
posted by smackfu at 10:44 AM on November 23, 2010


Let's say tomorrow there's all-out war between DPRK and South Korea. Is there really a danger of a nuclear holocaust? Does the DPRK actually have allies with stockpiles that are willing to commit to something like that on their behalf?

It depends on how many deliverable weapons North Korea has and their strength. We believe that they've had one successful nuclear test (although it is not inconceivable it was faked), but that was only a few kilotons (probably about 4) and we don't know how big the device was-- it's entirely possible they can't make a nuke small enough to be carried by a missile, in which case they'll have a hard time delivering it.

"Fat man" was 4500 kg, far too heavy to be carried on any of their tested missiles.

I can't imagine a scenario where China uses nuclear weapons on North Korea's behalf.
posted by justkevin at 10:48 AM on November 23, 2010


The DPRK has been something of a thorn in the side of China for at least a decade or more, and China just has not dealt with the situation.

I'd be cautious extending this line of thinking too far. North Korea is important to China for two reasons. First, instability or outright revolt within North Korea means millions of north Korean refugees spilling across the border into china.

Secondly, and more importantly, the fall of the north Korean government would mean almost certain unification with the south. But the South can't afford it to develop the north on it's own. To do that would require massive foreign investment. China's problem is that foreign investment would pour into the north of a reunited Korea under Southern control without hesitation. Korea is an economic powerhouse, and the opportunity presented by a cheap northern labor force combined with a capitalist, market economy would rival the economic opportunities in China. And that is the risk to China - a diversion of foreign investment to a viable Asian competitor. A strong united Korea allied with the United States wreaks havoc on Chinese plans for regional dominance, resource and manufacturing dominance, and growth.

As long as North Korea is a basket case, South Korea is a mature economy. If the North opens up under Southern control, the re-unified Korea could be the greatest economic growth story of the 21st century. And that's bad for China.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:54 AM on November 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


Let's say tomorrow there's all-out war between DPRK and South Korea. Is there really a danger of a nuclear holocaust?

No. Even if DPRK sets off one in the south, there is no point in retaliating, because a nuclear device used against the North would only render unusable the territory that the South would be capturing in the next 200 hours. The use of a nuclear device by the north would only serve to eliminate any hand-wringing concerns over the casualties the North suffers as the South Korean-US death machine grinds up territory to the north.

The conventional military of the South combined with what would almost certainly be a massive deployment of the US military would utterly decimate the North Korean military.

The real danger is that the use of a nuclear device would turn DPRK into a clusterfuck as its panicked neighbors--China to the West, and Russia to the North--also stream in to the country in a race to the capital. Think East Germany. The danger is not nuclear, the danger is a 4-way uncoordinated invasion from all sides, sea and air with no free press on the ground keeping track of the respective atrocities.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:07 AM on November 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Though ordinary South Koreans may feign indifference or even honestly believe it's just another in a whole lifetime of events, this is being called one of the most serious North-South incidents in decades.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 11:13 AM on November 23, 2010


Armchair DRPK expert here (meaning I've read a half dozen books in the past month).

Quoting the line from The Cleanest Race, How North Koreans See Themselves by B R Myers that describes the North Korea mindset:
The Korean people are too pure blooded, and therefore too virtuous, to survive in this evil world without a great parental leader
It would seem that in the transition to a new leader, Kim Jong-un, is much like how a child of divorced parents new step-dad has to prove his legitimacy to the child through token benevolence (I imagine that school children in Pyongyang got a cake or treat from the new guy) and even harsher punishment to the threat of the family unit both to external and internal forces.
posted by wcfields at 11:21 AM on November 23, 2010


It is unfortunate, but this is how North Korea celebrates regime changes.

KJI also had a bloody path coming up.

1983 Rangoon Bombing - SK President is nearly assassinated. A chunk of his cabinet IS assassinated, along with 4 Burmese nationals; 21 dead 46 wounded.

1987 KAL 858 Bombing - 115 civilian dead.

This is perhaps why a lot of people in-thread don't view this as the apocalypse, and why many Korean citizens a stone's throw from the DMZ rate this as a minor nagging dread rather than the full-on freak-out session it seems to deserve - 60 years of this bullshit is numbing.

I'm sure a few people are thinking "at least they're military targets lately..."
posted by Tikirific at 11:30 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Millions of people from a low yield weapon?

23 million people live in and around Seoul.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:34 AM on November 23, 2010


Let's say tomorrow there's all-out war between DPRK and South Korea. Is there really a danger of a nuclear holocaust? Does the DPRK actually have allies with stockpiles that are willing to commit to something like that on their behalf?

One of the factors that contribued to WW I, which was a stupid, irrational war that destroyed many of the participants (the Russian ruling classes, the Prussians, the German royal family, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottomans) and crippled others (Britain) was the movement of troops. The use of rail for a land war was a key strategy in all the continental army's plans, and an understanding of timetables and logistics drove the generals of several of the belligerants to the conclusion that if one country mobilised, all countries must. Because otherwise the countries who failed to do so would be overrun before they could assemble a proper defence.

That was millitary doctrine of the time, and it informed many of the political decisions made in Russia, Germany, and France.

Nuclear strategy - and even North Korea's conventional weapons aimed at South Korea - can drive the same sort of analysis. Once hostilities escalate beyond a certain point, you will lose unless you retaliate. Of course, that may spiral out of control. No-one would say, "I'd rather nuke the world than lose South Korea"; that would be insane, just like no-one around the Romanovs said "I'd rather the Russian state be destroyed than lose Slavic unity", and no-one amongst the Prussians said, "I'd rather Prussia be wiped from the map and cease to exist culturally than hang the Austians out to dry."

But each step to that end result seemed perfectly logical in the face of strategies and tactics that said, "If you don't take this step, you'll lose."
posted by rodgerd at 11:42 AM on November 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


Nothing much to add right now, but I will be calling my mother this morning to assure her I'm not in immediate danger of getting blown up.

At least I hope not.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:34 PM on November 23, 2010


"The U.S. hopes China will put more pressure, like sanctions, on North Korea. But from China's point of view the best way to persuade North Korea is not through sanctions, but dialogue," he said. "The main obstacle is not the question of whether pressure is enough, but how to reduce the strategic mutual distrust between the North and South, and between North Korea and the U.S."
posted by clavdivs at 1:51 PM on November 23, 2010


Could China invade NK or perform a coup as their most tolerable path to some sort of stability?
posted by fullerine at 2:25 PM on November 23, 2010


China's problem is that foreign investment would pour into the north of a reunited Korea under Southern control without hesitation. Korea is an economic powerhouse, and the opportunity presented by a cheap northern labor force combined with a capitalist, market economy would rival the economic opportunities in China. And that is the risk to China - a diversion of foreign investment to a viable Asian competitor. A strong united Korea allied with the United States wreaks havoc on Chinese plans for regional dominance, resource and manufacturing dominance, and growth.

That's an.. interesting analysis, but it ignores a lot of quite basic political and economic realities.
  1. China's population is 1300m. Discounting a generous 300m as being middle-class or above, that's 1000m poorer citizens. North Korea's population is 24m, so the cheap labour force in a reunited Korea will be about 2.4% of the size of China's. Guess who will run short of cheap labour first.
  2. That labour force is not only miniscule compared to China's, but is also not in any realistic way ready to walk into the factories and probably will not be for a generation. They have spent their lives learning to survive under a closed totalitarian system and have no idea how to function in a market economy. Even the strongest and bravest North Koreans who escape and make their way to the South often have huge problems adapting to life there, the idea of having to find a job and a place to live being entirely alien. Not true in all cases, especially the young, such as the two defectors I knew who seemed to be adapting well to student life in Seoul. Including making a valiant attempt on the massive buffet at one of my parties. Lads after my own heart.
  3. The part of the cheap labour force which is productive will not spend the first decade or two after reunification competing with China, but rather building the basics of an infrastructure that can support modern economic activity.
  4. It wouldn't be sustainable to have huge wealth disparities between the North and South for many years without the risk of unrest. At the moment average Northern incomes are less than 5% of Southern ones. For a functioning state, I guess they'd need to be closer to 50% minimum. (Any political scientists want to weigh in on that?) Out goes the labour cost advantage and up go the costs of reunification to unaffordable levels. One solution that's been quietly mooted at high levels is creating a federation of two states with an eventual goal of reunification. Interestingly, in order to make that work, South Korea would probably have to suspend democracy.
  5. I do agree that foreign money would come into the north, but it would be mostly Chinese and it would come with strings. Korea was long a vassal state of China and that relationship would be easy to restart.
  6. Korea can't close itself off to China, they are not primarily competitors in providing cheap goods to the American market. The 2009 figures showed that Korean exports were $87B to China, $46B to the EU, $37B to the USA and $22B to Japan. (Imports were $54B, $32B, $29B and $49B respectively.) The general trend over the past five years has been for the relative importance of China to the Korean economy to grow.
  7. In general, where Korea is losing out to China in terms of competitiveness (shipbuilding, electronics), it's not mostly due to lower Chinese labour costs, but to Chinese having economies of scale on their side. See point 1. That's why Korean national rebranding is focussing on positioning themselves as providing a quality premium, like Japan has successfully done.
  8. There are no strong reasons to believe that Korea would be allied to the US after reunification. Domestically, US troops are barely tolerated on ROK soil at the moment and that's despite the fact that the US is (and this is so not me politically, but it's a simple fact) why the South is one of the most advanced economies in the world, rather than eating tree bark to survive or a smoking crater. The moment the threat from the North has gone, US troops will be asked to leave, Korea will make eyes at China (see point 5) and a lot of US companies in Korea will find trading suddenly becomes very tricky.
I agree that a reunified Korea would, after a lot of pain and some heavy investment from China and others, become an economic powerhouse. But it will be an economic (and maybe even military) threat to Japan, not China.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 2:27 PM on November 23, 2010 [11 favorites]


Could China invade NK or perform a coup as their most tolerable path to some sort of stability?

That's a very interesting question. An invasion wouldn't be likely, but I have long wondered whether China might try making an offer to the DPRK military if the Kim family faltered.

Imagine the young President Kim Jong Un dropping the ball on a couple of key decisions before he'd had time to gather even the limited popular support his father has, let alone the adulation his grandfather had. State TV reports a tragic accident that kills off him and any immediate successors. A committee of generals and key advisers announce that they will govern. It gradually becomes clear that this committee is closely linked to Beijing, but the population doesn't care, because they are being fed twice as much as they were before, due to Chinese-style economic reforms.

North Korea has become a Chinese-backed military dictatorship, perhaps a bit like Burma and what's scary is that this is the best thing to happen to the country in 50 years.

OK, far-fetched, but interesting to consider.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 2:43 PM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


That's not far fetched, it sounds like the sort of thing that could easily happen. But like with anything, it would require someone somewhere to stick their head out and take a risk, and if the situation still seems more or less stable nobody in the Chinese leadership (or anywhere else) would be likely to try it.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:27 PM on November 23, 2010


Koreans killing Koreans. Like Vietnamese killing Vietnamese. Like Chinese killing Chinese. Like Americans killing Americans.

We... prefer that all killing be interethnic?
posted by foursentences at 4:34 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


We... prefer that all killing be interethnic?

Seems to be...
posted by Scientist at 4:46 PM on November 23, 2010


Though actually I think you meant intraethnic.
posted by Scientist at 5:07 PM on November 23, 2010


North Korea has become a Chinese-backed military dictatorship, perhaps a bit like Burma and what's scary is that this is the best thing to happen to the country in 50 years.

OK, far-fetched, but interesting to consider.


This is incorrect. Consideration is thus of no interest.
posted by clavdivs at 5:26 PM on November 23, 2010


it would require someone somewhere to stick their head out and take a risk

This is worth consideration a merit of continued dialogue.
posted by clavdivs at 5:30 PM on November 23, 2010


What the fuck are you trying to say, dude? This isn't riddlefilter.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:43 PM on November 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


Amazing how South Koreans have already moved on from this.
posted by bardic at 5:43 PM on November 23, 2010


We're friends with several Korean friends in our little Canadian city, and I asked them if they were worried about the latest developments. They shrugged and said, nope.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:57 PM on November 23, 2010


A riddle also becomes evident through time. we shout when we should listen rather then just hearing.
posted by clavdivs at 6:42 PM on November 23, 2010


Hexapodia is the key insight.
posted by Justinian at 6:49 PM on November 23, 2010


Yes, rather then.

It's like frontier gibberish, only for the internet!
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:50 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


An example of Semiotic statecraft. ( After the U.S. response to the situation mere hours ago)

-Mr. (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates.

'We apologize for shelling (your) country. A Accident with Artillery exercises is the cause of this incident.'

Is it a matter of what you (you) would say? or what you would ask or is it a different meaning all together.

"North Korea blamed South Korea for starting an exchange of artillery Tuesday across their border in the Yellow Sea while threatening 'merciless' strikes against its neighbour if it violates that..."
-NK Times
posted by clavdivs at 7:09 PM on November 23, 2010


Can I hire you for parties? Do you show up in a turtleneck and beret?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:11 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Poor Uncle Claudius
posted by KokuRyu at 7:43 PM on November 23, 2010


My mistake, this is clearly the apocalypse.

clearly, for short.
posted by clearly at 8:03 PM on November 23, 2010


Can I hire you for parties? Do you show up in a turtleneck and beret?

Only if he can bring congas.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 8:24 PM on November 23, 2010


-Dalai Lama wants to relinquish role as leader of exiled Tibet government.
posted by clavdivs at 8:31 PM on November 23, 2010


Can I hire you for parties? Do you show up in a turtleneck and beret?
posted by

(Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates
posted by clavdivs at 8:32 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Related News: Currencies · Emerging Markets .'Asia Currencies Rebound After `Knee-Jerk Reaction' to Korea Artillery Fire'.
posted by clavdivs at 8:34 PM on November 23, 2010




'US to send nuclear aircraft carrier to South Korea'
posted by clavdivs at 12:50 AM on November 24, 2010


It seems as if the next maneuver is for the US and ROK to ratchet up the "North Korea is a Chinese problem, not a Korean problem" angle. The Chinese will shit themselves over a US carrier battle group coming over towards them.

I think it's the right play, IMO. The Chinese can't keep passing the buck on their lunatic neighbors.
posted by bardic at 2:59 AM on November 24, 2010


The big problem with a half-assed "measured" response to what is undeniably a blatant casus belli which resulted in the deaths of both soldiers and civilians is that the North Koreans start thinking (with some justification) that they can get away with anything, and will act accordingly. And then at some point they cross a very big line and full-scale war erupts.

Of course, any response which isn't half-assed also risks full-scale war.

Which makes me glad I'm not the one who has to make the call. Almost any response on the part of the South Koreans is justified at this point, I just don't know what is wisest.

Nitpick: Is it a casus belli if you're already at war, as the Koreas are?
posted by Justinian at 4:10 AM on November 24, 2010


Photos of the aftermath.

An interview with Brian Myers on NPR.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 5:01 AM on November 24, 2010




I think it's the right play, IMO. The Chinese can't keep passing the buck on their lunatic neighbors

you are perhaps a comedian.
posted by clavdivs at 11:06 PM on November 25, 2010


'Nitpick: Is it a casus belli if you're already at war, as the Koreas are?'
posted by Justinian
{That is your neck of the woods my brother}

Eternal Peace?

There exists an 'In place' Ceasefire. A formal Peace treaty is not needed to adhere to these principles.
posted by clavdivs at 11:18 PM on November 25, 2010


We're just biding our time, clavdivs; the last 1500 years have just been an attempt to lure the Sassanids into a false sense of security.
posted by Justinian at 10:55 AM on November 26, 2010


'The Humiliation of Valerian'

'More recently, the party’s chairwoman expressed willingness to start a dialogue with Beijing...'

That Licinius just wont shut up about his chariot budget. Please send more Lapis and Myrrh gum.
posted by clavdivs at 4:31 PM on November 26, 2010


Commander of South Korea's marines vows a 1000 fold retaliation. No country is going to put up with the stuff Kim Jong Il and Un are pulling. It has been 15+ years since the first negotiated agreement and nothing has come from it. A lightening airstrike on the key ordinance depots and existing artillery/rocket positions near Seoul to contain damage from shelling. Then roll north for the Yalu and wait for the Chinese to tell you to back down, but not before the Chinese have deposed the Kims.
posted by humanfont at 8:46 PM on November 26, 2010


and distrub the peace?
posted by clavdivs at 8:53 PM on November 26, 2010


Then roll north for the Yalu and wait for the Chinese to tell you to back down, but not before the Chinese have deposed the Kims.

It'll be over by Christmas. Nothing like a short, victorious war to get the ol' blood pumping.
posted by Justinian at 6:46 AM on November 27, 2010


No country is going to put up with the stuff Kim Jong Il and Un are pulling.

The RoK has been putting up with constant and serious provocation from the DPRK for nearly sixty years. You might think that they shouldn't and you might think that they this approach will change. However, it's simply incorrect to suggest that something new is going on here.

It has been 15+ years since the first negotiated agreement and nothing has come from it.

You mean the 1991 Agreement on Reconciliation, Nonaggression, Exchange and Cooperation or something else?

A lightening airstrike on the key ordinance depots and existing artillery/rocket positions near Seoul to contain damage from shelling. Then roll north for the Yalu and wait for the Chinese to tell you to back down, but not before the Chinese have deposed the Kims.

The result, at best 100k civilian deaths in Seoul, a small but real chance of a nuke launch, a destabilised region, huge political, social and economic costs of reunification and a pissed-off China for a neighbour. For the RoK leadership, the status quo looks a lot more attractive.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 10:34 AM on November 27, 2010


The result, at best 100k civilian deaths in Seoul

The best result would be zero dead in Seoul. The most likely result is under 1000 civilian casualties in a ROK initiated attack. DPRK commanders would have to choose between stopping the marines and the ROKA and shelling Seoul.
posted by humanfont at 11:01 AM on November 27, 2010


The most likely result is under 1000 civilian casualties in a ROK initiated attack.

Everyone hopes for minimal casualties, but I have never heard an estimate as optimistic as that from a credible military or civilian source. Did you read the three links I provided regarding the 100k estimate?
posted by Busy Old Fool at 1:42 PM on November 27, 2010








Rising anger towards North Korea

I read the links regarding casulaty figures, but I'd hardly consider Reason magazine a credible source of analysis. War planners have known about the potential for bombardment of Seoul, Inchon and other civilian populations for a while. Here are sone counter moces. #1 massive firet strike-- essentially if you think that NK is going to strike, strike first to limit the damage. A reprot I read estimated that we could drop about 1000 jdams and cruise missiles in our opening barrage. That hits a lot of targets.
#2 Deterrence continues even after the shooting starts. In gulf war one Saddam didn't used his WMDs against us. Certainly one aspect of this had to be questions within the ranks about what the American response might be if a full scale WMD attack hit Saudi Arabia. NK launches a massive barrage on Soeul, or Launch a nuke, we drop a w-88 on Pyongyang, or maybe the ROKA soldiers go scorched earth as they go north. My point is that we can always out escalate them. If you are NK your only hope is a million Chinese Army regulars pouring over the border to put the stalemate back in place. You want to stall the advance of the ROKA and US and build sy,pathy in Beijing. Killing a hundred thousand civilians on day 1 forces the Chinese to let you go, see also nuking anything.
#3 Countermeasures -- from Patriot Missile batteries to other advanced anti artillery and rocket systems to old fashioned bomb shelters SK has lots of things in place to limit civilian casualties and damage in the event of war. This is like an earthquake or other foreseeable disaster your civil and military engineers can build structures to mitigate the damage.

In summary a war would probably play out like this. Escallating tensions force South Korea to initiate an Israeli 6 day war style first strike crippling command and control, forward artillery/rocket positions and strategic targets (e..g. Nuclear facilities). North Korean forces fight a defensive retreat attempting to slow progress while NK leaders call Beijing for help. Beijing makes a very strong statement and moves some divisions up to the border. Things get Cuban Missile Crisis intense. Most likely everyone backs off WW3. New accommodations and understandings are reached.
posted by humanfont at 8:31 PM on November 27, 2010




South Korean Leader vows no more concessions and to respond forcefully to any future attack

This could be the end of it or the next escalation. Earlier North Korea fired some shells near the disputed Islands, but didn't go any further.
posted by humanfont at 7:45 PM on November 28, 2010


"Stop! Or I'll say 'Stop!' again!"
posted by Justinian at 11:10 AM on November 29, 2010


South Korea Cancels Artillery Drill on Shelled Island.

and your wish sir.
posted by clavdivs at 6:28 PM on November 29, 2010


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