North Korea claimed to have successfully tested a nuclear warhead with the capability of being mounted on ballistic rockets, on September 10. While there is no definite way of verifying this, if the success they claim is true, Pyong Yang would have to be considered a nuclear state; leaders from Japan, South Korea and the United States bluntly oppose the recognition of North Korea as such.
North Korea’s democratic and capitalist counterpart, South Korea, is left to witness a nation’s defiance from the other side of the 38th parallel. While South Korea has always been fearful of their ideological adversary, this threat awakens a new disquietude for their nation’s safety. The South Korean military, with cooperation of the United States military, began planning a simulated missile defense drill for next month in hopes that it will promote preparedness in case of hostile actions by North Korea.
Ted Song, professor of engineering at John Brown University and former soldier in the South Korean military, is not surprised by North Korea’s attempt to test weaponry. It has been going on for years. “If you think from their perspective and compare yourself to a bigger country like the U. S., how do you become a threat? If you have some powerful weapons then you can have a voice,” said Song.
Song says that it has been a longtime goal for North Korea to have a powerful weapons arsenal to not only seem like a threat to rival countries but also to keep power in North Korea. “They have to show that they are strong and that they have strong leadership and constantly have some showmanship,” said Song. Evaluating the situation between North and South Korea reveals a tedious game and North Korea’s pawns are all based on fear.
The real questions, however, are whether North Korea would ever use the weapons they so often test and whether South Korea is prepared for such a scenario. “Many south Koreans are very used to this,” said Song, referring to North Korea’s weapons testing. According to Song, it is mostly the older generation of South Koreans that still have the memories of the Korean War as ardent reminders of what could happen.
The military has been very careful when planning missile drills, which are concise and well executed. “When you are in the military you are always ready for the worst case scenario as unlikely as it may be” stated Song.
Many other students who, like Song, call South Korea their home, had similar opinions regarding the issue.
Becky Yoon, a sophomore psychology mayor, said that while the threats from North Korea are not taken very seriously, the military of South Korea has diligently kept the border protected with maximum security, Yoon said that the 38th parallel, the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea is heavily guarded and military personnel are always present.
Suzie Lee, a freshman graphic design major, also believes that the military is prepared for any possible aggressions from North Korea, but takes into consideration that the citizens are not. “Those [the missile drills] are only for military not for the general people. We don’t know anything like drills. For us it would be very scary,” said Lee.