Lessons on North Korea from history


A recent visit to the Korean War Veterans’ Memorial in WEST Potomac Park, Washington DC was very memorable. “DC” as they call it is rammed with memorials. Of all the ones I saw on my recent visit, the Korean War one was certainly the most moving. There is a wall where the images of those involved in the war are sand-blasted, plus some sculptures of troops on a recce (see my photo above).

Nearly three million people lost their lives in the Korean War from 1950-53. I doubt whether anything would be achieved by a repeat performance (which is what we seem headed for at the moment). Indeed, I suspect that Kim Jong-Un wants a repeat, given that his grandfather came badly unstuck in the process.

In Sunday’s New York Times, Blaine Harden wrote:

…deep in his dictatorial DNA, Kim Jong-un surely knows the risk of provoking a full-scale war with the United States. It did not go well for his family the last time around. During the Korean War (1950-53), his grandfather — Great Leader Kim Il-sung — cowered in bunkers as American bombs flattened his cities and legions of his people died.

There is also guidance from history as to how perhaps to bring about a peace accord with the North Koreans. When I visited the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta, Georgia, last Wednesday, I read a board which said this:

In the early 1990s, nations around the world feared that North Korea was determined to possess nuclear fuel that would be used for nuclear weapons. The United States had no direct communications with North Korean leaders and threatened economic sanctions. North Korea responded that sanctions might lead to war. In June 1994 President Carter and Rosalynn travelled to North Korea, helped avoid a confrontation, and began talks that led to a new agreement between the United States and North Korea.

The agreement referred to was the “Agreed Framework“. And it should be noted that “President Carter” was not President in 1994 – Bill Clinton was. (Americans use former job titles for people for the remainder of their lives).

But those words are uncannily similar to the current situation.

Surely there is a need for some sort of moderator to open discussions with North Korea. If not the US Secretary of State, why not a recently former President, or, at the very least, Dennis Rodman? The former basketball seems to be the only American which Kim Jong-In is talking to these days.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is a councillor and one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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11 Comments

  • Jenny Barnes 26th Sep '17 - 5:18pm

    aesops fable:
    THE WIND and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveller coming down the road, and the Sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveller to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger You begin.” So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveller. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveller wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair. Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveller, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on.
    “KINDNESS EFFECTS MORE THAN SEVERITY.”

  • …………….Surely there is a need for some sort of moderator to open discussions with North Korea. If not the US Secretary of State, why not a recently former President, or, at the very least, Dennis Rodman? The former basketball seems to be the only American which Kim Jong-In is talking to these days……………..

    We must hope so.. U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt’s foreign policy was to “speak softly, and carry a big stick.”..Sadly, the big stick is still there but the speech is far from soft…Someone needs to tell Donald that shouting at Kim is counter productive …

    During the early 1950s N. Korea suffered the heaviest ‘carpet bombing’ of any nation before or since (many times that of Germany, Japan or Vietnam)…Their civilian population was almost obliterated, all their cities were reduced to rubble, their farmland was flooded due to their irrigation dams being destroyed, etc.
    That is in their psyche…They regard the USA as their bogeyman and, as long as Trump reinforces that belief the population will suffer state sponsored starvation and hardship to have the military means to defend themselves…

    In a state where everything is ‘cult controlled’ his rhetoric is aimed as much at his captive audience as the wider world…However, Kim knows that he will be destroyed if he attacks S. Korea….

  • `They regard the USA as their bogeyman and, as long as Trump reinforces that belief the population will suffer state sponsored starvation and hardship to have the military means to defend themselves…` Sorry it’s gone way beyond that now. Matters should have been taken in hand a decade ago instead of kicking cans down the road. The world is in a double-bind over DPRK. It’s the cycle of self-perpetuating desperation. If USA say or do nothing China’s self-serving relationship with DPRK plods along in its hideously unhealthy way and the people starve/get locked up/live in fear due to the paranoia of the elite. The elite use this to develop weapons putting the pressure on USA. USA either doesn’t respond (which strengthens Kim’s hand) or it responds with a few home truths.

    Personally I think it’s an utter scandal that PRC have let this situation develop – a situation they could have stopped decades ago – creating a united Korea. Now unless they send a nuke to LA at which USA responds with deadly force the situation gets worse exponentially. Millions are living in enforced poverty there. The situation will only continue;. Of course, as usual, cans are kicked down the road through through cowardly inaction by leaders with no vision or imagination. But hey ho it’s the way of things.

  • I think Jenny Barnes is on the right track. The North Korean football team came to the UK for the world cup in 1966 and did very well for a time. They have the same hopes, aspirations and desires as people everywhere, despite all the State propaganda – just as the East Europeans did thoughout their decades of domination by the Soviet Union. The great majority would most likely bite your hand-off at the chance of emigrating to the West or even the chance of reuniting with distant relatives in South Korea
    The best way of defeating this regime is enabling access to communication with the outside world. We need to be patient as it is hard to see how North Korea can stay closed off from the rest of the world in perpetuity. They will eventually have to go the way of China and Vietnam and open their economy to the outside world. When that happens the days of the Kim dynasty will be numbered.

  • There’s a beautiful statue of three soldiers to commemorate the Vietnam war. Any suggestion yet of removing it? It being an Imperialist war of aggression and all that.

  • Steve Trevethan 27th Sep '17 - 8:20am

    Information from a full range of sources, a willingness to look at points of view additional to those put forward by the main stream media, and the management of “zero sum” thinking might help.

    As can be seen in the attached article, North Korea offered nuclear negotiations as far back as the Clinton presidency and has universal free health care and education to university level
    http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-korean-war-and-crimes-against-humanity-forgotten-when-we-need-to-remember/5589377.

  • Denis Mollison 27th Sep '17 - 8:24am

    “it’s an utter scandal that PRC have let this situation develop”

    The “situation” is more complicated than that. To understand North Korea you have to go back at least to Kim’s grandfather’s role as a leader of resistance to Japanese occupation in the 1930s, and to the US and UK being prepared to bomb North Korea to pieces in the 1950s rather than let PRC “create a united Korea” as you put it. Both sides in the the Korean War wanted a united Korea, they just differed rather considerably on the kind of united Korea they envisaged. This recent article in the London Review of Books is useful background. The history of modern Vietnam, which BBC2 featured on Monday night in the first of a series, is an interesting comparison. Neither united Vietnam nor separated Korea is an ideal solution, and history doesn’t suggest that more violence from outside countries is likely to improve matters.

  • james 26th Sep ’17 – 6:22pm……………`They regard the USA as their bogeyman and, as long as Trump reinforces that belief the population will suffer state sponsored starvation and hardship to have the military means to defend themselves…` Sorry it’s gone way beyond that now. Matters should have been taken in hand a decade ago instead of kicking cans down the road……………..

    Well, the recent record on removing nasty rulers/regimes hasn’t filled me me with much confidence… I suppose Einstein? might have been wrong (“Insanity is doing the same over and over again and expecting a different result”.), but I doubt it…

  • Sorry Paul, I was only being whimsical on your statues and memorials theme. It is every generations right to review their statues policy. After all, there aren’t many of Adolf Hitler still standing. I do deplore any removal of a commemoration of Confederate dead. The majority of those who died never owned slaves at all and the war did not start to end slavery, merely to contain in within its existing boundaries.
    As to this piece, I’m afraid I find it misdirected. The conflict here is not between the USA and North Korea but between the USA and China who could pluck and stuff “Rocket Boy” any day before lunch.
    They know Trump will eventually climb down as Kim just has to keep going but Trump has to DO something to honour his threats. But he can’t (without reducing the world to radioactive rubble) and if he does we won’t have anything to worry about will we? The cockroaches inherit the planet.

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