The recent fatal attack by communist North Korea on a disputed South Korean island should remind all of us of what a dangerous world we live in. Much of our attention is focused on terrorism and the current U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we stand to lose a lot if North Korea escalates tensions further with additional shellings or — heaven forbid — a ground invasion of the south.
The Kim dynasty of the north has long harbored ambitions to retake the southern part of Korean peninsula, as I learned when I visited South Korea in July. Click here and here for two columns I wrote for The Lakeville Journal on that trip.
There have been many skirmishes over the decades, most of them on or around the border, which on land is marked by the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The most recent incident before this one was the sinking (evidently by the north) earlier this year of the South Korean warship Cheonan. More than 40 South Korean sailors died.
When I visited the DMZ, I was treated to perhaps the most striking (but nonviolent) example of North Korean aggression one could imagine: a series of tunnels running under the DMZ built by the north over several years after 1953 cease-fire. The goal was to either use the tunnels to mount a land invasion or perhaps conduct a mass infiltration. When confronted with the tunnels (dug through bedrock granite), the North Korean dictator laughably asserted that they had been built for the mining of coal.
At any rate, this latest incident at Yeonpyeong Island took place only a few miles from Seoul Incheon International Airport, the modern transportation facility that we flew in and out of. Frightening stuff.
Let’s see what the future brings. But if I were a member of South Korean legislature, I would revisit the expensive idea of moving the capital city from Seoul, which lies only 50 miles south of the DMZ, somewhere to the south — say, Taegu or the lovely coastal city of Busan. Just a thought.