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Dangerous Waters

cartoon from the San Diego Union

For my generation it is difficult to imagine that the Koreas were ever united. After 60 years of war (technically the two countries are still at war since they only agreed to a cease-fire armistice), the countries’ relations do not look to improve any time in the near future. After last month’s sinking of a South Korean ship, which is presumed to have been from a torpedo attack from the North, tensions have risen. Last week, the North “confiscated” five South Korean-owned properties at a jointly operated mountain resort in the North. This is sure to add to the North’s “desirability” as a destination of FDI. It is sad the North Korean people must continue to suffer under such ineptitude.

On March 26, a South Korean ship, the Cheonan, sank after an explosion broke it in two. Tragically, 40 sailors were killed and six are still missing after the unexplained explosion. After raising the wreckage from the sea, a team of international investigators are hard at work trying to determine the cause of the explosion, which is believed to be external. South Korea’s President, Lee Myung-bak, has met with the country’s former presidents, which is, apparently, common to do during a national crisis (wish the U.S. did this…).

Although there are historical, economical and now cultural divides between the Korean nations, North Korea’s “dear leader” still stands as the largest impediment to any peaceful progress between the two countries. His actions seem to be based on a fragile ego and extreme selfishness. It is interested to note that before the Korean War, North Korea was the industrial half of the country, while the South was agricultural.¬† If it is confirmed that explosion was an attack from the North, South Korea must respond in a way that punishes Kim Jong-il, without hurting the people. This will be a difficult, if not impossible, balance to achieve.

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