Badtux the Snarky Penguin

In a time of chimpanzees, I was a penguin.

Religious fundamentalists are motivated by the sneaking suspicion that someone, somewhere, is having fun -- and that this must be stopped.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Hermit Kingdom

One reason why Preznit Coo Coo Bananas hasn't managed to accomplish anything with his counterpart in North Korea is simple: The Koreans are nuts.

This is hardly a new thing. In 1871, modern American warships were sent to Korea in order to ask about the fate of an American merchant vessel, the General Sherman, and to query them about their bad habit of boiling alive missionaries and sailers who washed up upon the shores of the Hermit Kingdom. The Koreans refused to talk. They instead fired upon the American vessels using 15th century technology -- brass cannons and matchlock muskets, all of which of course just bounced off of modern armored warships. The American vessels pounded the Korean fortresses into rubble with their modern rifled artillery, and sent in the Marines. The first fort the Marines entered was empty -- the crazy Koreans had decided they wanted nothing to do with the Americans, and left. So the Marines tossed all its brass cannons into the mud flats and moved on. The second fort the Marines entered was empty. Same deal. The next Korean fort, however, had several hundred Korean soldiers in it, armed with those 15th century matchlocks. The Marines, armed with modern repeating rifles and machine guns and artillery, slaughtered them, of course, with minimal loss of life on the part of the Marines -- less than a dozen killed or injured. Then they looked upriver at the next fort... and the next fort... and realized they'd be years hopping from fort to fort slaughtering Koreans but never really accomplishing anything because a few hundred Marines weren't enough to occupy the whole country. So they went back to the ship, tried talking to the Koreans again, the Koreans continued to refuse to talk, and eventually they gave up and left.

To this day, the Koreans -- North and South both -- celebrate this as a glorious military victory.

That's crazy, you say? Well, how about this. In 1920, Korean guerillas fighting the Japanese takeover of Korea raided across the Yalu River from China and occupied several Korean villages. the Japanese, of course, didn't take this sitting down -- they'd already slaughtered a million or more Koreans since taking over in 1910. So they sent three divisions to drive these guerillas out of the border towns and chase them down and kill them all. The Korean guerrillas saw the Japanese coming, and ran like hell, and didn't quit running until they'd made it all the way to the Soviet Union, where Lenin had just died and the new Soviet leader, Stalin, slapped them all into gulags. The Japanese lost a total of a dozen soldiers in this entire campaign. To this day, the Koreans -- North and South both -- celebrate this as a glorious military victory.

Crazy enough for you?!

There isn't anything we can do to North Korea that's going to make them behave rationally. You can't threaten Koreans. They simply won't care. You can't bomb their facilities. They will beam with pride at being so singled out. You can't kill bunches of their soldiers. They'll celebrate that as a glorious victory. In the end, the joint Chinese and South Korean policy of bribing them to not do something crazy is probably the only reasonable course there is.

And now I hear you say, "but what about South Korea?" Yeah, what about them? They're nuts too. They're just nuts in a different way. The South Koreans, in reaction to first the Japanese occupation then the North Korean invasion, have gone major coo-coo-bananas religious nuts.

We all know about the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his Moonies, of course. What is less known here in the West, except amongst evangelical circles, is that the South Koreans have gone Christian in a big way. And I'm not talking tame Methodist or Presbyterian either. I'm talking full blown all-out babble-in-tongues Pentecostal and Assemblies of God snake-handlin' you name it coo coo. South Korea, a nation with 1/10th the population of the United States, now sends more Christian missionaries to the Third World than the United States does, despite the many fundamentalist congregations within the United States such as the Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons where missionary work is a fundamental part of their faith.

The same applies to all their modern technology. They've just gone nuts there, working themselves to the bone to become the world's #1 builder of ships, the world's #1 builder of RAM chips for computers, the world's #2 builder of consumer electronics... the list goes on and on. T

Then there's their military. South Korea's regular military, at 600,000 strong, may not have the numbers of the North Korean military. But if South Korea invaded North Korea, they'd whip North Korea's butt. Their military has all the latest and greatest military technology. Their Hyundai tanks aren't quite as good as the M1A1 but are much superior to the antiquated Soviet-era tanks possessed by the North Koreans. Their Air Force is armed with F-15's and F-16's equipped with all the latest electronic warfare gizmos that Samsung can fit them with, and can shoot down North Korea's antiquated Mig-21 fighters at ranges where the North Korean fighters wouldn't even be able to detect the South Korean jets on their radars. South Korea has five million military reservists that are better trained than North Korea's entire "million man Army". South Korea is six weeks from an atomic bomb, if they decide they want one -- they possess both uranium enrichment capability and several Canadian CANDU plutonium production reactors (currently being used to produce electricity instead, but they could easily be put into use creating plutonium), and it recently came out that South Korea even has the machinery to extract Pu-239 from fuel rods, although it's all currently in storage. These guys are far more potent in reality than North Korea could ever hope to be.

Frankly, this is not the kind of mess that anybody needs to be rushing into precipitously. If you're dealing with a couple of crazies, the last thing you want to do is take any kind of hasty action. I know from experience dealing with mentally ill youngsters that you want to de-escalate, not escalate. Nine times out of ten, you can talk the crazy kid down and get him to do something reasonable. The 10th time, of course, he goes nuts and you have to call for the "here squad" to restrain him and haul him to isolation (i.e., sanctions, if we're talking in international terms), but (shrug). Why make trouble when you don't have to?

Of course, what with President Coo Coo Bananas being crazy and all, it's not likely that the sane course of action is going to take place regarding North Korea. Having President Coo Coo Bananas in charge is like looking at a dorm room with a couple of crazy kids in it, and seeing that one of them is misbehaving, and deciding to send in the craziest kid on the floor to go in and break it up. No good can come of that. Alas.

-- Badtux the "I know crazy" Penguin

Posted by: BadTux / 10/11/2006 12:19:00 PM  


god help me i do love their BBQ and kim chee. some of the toughest (and crazy) motherfuckers i ever met were the tiger battalion ROK marines. we were into painting our faces and sneak creeping around the boonies. the ROKs put on yellow ascots, stainless steel helmets and goose stepped out daring the NVA to fuck with them...nuts, whack, still though, great BBQ
# posted by The Minstrel Boy : 12/10/06 9:23 AM  

Oh man yeah. I *love* their kim chee, in all forms -- soup (jigae), stir-fry (bokgum) and just straight out of the jar. Korean food is the best thing about living just a mile or so from Santa Clara's "Little Korea". Hrmm, if I hadn't ridden my motorcycle to work today, I'd consider heading over there for lunch, you made me hungry :-).

At one time I thought "hmm, if things get too bad here in America, maybe I could make my way over to Korea." The language (especially the written language) is much easier to learn than Japanese or Chinese, they're crazy but in a different way from the Japanese version of crazy (example of Japanese crazy: When Japanese hostages were released by Iraqi insurgents, said hostages were required to go onto national television and apologize for humiliating the nation!), and their computer industry is probably the #2 or #3 computer industry in the world, ahead of everybody except the United States and maybe Japan (and tied with Taiwan) meaning that my skills might be useful over there. And their food... oh my, their food! But eventually I had to shake my head and discard that idea. Fleeing one brand of crazy just to embrace another brand of crazy is hardly the act of a rational man.

- Badtux the Gustatory Penguin
# posted by BadTux : 12/10/06 10:10 AM  

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