In heart, in mind

As we get closer to North Korea’s missile launch, Japan becomes a more interesting player. The thought of Japan preparing for a North Korean provocation begs several questions: Would Japan really take an aggressive stand on this? Would Japan ever go to war with the DPRK? And the bigger one: If they did engage fully in war with the North, what would South Koreans think of that?

Korea is split ideologically. But this is only a 55-year-old split for a “people” with a 5,000-year-old history. Koreans ultimately see themselves as Korean, regardless of north and south. All Koreans, it seems, share a collective dislike when it comes Japan. In some it’s stronger than others, but I think it’s there for everyone. It’s a kimchi pot that the north loves to stir up now and then. Why not throw Japan into the mix to confuse things that much more? I love the quotes coming out of the DPRK, full of drama and posturing:

Should Japan dare recklessly to intercept the DPRK’s satellite, its army will consider this as the start of Japan’s war of reinvasion more than six decades after the Second World War.

So if it came to such a war, where would the hearts and minds of the people in the south side? If Japan scored an impressive naval victory, sinking a few DPRK battleships, or destroyed some ancient temple in the north, how might people in the South feel? Conversely, if the DPRK landed a few missiles in Tokyo, or took control of Dokdo island, would there be a little tiny squeal of collective joy from the south? I asked a couple Korean friends this recently and one admitted, laughing, yeah, maybe a little.

The south would find itself in an interesting position of being ideologically sided with the capitalist/democratic lifestyle they seem to enjoy, while feeling strong kinship with their race. It would be interesting, not to mention tragic, to see how that would play out. Let’s hope it will only ever be a matter of conjecture.

As for the launch itself, it could happen as soon as the day after tomorrow. If it happens then, I won’t know anything about it. I’m heading off to the mountains this weekend with a good group of friends to take in fresh air and green trees.


12 Responses to “In heart, in mind”

  1. The South Korean’s would have to side with Japan because the U.S. would join in. Or, they could just sit on the sidelines and see how things played out. Tough call. Japan has given themselves enough wiggle room by saying “only if it threatens their territory.”

    One thing though, if they don’t shoot that missile down, KJI will have yet another bargaining chip to go along with the several he has been given over the years.

    Supposedly Iranian scientist are there to watch the launch. That is a bad sign

  2. […] American living in Korea writes at the “Elephant Talk” blog about Japan’s position and its relationship with both North and South Korea: As […]

  3. John Chow Says:

    “Koreans ultimately see themselves as Korean, regardless of north and south.”

    This is further proof that Koreans are ultimately sheep: they believe what they are told.

    The reality of the situation is that North and South are nothing alike.
    The only thing that people on either side share is a language.
    There is no shared history anymore, since history in North Korea is completely fabricated.

  4. Bobby… I was thinking more culturally than politically. Of course SK would side with Japan, but how would people really *feel* about that?

    John Chow… Thanks for commenting. But I disagree with everything you said. Sorry, but what you wrote is both myopic and inaccurate.

  5. czechmates Says:

    I must be missing something. Why is the U.S. and / or the U.N. not monitoring the nuclear capability of Israel, or Pakistan, or India, or China, etc. Why just North Korea? It sems to me a nuclear weapon is capable of inflicting untold devastation on this planet no matter who fires it. Why does the U.S. position warships (destroyers) off the Korean coast whenever North Korea announces the test firing of a rocket into space. A provocative act in itself, I might add. Next time the US announces an impending test of a nuclear weapon off the coast of Santa Barbara, say, and a warship from a foreign country shows up to observe, how will we react to it. My point is why are we not making plans for the destruction of all nuclear weapons. The US should be the leaders in such a movement since we,and Japan, are the only ones who know first hand (Hiroshima, Nagasaki) the devastation such weapons can bring. But if the US refuses to even sign on to an international treaty for doing away with cluster bombs, how are we ever going to rid ourselves of the nuclear weapons.

    “….and the beat goes on.”

  6. Well, yeah. Good question. I guess the answer is we’re supposed to be the good guys.

    But when you look at it from the perspective of North Korea, it’s a no-brainer. Let’s say you have a nation, and the president of a nation you’re still technically at war with calls you “evil” and that you must be dealt with. What are you going to do? If it’s me, I’m going to try and strengthen my military, and defend myself against such aggressive language by building the biggest baddest weapon I possibly can, like, say a nuclear bomb. Duh. This is a self-made problem the US has, at least in part.

    And now, here we are. The US has everyone except China, Russia and Iran on its side, but a flawed argument and a weak negotiating position. Good luck to those guys trying to get anyone to do anything. It doesn’t help that Obama is being a milquetoast about all this and is kind of showing himself to be a deer in the headlights when it comes to standoffs. Really I expected better.

    But yeah, you’re right. Get rid of all this massive destructive shit. It’s not doing anyone any good.

  7. John Chow Says:

    Hey, Eletalk

    Thanks for replying to my post.

    Perhaps what I wrote is myopic, but that’s entirely the point.
    What is North Korean history but myopia, and fictitious propaganda?
    “history in North Korea is completely fabricated”… I stand by this!

    What do people in NK believe about the civil war?
    That the South attacked first!

    What other outrageous lies are they told?
    My favorite might be “Kim Jong-Il has discovered hundreds of stars”.

    Lies like that are hard to swallow if a person knows better, but if it’s the only thing you’ve been told your whole life, then that’s your body of knowledge.

  8. John Chow Says:


    On a more serious note, can you describe how you disagree with my statement, “North and South are nothing alike?”.

    Because nothing I’ve read suggests that there’s a plastic surgery industry putting fakes in girls in the North, (ok, I lied, I love to joke :)

    But, seriously, how are they similar?

  9. The division between north and south is only 60 years old. The culture is, as Koreans like to say, 5,000 years old. A brand spankin’ new political divide does not make them culturally different. Yes, there is a shitload of propaganda thrown out by the North. Some of it is quite funny, some of it is scary-freaky. But that just means the people are currently closed off from the rest of the world.

    You said there is “no shared history anymore.” You seem to be suggesting that Korean history only goes back as far as 1950. I also sense more than a hint of racism in your words. Am I wrong?

  10. John Chow Says:

    Nope, I would not deny it!

    I can’t get down with any group of people that have some sort of “one people” mentality. It leads to group-think and terrible consequences, because the eventual trajectory of this ideology leads to the destruction of minorities. Your writing of racial kinship disturbs me because it’s true. The fact that people can still think of themselves as a “race” is not cool to me at all. If that makes me a racist, so be it!

    That written, no, I’m not implying Korean history is short. You’re right, that would be myopic. Not my intention whatsoever.

    However, the 60 years since the war have made differences between North and South really extreme. I would argue that no, the culture is not the same anymore, and that yes, a new political divide is the reason, because it’s so much more than merely a political divide. (Food for thought, culture constantly changes. The culture of Korea today looks nothing like it did 200 years ago, let alone 5,000 years, in any rubric used to interpret culture, [cultural anthropology enthusiast here, go figure]

    Of course, it’s nice to think of everyone as your brother and all that, but at the end of the day, there will always be division between people. In this case, there’s not any consequences for longing for a family reunion. If there was re-unification, I feel that classism would be the next great divide, hence the plastic surgery joke. It illustrates, (poorly), an unimaginable difference in lifestyle, values, and culture. That’s why I say it’s convenient to claim solidarity with your brothers, especially when you never see them. It becomes a whole different story when they show up at your front door with their extended families, and everybody needs a job. Meanwhile, your bills are skyhigh because your daughters are buying LV likes there’s no tomorrow.

    In any case, I hope that someday we can live as a true global village without borders, racism, classism, and all the other -isms, just like in Star Trek. But if we have to rely on NK’s “satellite” technology to get into outer space, it looks like we’ll have to wait awhile :)

    Anyways, I’m not sure if I made a point, or simply confused things further…. I simply like to express my thoughts in metaphors.

    Good writing, good posts, good blog. Keep them coming, I’ll definitely keep reading.

  11. czechmates Says:

    “We’re supposed to be the good guys.”

    I imagine that would be the rationale voiced by a lot of Americans. But, as long as America is capable, and more than willing apparently, to inflict unbelievable damage on a nearly defensless, nearly third world country of 25 million people, i.e., Iraq, I have a hard time putting us into the category of “the good guys.” I just can’t relieve my mind of the 633,000 innocent Iraqi citizens killed by American cruise missiles, cluster bombs, uranium-tipped tank shells, “shock and awe,” the whole nine yards. (NOTE: The 633,000 as documented by the British magazine, Lancet, a highly respected journal of the health profession field, and a statistic which is now some two to three years old. Meaning that the number is probably much higher).

    I have this long-standing, long-term belief that eventually “the chickens will come home to roost.”

    And therefore, “…..never mind for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” (John Donne, 11th century(?) metaphysical poet).

  12. John Chow… I hear what you’re saying. Yes, many Koreans have the “group mind” thing going on, which can be frustrating and annoying at times. But any time someone says “people are” it’s being unfair to differences that exist from person to person. I know as many people who fit the Korean stereotype as those who don’t. And some have an interesting mix. Despite what you might read, Koreans actually *are* individuals.

    Good point about reunification. That’s going to be a nightmare. Many South Koreans I know are against it because of the economic hardship that’s likely to occur. I think you would, like you said, find a classist bias going on. Interesting observation.

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