I am reminded, once again, that I am in the colourful city of hope. Daegu. Right now there is a lot of hopes that are being challenged with a world situation that is becoming harder and harder to push to the back of my mind. In a way I understand when I follow the timeline of world events how the North has stood up to the rest of the world.
Having lived here since January, you just don't challenge a Korean's reputation or honor. They will die defending it. Being held accountable for one's actions is akin to being treated like a child. They will resent you for it. This culture is also dominated by men. Now many women will reach positions of leadership or true equality. The Koreas...are not the United States, they are not westernized in their culture or thought processes.
For diplomacy to work, you must understand the culture and give the North a way to save face. If the Western world does not, I am wondering, deeply, if I am documenting the final months of the South's existence.
I have resisted greatly the urge to comment on the situation . Not wanting to draw attention to it, but I feel compelled to make the following points. Being right is overrated. We know what the North is doing is akin to suicide. However, what the West needs to know is that suicide is very much a part of this cultures in the Koreas. Their pride and reputation is very important to them. Anything that would bring shame to them, well, as we saw with the suicide of the former president of South Korea, this nation responded with intense mourning and praise in the east. He died to save his family. He died to stop an investigation. It was viewed as a death of honor.
The North is under incredible economic strain. Recently the border towns that have North Korean workers are asking for wages to be increased for them to four times their present salaries. What people may not realize is that publicly North Korea will not care about economic sanctions, but privately it is an incredible struggle. With China being the source of most of their material resources. They are a nation under siege and backed into a corner. They don't know how to ask for help. So now, they do what they have been doing...lashing out and vowing to weaponize their resources.
There is still time to avert this holocaust. You have a leader that wants to save face. He is a paranoid leader, who has run his country under a cult of personality. Like Jim Jones, Kim Jong il will lead his followers to death. Only this time he is making one silver bullet looking for any reason to pull the trigger. With his health in question over the recent years, I don't think a potentially dying man is too concerned about how he gets what he wants.
We can some how hope that the right solution comes...and quickly.