Print Edition: October 31, 2012
Political sabre-rattling has once again left the Korean peninsula on high alert and shaking with political tension.
The tensions began when a group of South Korean activists announced intentions to launch balloons containing anti-North leaflets over the North Korean border.
The North responded by threatening a strike against the South if the activists launched information balloons into their territory.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) released a warning statement prior to the launching of the balloons.
“The moment a minor movement for the scattering is captured a merciless military strike by the Western Front will be put into practice without warning,” the Agency stated.
The KCNA went on to suggest that nearby residents “evacuate in anticipation of possible damage.” South Korean Police tried to block the activists’ actions, fearing it would result in retaliation from the North. However, the activists moved to another area that was not under police surveillance to float the balloons across the border and ultimately succeeded. They successfully floated what they claimed were an estimated 120,000 balloons over the North Korean border.
North Korea is often seen as an aggressor in the media. Its border with South Korea is known as the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), and is the most heavily land-mined area in the world. It is also home to the largest concentration of armed forces troops for an area that is not a war-zone.
The two nations were once one but were divided as a result of the Korean War, which ended in a ceasefire in 1957.
BC resident James Kim, a local investor born in Seoul, said he found North Korea’s brinkmanship unsurprising but frightening for those still in Korea.
“I’m not surprised. I don’t have any immediate relatives in Korea anymore, but I still find it frightening for those who are there,” he explained. “Most of the time the North is just trying to scare the South, but what if someday it goes too far?”
As of now, North Korea has not followed through on its threat to attack, and the South has stated it has seen no suspicious military activities from the North as a result of the balloon launch.
This is still a worrying situation for those with ties in South Korea.
“I’m scared for my family,” said Luke Hysunu Kim, a South Korean-descent UFV student. “I have to question what the South is trying to accomplish in these demonstrations.”
This event is just one among a series of recent threats from North Korea.
This comes at a time when the international community is still trying to judge the character of North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jung-Un, who took his position as leader of North Korea last December.