Nukes in the North: Where, Why, and How the North Korean Crisis Began

By, Haley K. ’20

A country in which only male government officials can drive, women cannot wear pants, smiling is illegal on June 8th, and there exists a death penalty for those who fall asleep in important meetings and make international calls may seem to have been pulled from a dystopian novel, but North Korea has successfully implemented these, and many more, bizarre laws. And yet for the first time in over half a century, progress towards peace has been made on the Korean Peninsula.

It is simple to lay blame on North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and his nation, especially as the continual threat of nuclear warfare looms over the United States as a legitimate and dangerous possibility. Nonetheless, it is important to acknowledge that the US violated North Korea in the wake of the Korean Armistice in 1953.

How was nuclear warfare introduced? In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower moved the first atomic weapons into South Korea. Within a decade, the South held over 900 nuclear weapons–all belonging to the United States. Eisenhower’s and his successors’ actions were in clear violation of the aforementioned Armistice Agreement, which prohibited the introduction of new weaponry, and North Korea was understandably alarmed by the newfound threat. Briggs N. was not familiar with the United States’ history of nuclear incitement in Korea: “To be honest,” she said, “it’s hard not to regard North Korea in a negative light. You hear all the news stories about Kim Jong Un’s missile threats or about whom he’s executed next, and you inevitably start to think things.”

Despite an endless library of history at our fingertips via the internet, even in worldly, educated sectors like the Winsor community, misinformation is a primer for misconception: in a limited survey of the student body, less than half of those surveyed knew that the United States had violated the Armistice Agreement, and even fewer were aware of the U.S. introduction and advancement of nuclear chicken.

“It’s popular, almost ‘hip,’ to blindly blame North Korea for inciting the nuclear conflict of today,” quipped Nora E. ’21. George H.W. Bush’s presidential administration removed them in 1991, so North Korea owns all the nuclear weapons on the peninsula. People look at the picture of nuclear warfare today, and they forget what happened to make it the way that it is.

When did things start to look up? As the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, replete with conciliatory publicity of a united Korean ice hockey team, drew to a close, a new door seemed to open. The beginnings of possible talks between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un were a new development and offered a potential avenue towards the resolution of a conflict that saw the US introduce the possibility of nuclear war. Before US and NK talks commenced, Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae In, president of South Korea, met and crossed the border together. They showed hope for a peaceful future and shared vague yet progressive plans to denuclearize the peninsula.

As of May 15, North Korea has closed the dialogue and cancelled a meeting between North and South Korea in response to American military tests.

Perhaps a peaceful future is on the horizon, but few steps in worldwide concord seem to be made as tensions heighten and attention continues to shift towards North Korea.