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The North Korean Question: Is an Eccentric Former NBA Player the Answer?

North Korea is center stage in the news lately. The rhetoric coming from the Trump administration as well as Kim Jong-Un’s State media is inflammatory. Both sides are rattling sabers daring the other to make the first move. This standoff is reminiscent of Jack Kennedy’s Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. No possible outcome from an escalation of force along the DMZ is good. Everyone loses in war, some more than others.

Most Americans under the age of 30 have little if any idea of why North Korea and the United States have beef. They might know from history class that some time between World War II and the Vietnam conflict we waged war on the Korean Peninsula. They might even know that the Korean conflict was fought under the assumption that we were fighting the spread of communism across Korea. Few if any understand what happened after the ceasefire and none probably understand that the conflict never actually ended.
Why is North Korea still an active threat to the United States?

Is it because we went to war with North Korea for 3 years in the 1950s resulting in over thirty six thousand American casualties? Not likely. The U.S. engaged in a violent war with Germany, Italy, and Japan (the Axis) in the 1940s. That war took the lives of close to a half million Americans with a total loss of over forty million worldwide. Currently all the former Axis nations are close allies of the United States and productive members of the G20.

Is it because North Korea is a communist nation and the United States is sworn to defeat communism around the world? Probably not. China, one of our allies in World War II and a major trade partner today, has had a communist government since 1921. Not only have we never went to war with China, cold or otherwise, we sometimes use China as a voice of reason when dealing with North Korean leaders.

Is it because the United States must win a conflict in order to repair relations? Unlike WWII, there was no victory day for the United States in the Korean Conflict. This is the most likely reason tension persists, however, shortly after the Korean Conflict the United States entered a conflict with the communist state of Northern Vietnam. The Vietnam Conflict lasted almost 20 years and ended with the United States withdrawing forces. The subsequent reunification of Vietnam under the rule of the Northern communist government solidified the United States loss, a loss which included over fifty eight thousand American casualties.

In 1995, 20 years after the official end of the Vietnam Conflict, President Clinton normalized political relations between the United States and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Since then the United States and Vietnam have reopened their mutual embassies and signed several agreements including a bilateral trade agreement. Only 42 years after one of the most violent, convoluted, and protested wars in United States history, U.S popularity with the Vietnamese people is one of the highest in Southeast Asia.

In all these examples the United States has managed to repair or improve relations with all countries involved. Moving in positive directions for stable political and economic relations seems to be the norm in all cases. Even when relations are tenuous, like the current U.S relations with China, there are still no open threats of reciprocal nuclear annihilation and respect appears mutual. So why is it that North Korea remains a bitter enemy and constant threat to the United States and our allies in the region?

The only constant since the end of military action in Korea is the Kim dynasty and their continuous propaganda campaign. The propaganda campaign in North Korea is divisive, brutal, and focused inward on the very people they claim to be protecting from the evil of the west. Despite a strange fascination with American pop culture, Korean president/dictator Kim Jong-Un follows in his fathers footsteps and keeps his country shut off from the rest of the world. Claiming that the rest of the world is bent to destroy the Communist utopia of North Korea out of jealously seems to be the Kim modus operandi.

North Korea may go down in history as one of the most bizarre cases of isolation and brain washing in the history of the world. The situation in North Korea reads like Orwellian science fiction. When the reign of the Kim dynasty comes to an end, as it most certainly will, and the tightly held state secrets are revealed we will understand how an entire nation was tricked into submission. When the North Korean people are integrated into the twenty first century world they will bring with them enough stories to write decades of movie and television scripts.

President Trump may be instigating a war with North Korea in order to speed the downfall of the Kim family and their totalitarian empire. I don’t believe war is the solution to the Korean situation but I don’t have all the intel that the president has. I do know that Kim Jong-Un has a fascination with former basketball player Dennis Rodman and hangs out with him on occasion. According to Rodman, Un is misunderstood by the rest of the world. Could this eccentric former Chicago Bulls player be the answer to peacefully normalizing relations with North Korea?

It would be poetic if the veil of secrecy on the strangest nation of earth was lifted by the the strangest basketball player on earth who himself once wore a brides veil as a fashion statement. This, unfortunately, is not a likely scenario since the Kim family has been lying to the people of North Korea for almost seventy years. Coming clean and begging the mercy of the people is a highly unlikely move for the proud Kim family.

I believe Un is more likely to die commanding his loyal Korean People’s Army than he is to give up the long standing Kim family charade. Is the United States and their allies ready to liberate the North Korean people? That is the only question that really matters.

Also published on Medium.

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