South Korea’s netizens are reacting to North Korea’s nuclear test as best they can—by not giving a rat’s ass. On Naver’s list of top search words of the day yesterday, the North Korean nuke test came in just fourth. At the top of the list was Korean cosmetic brand Innisfree’s sale.
At least one Twitterer knew where to lay the blame.
Now, to be fair, the Korean media has been all over the test, although I suspect they, like your Uncle Marmot, are simply going through the motions out of a sense of duty, not because they actually care.
The Chosun Ilbo, however, really does care. They’re running a ton of stuff on it, including this wonderful story about what would happen after a 6—7 kiloton air burst over Seoul. Such an air burst would create a fireball 1.2 km wide and destroy buildings within 2 km radius. Within 2 months, 200,000 people would be dead.
Or so said a nuclear physicist at SNU. The US Defense Department ran its own simulation in 1998 predicated on 15 kiloton air burst over Yongsan. That one evaporated buildings within a 150 m radius and left people within a 1.5 km radius with third degree burns. Overall, it killed 620,000 people.
Your Uncle Marmot would probably be evaporated. Future generations of school children would come to see my shadow burned into the landscape and ask, “Teacher, why is that one’s ass so much bigger than the others?”
Anyway, the Chosun Ilbo’s editorial—which hasn’t been translated yet, perhaps because it’s long—was worth the read. To sum up what I took away from it, Ye Olde Chosun asks incoming President Park to figure out how to correct the security imbalance between the nuclear North and non-nuclear South. One option is to ask the Americans to reintroduce to South Korea tactical nuclear weapons, which were withdrawn after the 1991 Korean denuclearization declaration. The United States would reportedly grant such a request if made. Park could also consider delaying the transfer of wartime operational control from the United States to South Korea, currently set for 2015, although the Chosun wonders whether it would be effective to entrust the fate of Korea to the US nuclear umbrella when the North has its own nukes.
The Chosun also notes that North Korea won’t abandon its nukes with aid or security guarantees, and that neither the United States nor China seem able (in the case of the United States) or willing (in the case of China) to get North Korea to behave. What the Chosun would like to do, however, is for Korea to make a strategic choice that would get the United States and China to work together to change North Korean behavior. Now, Ye Olde Chosun never spells out what that choice should be, but it strongly hints at it. With North Korea pointing nukes at the South’s head, Seoul must impress on the Americans and Chinese that the South is willing to do what it does not want to do —“regardless of great threats or sacrifices”—to protect itself.
In case you’re incredibly thick, the Korea’s paper of record is recommending Park Geun-hye threaten to develop an independent South Korean nuclear deterrent. Which I think is kind of cool—you know, the daughter finishing what the father started.
Oh, the Defense Ministry announced it would soon deploy cruise missiles capable of hitting anywhere in North Korea, and that it would also acquire ballistic missiles with ranges of 800 km. The Chosun also reports that the United States is likely to push Korea harder to participate in missile defense. Which I think is only fair—if we’re going to put American cities at risk to defend South Korea, the least the Korean side could do is allow us to defend said cities from Korean territory.
The Hankyoreh is calling for a strong but cool-headed reaction, which I can only assume does not include the development of an independent nuclear arsenal. Bummer. They did call for the ruling and opposition parties to put their heads together to come up with a creative solution that would sever the vicious cycle of North Korean provocations and international sanctions. I’ll let you figure out what that means.