What would happen if a 7 kt nuke exploded over Yongsan, and other assorted North Korean nuke-related crap

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 One option is to ask the Americans to reintroduce to South Korea tactical nuclear weapons, which were withdrawn after the 1991 Korean denuclearization declaration.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.

  • Horace Jeffery Hodges

    “Teacher, why is that one’s ass so much bigger than the rest?”

    “Because, dear student, that one is a horse’s ass.”

    (Just kidding, Robert . . .)

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • http://twitter.com/HubOfErik Erik Cornelius

    So, actually… there’s an app for that. You can see the blast radius of a 7 kiloton nuke (or any other yield) over Seoul (or any other city). http://meyerweb.com/eric/tools/gmap/hydesim.html?dll=37.56654,126.97797&mll=37.57456,126.98278&yd=7&zm=12&op=156

  • Yu Bum Suk

    The only way NK would ever disarm is if US forces withdrew from SK. I say give it a go. The US can always threaten to send them back if NK gets up to anything.

  • http://www.sperwerslog.com/ Sperwer

    Hey, a 7 KT on the blue house leaves me just outside the blast zone; same in Yongsan, a much more likely target center, leaves me a few miles outside. And I’ve got NBCs for the whole family; we’re good.

  • Yu Bum Suk

    Very interesting app!

  • Chris Smallwood

    Only one issue, concrete doesn’t burn and doesn’t get blown down. The burns your talking about only happen to those outside or near a window facing the blast center. The blast wave is what does most of the initial damage and that tends to get funneled down streets. This results in people inside buildings being fine and those on the street being killed / seriously injured. Depending on how bad the smog is would determine the fall out and secondary deaths.

  • cm

    All this doesn’t matter to Koreans because it’s either this, or 30,000 North Korean artillery pieces and scud missiles hitting Seoul – both forms of North Korean attacks do the same death damage. Either way, Seoul and Korea is fucked anyway. I would think the US and Japan would have to be more concerned with the threats to their own security.

  • Dokdoforever

    CM is on to the main point – which is – how does this change the status quo? N Korea already has artillery and scuds with chemical weapons that could kill millions in Seoul. So the threat to Seoul with nukes is similar. But the North can potentially weaken the US S Korean alliance by putting a nuclear warhead on an ICBM which can threaten the US homeland. The North can challenge the credibility of the US nuclear umbrella over S Korea. With a N Korean invasion the US would be faced with a choice between using nukes and maybe losing LA, or accepting N Korean domination. S Korea may want to develop its own nuclear weapons program, as the British and French did during the Cold War. To buttress its credibility to use nukes, the US could also re-integrate nuclear weapons back into its conventional forces in S Korea with tactical weapons – as it had before the non-nuclear pledge was signed with the North in ’93.

    I think that the only way that China would ever really pressure N Korea to give up its nukes is if S Korea and Japan start making a lot of noise about developing their own nukes. But, even with Chinese pressure, the North looks as though it is will never give up the program – the Chosun may be right. It may be time for a S Korean nuclear deterrent.

  • Dokdoforever

    You’re assuming that NK nukes are strictly a response to US threat against NK. That could be a factor, but there are other good reasons for the North to have nukes. Such as – receiving aid for stalling the program. But, more importantly, breaking the US’ credible commitment to use nukes to retalliate against the use of nukes by the North. The North also accelerated its program after the US already withdrew its nukes from the peninsula in 93. Presumably removing US nukes from the peninsula should have reduced North Korean perceptions of US threat.

    The US has had troops in S Korea since the end of the Korean War and has yet to re-invade the North. 30.000 troops is also far too few to threaten to invade the North – their purpose is to provide credibility to the US promise to defend the South. In fact, weakening the US presence in Korea might produce more N Korean threats to use nukes, especially if there is no nuclear armed rival to check the North.

  • dlbarch

    The libertarian Cato Institute, which, like most things libertarian, is rarely correct about anything, manages to merit its continued existence by stating the obvious…that it’s (past) time for the Americans to disengage from the Korean peninsula:


    Unfortunately, as long as South Korea remains a fabulously lucrative place for America’s officer corps to earn promotions, the push to exit the country won’t be coming from anyone on the E-ring anytime soon.

    But Bandow is fighting the good fight, and has the better argument. Over time, the illogic of America’s ossified presence in an increasingly rich and strong country will sink in and make lesser and lesser sense, especially to American taxpayers.


  • http://profiles.google.com/dcmusicfreak DC Musicfreak

    It was 1991 that GHW Bush pulled out the tactical nukes, to support the south’s big agreement with the North (which repeatedly violated it even while accusing Seoul of doing so). The rest is spot on and anything the North says about US troops is part of their propaganda to justify the misery they keep the populace in.

  • asdf

    There is also an Iran connection. NK is getting money to do Iran’s nuclear development.

  • Yu Bum Suk

    One US nuclear submarine has enough firepower to wipe out most of NE Asia. But I see what you’re saying about the trip-wire effect. Still, if any bargaining chip would work it would be a removal of US forces. Of course, the NK leadership might want the US to stick around to justify its MO, as you mention. Still, if NK could present a US withdrawal from the peninsula as a triumph, it would be the best way for any moderates in NK to start the process to permanent peace.

  • 코리아

    I put in the Tsar Bomba blast (50,000kt.) and that would be breaking windows all the way down to Cheongju, not to mention giving my place in far south Yongin a helluva shake most likely. Those crazy Russians.

  • Adams-awry

    Seriously, Horace, I think you should visit a neurologist and get your frontal lobe checked out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witzelsucht

  • felddog13

    It is rule #1 in the Dictator’s Playbook to keep society on a permanent war footing. North Korea is not interested in disarming, not interested in “normalizing” relations, etc. They must maintain the appearance of a belligerent outside threat as a means to justify repressing/starving their population. The U.S. withdrawing from the peninsula will just make N.K. shift their emphasis to South Korea and Japan as their main enemies. Only by N.K. perceiving that maintaining nukes is a bigger threat to their survival than backing down can real progress be made. How to do that without Chinese help and without direct threats of force is the million-dollar question.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002200674544 Fei Zhang

    “But, even with Chinese pressure, the North looks as though it is will never give up the program”

    There has been no Chinese pressure – a total Chinese aid and trade embargo with North Korea would result in the NKPA killing Kim along with all of his extended family, putting someone else in his place and dismantling the program. Ultimately, the responsibility for NK’s nukes lies with China.

  • http://twitter.com/HubOfErik Erik Cornelius

    Make sure to click on the 0.25 psi option on the right side to turn on that blast radius.

  • http://www.sperwerslog.com/ Sperwer

    We are more than 6 miles out, so as long as we stsy away from the windows it looks like we’re pretty good

  • frogmouth

    A couple variables not mentioned in nuclear bomb scenarios is wind direction and topography.

    It’s been said the Norks would most likely attack in the winter so the fallout wouldn’t fall on them. Korea’s winds usually go from West to East so a lot of the fallout from Seoul may miss the South/Southwestern portion of the peninsula assuming the attack was centered on Seoul.

    It would be interesting to see if/how Korea’s mountainous terrain would absorb the shock of a nuclear attack in some areas. Apparently this was a factor in the Hiroshima vs Nagasaki damage comparison. Apparently many Nagasaki residents hid in tunnels. I wonder how Korea’s extensive system of subway tunnels could play a role in civil defence (outside of the main blast center of course.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joe-Wallen-II/100000420413545 Joe Wallen II

    I would think that Kim would use a dirty surface detonation.