The United States and Japan have already announced plans for new sanctions over North Korea’s recent nuclear test and rocket launch, and the U.N. Security Council is likely to deliver more soon. Cross-border tensions with Seoul are escalating quickly and even China is starting to sound more like an angry neighbor than a comrade-in-arms.
But with a storm brewing all around them, North Koreans have their own take on things — and it’s decidedly unapologetic.
Pyongyang started off the new year with what it claims was its first hydrogen bomb test and followed that up with the launch of a satellite on a rocket. When Seoul responded by closing down an industrial park that is the last symbol of cooperation between the two rivals, Pyongyang lashed back, expelling all South Koreans from the site just north of the Demilitarized Zone and putting it under military control.
Each move brought a new round of international outrage. But ask a North Korean what’s going on and the reply is swift, indignant and well-practiced. It’s America’s fault.
“It’s not right for the U.S. to tell our country not to have nuclear bombs,” Pak Mi Hyang, a 22-year-old children’s camp worker, told The Associated Press as she walked with a friend near Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang on Sunday. “The U.S. has a lot of them and tells us not to have any. It’s not fair. We’ve been living with sanctions for a long time and we are not afraid.”
“We have a lot of hatred toward Americans,” Pak said, politely, before walking on.
But anti-U.S. sentiment in this country does run deep, for good reason. That is partly because the relentless propaganda that depicts Washington — which has made no secret of its desire for regime change — as its biggest existential threat. But it also reflects the brutality of the Korean War, which left millions of Koreans dead and most of North Korea’s cities and industrial base in ruins. Though called the “Forgotten War” in America, it is anything but forgotten in North Korea. And since the 1950-53 war ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty, the U.S. is still technically and literally “the enemy.”