In seeking to understand the North Koreans
The Koreans are fiercely independent folk, ethnocentric to the extreme, nationalists for whom Korea is above all and the Koreans are a race apart.
Actually, in this (and many other) aspect they are quite similar to the Japanese, their neighbors and former colonial masters for some forty years. But the Japanese went through seventy years of Americanization, westernization, liberalization and demilitarization after their defeat in 1945. The unreconstructed Koreans retained their national pride, so they are more similar to the Japanese of 1930s.
We must keep in mind the most cruel Korean War of the cruel Twentieth Century, for otherwise we can’t understand the Korean character. During the Korean War, the American command “turned its fury on all standing structures … cities and towns all over North Korea went up in flames [until] Pyongyang resembled Hiroshima”, says Encyclopedia Britannica. The US dropped more ordnance on defenseless Korea than it did on Germany or Japan.
Kim I (Kim Il Sung) began pursuit of nuclear weapons. I’ve been told that he decided it had to be done after the Cuban missile crisis. … And I’ve been told by many Koreans that since the Korean War, North Koreans have lived in constant fear they will be nuked by the US. For them, an H-bomb is the only guarantee against a possible US attack.
Just a few months ago the US and their South Korean allies, some four hundred thousand troops altogether, practiced the conquest of Pyongyang and elimination of the North Korean government. Imagine if Russia were to land nearly half a million soldiers in Cuba and begin to practice how to sack Washington and destroy the White House! The US fleet would come all over Cuba in a jiffy. So one can definitely understand why the North Korean leadership is worried.
The North Koreans aren’t brainwashed zombies, but perfectly human, though they belong to a very distinct and different culture. Whenever I had an occasion, I had a couple of beers with locals in a local pub, where all tried to offer me another mug of their perfect natural brew. Again, the Koreans are cautious but not paranoid in their contacts with foreigners. … And they are fond of beer.
[The Unz Review]
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