North Korea has been in the news lately due an exchange of artillery shells with its rival South Korea. Although some of the shells did cross the imaginary line between the two countries’ maritime territories, the interaction was actually relatively mild. Most of the shells landed harmlessly into the sea. However, North and South Korea have a long history of tension. This latest incident is simply one in a long line of problems.
The Korean Peninsula as a whole has had a history of being under the influence of other countries. The peninsula was under the control of Japan during the Russo-Japanese War. Later in its history, the peninsula was divided into separate countries with the North being aligned with the Soviet Union and the South associated with the United States.
America became entangled in affairs on the Korean Peninsula during the Korean War. When the North crossed into South Korean territory, the United Nations intervened. Although the North Korean forces put up a strong resistance, they were eventually pushed back. UN forces under General Douglas MacArthur exploited their advantage and continued to make gains into the North.
The success of the United Nations was brought to a halt once China entered the conflict. The UN’s continued advance probably brought it too close to China for the communist nation’s comfort. Once the Chinese entered the fray, with their vast numbers, the UN forces were pushed back into the South. Although the North Korean and Chinese forces managed to again capture the South Korean capital of Seoul, they were eventually driven off.
MacArthur was replaced due to his apparent unwillingness to be restrained in terms of a continued effort to push into North Korea. A war that cost over 50 thousand American lives ended without much of a resolution.
The problem with the Korean war, besides the obvious loss of life, was that it was unclear what the war actually accomplished in the long run. It is true that North Korea was pushed out of the South, but to this day peace seems to hang by a thread.
Since the end of the open conflict in Korea, North Korea has had a history of tension with South Korea. In fact, it seems that the two countries exist in a perpetual state of tension. The recent artillery exchange is not the first of it’s kind. For example, back in 2010, North Korea launched rounds into the South which killed two people and wounded several more. Because of the loss of life, that incident can be seen as more severe than the latest provocation.
In 2013, North Korea again caused controversy with its dangerous rhetoric regarding nuclear weapons. Clearly, North Korea has caused its share of problems since the Korean War. In some ways, its leaders have seemed like children determined to find out how much they can get away with.
The United states should exercise caution when dealing with North Korea. It is hard to say how willing the North is in terms of backing up its threats and provocations. Certainly, there has been a history of tension with North Korea.
Opinion by Zach Kirkman