Friday, August 12, 2011

Korea's very dangerous DMZ: Eric Margolis

This vast, pulsating city of ten million seems to have doubled in size since my last visit ten years ago.

Dynamic, optimistic, high-tech South Korea is flying at Mach 9: it reminds me of Japan 25 years ago.

The other 24 million Koreans in the northern part of this divided nation are in deep trouble. Many go hungry or subsist on the verge of starvation, victims of the whims of their bizarre Communist monarchy.

In 1950, North Korea, backed by the Soviet Union and, later, China, invaded US-occupied South Korea. Three years of bitter fighting, in which over 2.5 million Korean civilians died, resulted in a stalemate.

An armistice stopped the fighting on the 38th parallel, but the two Koreas and Americans remain on hair trigger alert. A Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) bisects the peninsula: on either side, 750,000 North Korean soldiers face 500,000 South Korean, backed by 37,000 US troops.

Tension on the DMZ is electric. North and South Korea troops glare at one another from fortified field works and observation posts. The world’s thickest minefields and high anti-tank walls extend from coast to coast.

I was warned that even pointing at the North Koreans could trigger a firefight that might lead to full-scale war. (more)