nuclear realities

I was up late last night watching TV, so I saw the news about North Korea’s nuclear test some time after midnight. All of the news channels were blaring about it, but after a few minutes of watching one, I changed the channel. They didn’t know much, and they were just rehashing the same satellite photos over and over again, the same tired footage of Kim Jong Il.

This morning it seems not too much more is known about the test, but there’s a lot more speculation and reaction by world leaders. There are ominous statements by President Bush, and I am trying not to imagine what he might mean.

I skimmed a number of Korean papers’ web sites this morning and doing so jogged my memory about a conversation I had while teaching in Korea ten years ago. The North has been threatening nuclear capabilities for some time now, and so even back then this was a topic of conversation and debate. I once asked the adult students I taught, a class of businessmen and housewives mostly, what they thought of the idea that North Korea might have nuclear weapons. One man said that if North Korea managed to produce nuclear weapons, he would be OK with that, even proud of the accomplishment. “If North Korea develops nuclear weapons,” he said, “it’s like South Korea has developed them, too.” He was not alone in this opinion among my students, that the North and the South, despite their ideological differences and fifty year separation, were still one country, or deserved to be, and the accomplishments of one could be shared by the other. I heard the “if North Korea has nukes, we have nukes” argument quite a few times from my students over the year I was there.

I’m curious to know whether this opinion is still prevalent in light of the North’s test. Has the reality of actual nukes, and of the North’s unpredictability, changed anything?

UPDATE: An article in the Chosun Ilbo reveals how South Koreans are feeling about the North’s nuclear test.


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