Hey North Korea….STOP IT! was the tweet I read last night that first alerted me to the news there was a problem in the world more significant than the fact I had just dropped some BBQ chicken into my tea (I still drank it – not ideal to mix seasoning and an oil slick with your Earl Grey but I was too lazy to make another one).
So today I want to know if you are feeling a wee bit anxious today about what’s going on in Korea. Because I am. And what IS ACTUALLY going on in Korea? In short, the volatile relationship between North and Sourth Korea is bad. Worse than it’s been since the end of the Korean War in the 50s.
But I’m short on details. So with the help of Lana, Nicky and respected news sources who actually know facts, we have compiled a quick Q&A. Here is a top-line explanation of what happened yesterday and why it’s hugely significant:
Q: What happened yesterday anyway?
North Korean troops have fired dozens of rounds of artillery on to Yeonpyeong Island, South Korea reportedly injuring civilians and killing two soldiers. The gunfire set more than 60 buildings on fire, it is the first artillery strike on South Korean soil since 1953.
Q: Why did it happen?
According to Bloomberg:
North Korea’s attack on a South Korean island, along with its disclosure of nuclear advances, is part of a strategy to draw the U.S. back to the negotiating table, analysts in the U.S. and Asia say.
It isn’t likely to succeed, and the result could be increased tension between the U.S. and China, North Korea’s closest ally, said the analysts, including Bruce Klingner, a former chief of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Korea branch.
The North has said that the South had fired first despite repeated warnings. It threatened more strikes if the South crossed the maritime border by “even 0.001 millimetre”.
The South said its troops had not been firing towards the North during their live-fire exercise, which was part of regular drills in the area.
Q: Where is Yeonpyeong Island?
Yeonpyeong Island is a group of South Korean islands in the Yellow Sea, located about 80 km west of Incheon and 12 km south of the coast of Hwanghae Province, North Korea. It has been the focal point of several violent skirmishes between North and South Korea over the past 60 years. Around 1,600 people live on the island, mostly fishermen.
Q: How did North Korea and South Korea become divided?
According to Wikipedia:
The division of Korea into North Korea and South Korea stems from the 1945 Allied victory in World War II, ending Japan’s 35-year colonial rule of Korea.
In a proposal opposed by nearly all Koreans, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to temporarily occupy the country as a trusteeship with the zone of control demarcated along the 38th parallel. The purpose of this trusteeship was to establish a Korean provisional government which would become “free and independent in due course.” Though elections were scheduled, the two superpowers backed different leaders and two states were effectively established, each of which claimed sovereignty over the whole Korean peninsula.
Q: What actually happened after the Korean War
The Korean War (1950–53) left the two Koreas separated by the Korean Demilitarized Zone through the Cold War to the present day. North Korea is a communist state — though the last instances of the word Communism were removed from its constitution in 2003. Its economy initially enjoyed substantial growth but collapsed in the 1990s, unlike that of its Communist neighbor China. South Korea emerged, after decades of authoritarian rule, as a capitalist liberal democracy.
Q: What has Australia’s response been ?
According to The Herald Sun
Prime Minister Julia Gillard says she has “grave concern” over the deadly shelling by North Korea of a South Korean island in one of the worst cross-border incidents in 60 years. In a statement, Ms Gillard called for calm on the Korean peninsula, while Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd pledged support for Seoul in its response.
“The Prime Minister expressed her grave concern at this dangerous provocation by North Korea,” a spokeswoman for Ms Gillard said. “Australia condemns this action and urges restraint.” Mr Rudd said the shelling was destabilising for the entire Asia-Pacific region. “And this region is our region, Australia’s as well,” he told reporters.
“This is disturbing. Remember this is a highly fragile security environment and we’ve got to be very, very careful about ensuring that none of these incidents trigger something much worse.”