|Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's|
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North Korea is a pressure cooker waiting to explode, as North Korean president Kim Jong-il is becoming increasingly belligerent on an almost daily basis, and he seems determined to launch a nuclear war in the region, with worldwide implications. Korea has restarted its nuclear reactors, and according to one analyst, Korea will have enough plutonium for a dozen nuclear weapons by the end of 2003. Listening to Kim Jong-il, there can be little doubt that he's thinking in terms of a nuclear war -- a nuclear missile for Tokyo, a nuclear missile for Seoul, and his million-man army bursting into South Korea and taking control. This is the road we seem to be on, and there's nothing that President Bush or anyone else can do to stop it.
Why is this happening now? Why can't we continue to use policies of compromise and containment, they way we used to up until a few years ago? The answer has to do with history -- history that Americans know very little about, but which every Korean is well aware of.
Korea was invaded, conquered and colonized by Japan in the early 1900s. Korea suffered greatly from the violence and atrocities of World War II, which started for them in 1932, when Japan used North Korea as a launching pad for its invasion of Manchuria (northeastern China). Few Americans know anything about this, although it's very relevant today.
Korea was only freed from colonization when Japan surrendered in 1945. In the international agreements that settled the war, Korean was partitioned, and the Soviet Union was given control of North Korea and America was given control of South Korea. This gave rise to the Korean War, which ended in stalemate in 1953. (Incidentally, the Korean War has never officially ended.) All this means that since 1945, the people of South and North Korea have not been able to visit their families across the border.
Things have changed dramatically in the last few years. The people who have personal memories of the violence and atrocities of World War II have recently all retired or died. This generational change has made the new opinion makers people who were born after World War II ended.
Generational dynamics predicts that when such a generational change happens, then a society becomes much less afraid of war.
There are two factors that energize a population towards a new crisis war: A generational change as we've described, and a financial crisis. The North Koreans have been suffering a financial crisis for several years.
The same generational change is also occurring in South Korea. Young South Koreans are more and more blaming America for their troubles. So today, after a century of colonization and occupation, what's stopping Korea from finally being unified the way Germany has been unified? Why, it's the U.S., of course -- according to the young people of South Korea, the ones born after World War II.
Generational dynamics predicts that the South Koreans will be looking for justice and retribution against someone, but who? It might be either North Korea or America. Despite the blame that some South Koreans place on America today, it's hard to see how the major part of the population is going to turn away from America and side with the North Koreans, whose million man army is right at their door.
Someone should write a song: "Korean reunification is in the air, and the feelings are a-growing stronger." But the North and South want reunification under different terms, and want revenge against their old enemy Japan, and as the generational change gathers momentum, it's hard to see how America can avoid being thrown in the middle of another very large, bloody, violent Korean civil war -- this time with nuclear consequences.