The United States should leave North Korea alone


By Alex Cocanig

The history of North Korea is a relatively recent one. During WWII, the Imperial Japanese had occupied the entire country, but were eventually defeated by Soviet forces in the North and American forces in the South.

In the 1950s, the country factionalized and the communist-supported North attacked the capitalist-supported South, sparking a proxy war between the communist and democratic powers of the world.

The conflict lasted three years and ended in an armistice that divided North and South Korea along the 38th parallel, which still serves as the militant political boundary today.

It has been over 60 years since the war ended, but isolated attacks have been initiated by both North and South Korea throughout the Cold War and as recently as 2010.

Tensions remain high to this day, as North Korea still exists as an “independent socialist state,” despite the worldwide collapse of communism nearly a quarter century ago. The two Koreas are culturally similar and both desire reunification, but remain separated by ideology and a turbulent past.

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The international community (the United States in particular), has not exactly helped the situation. Historically speaking, we were the main proprietor of Cold War anti-communist agenda. We involved ourselves in several outlets that could have sparked nuclear war, such as Vietnam, the Bay of Pigs and Korea.

The United States did this to promote our democratic agenda around the world through an array of diplomatic, economic and political relationships. Perhaps it was that we believed (and still believe) that our system of economic capitalism, political democracy and social freedom is superior or inherently better than those of our perceived enemies.

One could make a substantial argument that we do, in fact, enjoy comparatively high standards of living; however, is the medicine the United States prescribes the right “cure” for all patients? Does the shoe fit everyone? Certainly not.

North Korea has openly and vehemently rejected not only the United States, but the entire western world, on grounds that we are imperial, overbearing and war-mongers. The country wants nothing to do with us, our values or our belief system; however, it appears that we simply cannot take “no” for an answer.

Perhaps another reason why the United States wants to involve itself in North Korean affairs is not only due to the country’s dire domestic conditions, but also that North Korea likely has the military capability to launch powerful weapons.

This would not be strategically viable, as a retaliatory attack by a coalition of western military powers could wipe North Korea off the face of the map, but the United States seems worried regardless.

Perhaps, we should just leave North Korea alone. The country’s government is clearly opposed to us and does not want our help. Of course, this position is likely that of the military dictatorship, and may not reflect that of the infamously oppressed citizenry. Still, even if we wanted to assist North Korea, our help would likely not be well-received and perhaps result in military action.

Knowing what we know about North Korea’s militant, exclusive society, one would think it would be unwise to not only travel there, but also to commit a crime there. But that’s precisely what Otto Warmbier, an American student from the University of Virginia, did.

Warmbier was detained a couple of months ago by North Korean authorities and has publicly apologized for attempting to steal a political banner from the inside of a hotel in Pyongyang.

Reportedly, he performed this idiotic feat to earn a $10,000 used car offered by some similarly naive friends. The incident has not only resulted in Warmbier’s own embarrassment and potentially harmful imprisonment, but has further tarnished the United States’ reputation among officials in North Korea.

At home, we turned North Korea into a comedic film called “The Interview,” where the country was made a laughing stock for the entertainment purposes of Americans. We continue to mock North Korea with incidents like Warmbier’s and embarrassments like “The Interview,” which does nothing but increase tensions between the countries.

Our desire to answer questions like, “What is it like in North Korea? Are the people really brainwashed?” reaffirm our curious and overbearing nature that North Koreans have cited as reason to dislike us.

Though we may not agree with their ideology, it is not our responsibility to try and change it. It is similarly not our responsibility to insist on helping a country that despises us and our values.

Alex is senior in LAS.

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