After a landmine incident caused by North Korea wounded two South Korean soldiers in August, tension between the two nations surmounted.
While North Korea may not be like James Franco paints it in The Interview, the country has a longstanding record of violating human rights. According to Human Rights Watch, the country has committed the acts of extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment rape and forced abortion.
Along with this history of human rights violations, North Korea is also a heavily militaristic state with nuclear capabilities. When there was an exchange of fire between the two states, Kim Jong-Un–North Korea’s “Supreme leader”–strengthened their front-line footing.
After the landmine incident, South Korean officials began blasting anti-Pyongyang–the North Korean capital–propaganda from loudspeakers.
In response, Kim Jong-un gave South Korea 48 hours to stop the propaganda, or else they would use military means to stop it. After 48 hours, South Korea continued to play the propaganda, but North Korea backed down from their threat.
After tense negotiation talks following the crisis, the two nations agreed on the following terms:
- North Korea will no longer provoke South Korea
- North Korea apologized for the landmine incident
- South Korea promised to stop blasting anti-Pyongyang propaganda
- Both sides will work to reunite families separated during the Korean War
Essentially these agreements prevented a shootout in the demilitarized zone, a region established after the Korean War where officials from North and South Korea meet. These conditions do not undermine the severity of August’s crisis.
China and the United States were both involved in this crisis. China was involved by bringing in more military units at the North Korean border; the U.S., by sending a warplane to Japan.
This level of international involvement echoes that of the early years of the North and South Korean split, which occurred during the Cold War. North Korea fell under Russian rule and then succumbed to China, and South Korea fell under U.S. influence. The drastically different nature of both countries can be attributed to these different influences.
As to why North Korea backed out of their threat to use military means to stop South Korea’s propaganda, it seems that China would not have supported a war between the two Koreas. Because China is a major oil supplier to North Korea, going to war without China’s support would be disadvantageous for North Korea.
For now, these historic peace agreements may ease tensions for the time being, but the deep rooted crisis is likely to arise again.
By Stephanie Brito