Raymond Matison Blog | The North Korea Quagmire: Part 1, A Contest of Colonialism and Communism | Talkmarkets

Mr. Matison earned a B.S. in engineering physics and a M.S. in Actuarial Science.  He worked in the actuarial field for six years, and then became registered representative at Hayden Stone.  Later, while working as a financial analyst at Legg, Mason Inc., he was recognized by ... more

The North Korea Quagmire: Part 1, A Contest of Colonialism and Communism

Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 8:46 PM EDT

The purpose of this article (and its companion article Part 2) is to assess three questions of great importance as it relates to the relationship between North Korea and the United States of America.  The first is to make an inquiry as to why America and North Korea for decades on end holds each other as steadfast enemies.  The second is to evaluate whether this mutual enmity may lead to physical war in the region or beyond.  Finally, what is the likelihood that any future confrontation between these two countries may destabilize our global financial markets?

The writer of this article is no expert on North or South Korea, with only limited knowledge gained from recently reading four books on this subject.  These books were all very informative but varying in topic emphasis.  Their writing was so excellent that this writer decided to use their phrases, sentences and paragraphs wherever possible and more or less to place them as pieces in a picture puzzle to fit the specific sub-topic being discussed.  In this regard, this entire article is different from all of this author’s other articles.

Great credit and thanks goes to these four expert authors who have made our inquiry into the quagmire that is North Korea possible.  This article is heavily influenced by the comments, opinions, and writing of these four expert authors, with the attempt of this writer to coalesce their distinct histories into a unified comprehensive and compelling view, thereby providing a better and corroborated understanding as to what really has taken place in America’s and North Korea’s relationship these decades.  It is worthwhile asserting that the average American either does not know this history, or has forgotten it.  Given the prominence of North Korea’s recent brazen actions promoting great instability, it is very important for every American to understand the actual history of North Korea, the Korean peninsula as a whole, the milieu in which it occurred, and even more important to understand both sides of the story.  

The four books and its authors from whom almost all information and insights in this article have been taken are as follows:

  • “The Impossible State North Korea, Past and Future” Victor Cha, 2012
  • “Brothers at War, the Unending Conflict in Korea” Sheila Miyoshi Jager, 2013
  • “The Korean War, a History” Bruce Cummings, 2011
  • “The Coldest Winter, America and the Korean War” David Halberstam, 2007

The dramatic real saga of North Korea’s short history is impossible for any fiction writer to imagine – its founding and subsequent reality over the last seventy years is too bizarre for anyone to envision.  From being at the mercy of great powers for over one hundred years, North Korea has learned to become aggressive in its own national security interests and preparedness.  At this time, North Korea is threatening other nations.  It draws attention to its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile test-firing, and its preparedness to direct such weapons specifically towards the United States.  Its leadership seems so resolute in its policies that North Korea is seen as the rogue nation which needs reigning in, and any words to the contrary seem credibly anti-American.  But geopolitical issues are never as simple or transparent as they appear, or as they are purveyed by a single country media; and there always is another side to the commonly accepted events.  If we can entertain the view that history is generally not written to establish truth, but to control political events, then the views of these four authors becomes compelling and very interesting.

In order to gain every reader’s initial attention, we start this article with the intentionally provocative but true statement that the bizarre history of North Korea started with a fateful decision made by America’s State Department and President Truman in 1948.  How?  The country of North Korea did not exist before the United States proposed the partition of Korea into two countries – therefore, any problems with North Korea today stem directly, or are related to our own State Department and Presidential initial and subsequent decisions over these decades.


The Ancient Country

The whole Korean peninsula extends from China’s mainland, and is approximately 680 miles long and 130 miles wide.  It is surrounded by the Yellow Sea to its west, and the Sea of Japan to its east.  The island of Japan is approximately 120 miles away.  It has a long border of approximately 450 miles with China largely created by the boundary of the Yalu River, and a short 20 mile border with Russia substantially expanded by access through the Sea of Japan.  The country becomes increasingly mountainous as one heads north, with only 20% of the land being arable with short crop seasons in what is currently North Korea. 

Korea was a unified nation since the seventh century with its own language, culture, monarchy, state bureaucracy, and centuries of high civilization comparable to that in neighboring China and Japan.  Korea is an ancient nation, and one of the very few places in the world where territorial boundaries, ethnicity, and language have been consistent for well over a millennium. Although it has been deeply influenced by China’s Middle Kingdom over many centuries, it has always had an independent civilization.

Korea has been invaded over 900 times in its 2000 year history.  Despite having remained an independent nation for over a thousand years, it was annexed by Japan in 1910.  A privileged landed class, a mass of peasants, and little leavening in between – lasted through 20th century colonialism, because after their rule began in 1910 the Japanese found it useful to operate through local landed power.  Global depression, war, and the ever increasing Japanese repression in the 1930s turned many elite Koreans into collaborators, and left few options for patriots besides armed resistance.

Korea was a small, proud country that had the misfortune to lie in the path of three infinitely larger, stronger, more ambitious powers – China, Japan, and Russia.  Korea suffered one of the worst, twentieth-century histories of any nation, and remains divided in the new century.


Colonialism of China, Japan, Korea

Colonialism was widely embraced and practiced in the 1600-1950 year period by most countries of Europe.  Eventually it was the larger weaker nations that became the main targets of these European colonialists.  Six different countries infringed on China’s borders in the 1800’s for the purpose of imposing profitable trade deals.  Since China could not defend its borders and cities, its government became neutralized, and foreign powers dictated over its sovereignty.  Japan learned quickly that it would either adopt the ways of western powers, or it would itself become colonized.  As a result it became a colonizer, defeated Russia in a quick war, and invaded large portions of China and Manchuria.

Japan instigated a war with China in 1894 and defeated it a year later.  Over one hundred years has passed since China was forced to leave the Korean peninsula after its humiliating defeat in the 1894-95 Sino-Japanese War.  That war marked China’s decline and Japan’s ascendancy in East Asian affairs.  China was weak, cruel, and barbaric in its own way: a challenge by one set of violent, autocratic men to another set of autocratic and ruthless men who had ruled poorly with elemental brutality.  It was a system of oppression rather than authority that had been imposed with unparalleled harshness and greed upon ordinary Chinese.  Every unbearable aspect of their daily lives was marked by some kind of injustice, and the absence of elemental dignity.

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Danielle Keats 3 years ago Member's comment

@[Roger Keats](user:10012), you would enjoy this article.

Susan Miller 3 years ago Member's comment

@[Raymond Matison](user:59868), you may not be an expert on North or South Korea, but you certainly come across as one!