It has been over 60 years since Koreans were killing each other in the Korean War. A conflict between a socialist state backed by the Soviet and the Chinese and a capitalist republic aided by Americans and other Allied forces. It was one of the fighting arenas of the Cold War era, where Socialists met the Allied despite not declaring war. This war in the Korean peninsula, along with the Vietnam War (that commenced just five years after the Korean War had begun) and the Soviet-Afghan War of 1980, raised tensions between the nuclear-capable states of Soviet Russia and the United States; thankfully enough, no WMDs were launched.
No peace treaty had ever been signed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea nor the Republic of Korea, and at this moment the state of war still exists between the two nations. The whole world had their fingers crossed that a momentary period of restraint would lead to an eventual peace deal, if not reunification. The Inter-Korean Summit in 2000 and again in 2007 gave Koreans more reason to hope.
Then came the 23rd of November. The day the North shelled the island of Yeonpyeong in South Korea and killed four people – two were civilians. This was the first direct attack on the South by North Korea since 1953, when a ceasefire was agreed. When before the world was being optimistic of a united Korea, now there is fear that an all-out war could break out again.
The shelling was apparently a North Korean response to South Korea’s ‘provocative’ military drill near their border. The time these attacks happened is very alarming as it had only been four days since a United States report claimed the socialist state was building a nuclear reactor, and only eight months since the North allegedly sinked a warship that killed 44 South Korean sailors. Ten months after a South Korean tourist was shot while visiting North Korea as well.
The concerns of a full-scale Korean war does not limit to that in the archipelago. The effects of a war would not even be solely political nor social, but even economical. Just a day after the attacks stock markets fell worldwide and global economic growth forecasts revised downward. Let’s not forget the fact that the South is the 15th largest economy in the world and a major financial backer of the Philippines. On the social scale, there are approximately 60,000 Filipinos living in the South and nine in the North. Remember the Israel-Hezbollah conflict of 2006? The government were having a headache drawing up a solution to evacuate all 30,000 Filipinos in Lebanon. Now imagine how complex it would be if the number was double.
The world isn’t crossing its’ fingers anymore, instead it’s biting its’ nails. The dream of seeing a reunited Korea has been put aside, today we pray that a nightmare war doesn’t occur.
The United States has done their part, sending an armada of warships into the peninsula. Although it was due to scheduled annual war games, it was a good measure as well to ensure the two sides maintain restraint. Nearby Asian powerhouses Japan and China are distancing themselves from the issue, they do not wish to get involved in the conflict. However, being politically and militarily able to intervene they should take the lead into solving the crisis and bring the two sides into the negotiating table; for the sake of peace in the continent at least. And our government, despite having a weak stake in the international community, should not act ignorant. The lives of our countrymen are at stake here after all.
However the decades-old saga between North Korea and South Korea would end — whether into a peaceful unification or a bloodbath — is as vague as the North’s motive in Tuesday’s attacks. The only thing for certain as of now is that the world simply cannot afford another major war; especially when one of the combatants is nuclear-armed.