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North Korea: threat or nuisance?

By Emily Stenquist
On May 15, 2013

T here are many people in this country right now who are biting their nails and carefully monitoring the news for signs that the North Koreans are coming to get us.

Ridiculous jingoistic movies like "Olympus Has Fallen" play to red state paranoia.  The media endlessly hype bellicose state-sponsored North Korean broadcasts and give us long tracking shots of legions of marching, well, legions, along with missiles and tanks pouring through Kim Il-sung Square in the North Korean capital city of Pyongyang.

Pundits scowl and even former Vice President Dick Cheney said recently that "we are in deep doo-doo" in response to North Korea.  It threatens missile launches, naval bombardment, and even more nuclear-weapon testing. Kim Jong Un and his cronies have their proverbial stick in the pot, riling up not only Americans, but many people around the globe at the thought of potential nuclear war. Or so it seems.

Here is the reality. You hit the 7-11 around two a.m. You run into an itinerant model airplane glue enthusiast who sputters aggressive, drunken nonsense at an uncomfortably close distance.

Do you start a fight? Do you argue? Do you try to reason with him like a fellow adult? No. You hand the guy a dollar to mollify him and you go on your way. You don't think he is actually harmful or threatening, but you avoid him just in case.  

This is the real game North Korea has been playing since anyone can remember.  Since the latter days of Kim Il Sung's administration in the 1980s, North Korea has been an economic basket case.  Since then, it has been trying anything and everything to provoke the world into providing it with enough assistance to quietly make it go away.

To return to the analogy, imagine North Korea is that late-night burnout and the dollar is our feigned nervous response to their threats of an attack on South Korea, a naval incident, a potential nuclear war, etc.

We give the haranguer a buck, not because he's a genuine threat, but because it's easier than the inconvenience he could cause if he acts even crazier. One good loogie and your shirt is a mess.

If something does end up happening, whether it be on this continent or another, the United States is certainly going to be involved.

South Korea is one of the United States' biggest allies. If by some minute chance they were attacked by their unfriendly neighbor to the north we, the United States, would have to intervene and it would undoubtedly cost us a stack that could be much better spent.

This would not only be a nightmare for us-it would be an even bigger nightmare for South Korea as well as China, who shares over 880 miles of border with North Korea. China shudders at two facts; bailing out a hollow country full of starving people on their border, and having one of the US's staunchest allies on their border.  

The current war of words is already beginning to affect South Korean export capital.  The fact is, no one wants North Korea to implode.

So, are we really in danger from a country that can't feed itself or even provide heat for its flagship university? Hardly. Should we throw this stumbling codger a buck? Hell yes.

Emily Stenquist is a Tower staff writer. Email her at e.byrne.stenquist(at)gmail(dot)com.

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