North Korea - Should the West/UN take action?

A UN investigation has revealed/confirmed (unsurprisingly) that North Korea is guilty of some pretty horrendous human rights violations.

Is it incumbent upon the world community to tap NK on the shoulder, and say ‘cut it out’? If they don’t, how far should the world community be prepared to go ‘To do something about it’? North Korea is already under a wide range of economic sanctions, how much farther can that be pushed to achieve anything. Presumably you’d just be inflicting more pain on those already suffering in any case. I’m sure the ruling elite would be the last to feel the pinch.

An article I read this morning likened it to the Holocaust, in the sense that the catch cry after WWII was “If only we’d known”. Will we wind up saying the same thing here? Is it even fair to draw that parallel? Don’t get me wrong by all accounts what’s going on in NK right now is terrible and abhorrent, but doesn’t appear to be industrialised genocide. At what point do you make the call that stopping this is worth the lives of some our citizens?

The essential question/debate is should ‘We’ get directly involved, and should that involvement mean military action?

For me, thinking idealistically, damn straight we should do something. But in the real world there are a lot of considerations. Not least of which is China seems content to support NK. I don’t know why, maybe they like having a ‘bad guy’ in the region. But I would be very concerned about something escalating with China if military action was taken.

Is there a middle ground between more (useless) sanctions and boots on the ground?

What action could the US take? 60 years of embargoes and sanctions haven’t made the problem go away, China isn’t going to act against North Korea because they prefer the status quo to any of the alternatives, and military action would result in the collateral deaths of tens of thousands of South Koreans and billions of dollars of damage to their infrastructure, and would likely become vastly unpopular in the US among both liberals (who oppose foreign wars in general) and conservatives (who oppose anything that Obama is responsible for) - and, upon victory, the UN coalition would then be forced to deal with rebuilding North Korea itself, a task which would make the reconstruction of postwar Germany look simple in comparison. The only sane option at this time is to continue maintaining the status quo until such time as a North Korean regime appears that’s willing to play ball.

No; let it collapse on its own.

Yes, the US should get off of the Korean Peninsula, both militarily and diplomatically. South Korea has twice the population and over 40 times the economic power of the North. They can defend themselves, should it be necessary. The US presence isn’t large enough to have a decisive military impact anyway, they’re mostly there for show, and as a tripwire to bring the US into a conflict, and facilitate the introduction of US forces.

The people of Korea are perfectly capable of reuniting their peninsula on their own. The Chinese apparently consider it nigh-unacceptable to have US troops on their border. Having them in Afghanistan is bad enough, but having them in a united Korea, thus bordering China, would be very alarming. Ideally, North Korea would be brought to a soft landing, with economic inroads made by the South Koreans and Chinese (a la China’s recent activities in some countries as miserable as the DPRK), but from my perspective, even a collapsing North would be preferable to the status quo, as it would enable a humanitarian effort to take place. After all, all the neighboring countries are in a position to give help, and more would arrive from overseas.

Where do you get the idea that the ROK can defend itself against a concerted attack, one which would obliterate the Seoul metropolitan are (where approximately one half of South Korea’s population resides)? Almost everything I’ve read or heard from South Korea’s own military concurs that the ROK cannot defend itself alone against such an attack.

I think the “China doesn’t want US troops on its borders” card is overplayed. What China wants, and is quite vocal about it, is simply the status quo. China calls that stability. So long as China continues to get the cheap labor and cheap supplies from North Korea (yes, there are exports from the DPRK), there is absolutely no incentive for China to agree to a change in that status quo.

A collapsing DPRK would entail massive migration. There are only two avenues for that: across the DMZ, a dangerous trip given all the mines and other defenses in place, and into China. China, of course, is not anxious to have a massive migration of North Koreans into China’s territory.

The neighboring countries already give humanitarian aid. Heck, even South Korea is known to help feed the North Korean population.

Your post is a simplistic and incorrect parsing of the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

I think the DPRK might have a real nuclear program by now if not for international sanctions, so I’m not going to accept the premise that sanctions are useless or don’t count as doing anything. And it’s hard to respond any other way with a regime that’s proved it can’t be trusted. We’ve known for a long time that the dictators of North Korea were locking people up in concentration camps. It’s horrible, but I don’t think anyone - especially the countries with the most to worry about, South Korea and Japan and China - want to handle this situation with a big invasion.

And that deters North Korea from being even more aggressive toward South Korea.

They really aren’t- it would ruin South Korea’s economy. If it ever happens, South Korea will get a lot of help.

I’m not sure how you think this will go if you’re skeptical of sanctions. The Kims aren’t going to liberalize the country and relinquish power. If they lose their grip, it’s possible they’ll be replaced by someone willing to deal with the rest of the world. The problem is that “economic inroads” might also help them stay in power, and that’s the line I think everybody’s trying to walk.

China disagrees about the “collapse” part, which counts for a lot. They don’t want to get stuck rebuilding North Korea and they don’t want to have to deal with even more refugees. As long as they think the Kim dynasty beats an unknown alternative, there’s not much chance anyone attacks North Korea. The question becomes how to minimize the damage it does.


Oh, come on.

I don’t wanna invade North Korea! :frowning:


I heard the same news story today and thought: There is something terribly wrong with the world where we (not the US, but let’s just say the industrialized world) are unable to do something about this. Or, rather, that we couldn’t do something about this 10 years ago or 20 years ago. This is not really news-- this has been going on for decades.

I’m not sure either why it’s suddenly news now. Apart from the release of the UN ‘study’ into human rights violations in North Korea. It’s not as if they’re a surprise for anyone.

I suppose I find it interesting in the global geopolitical arena, what things are let go and what things provoke a ‘something must be done’.

With a ‘recognised’ government in firm control does it take them making the mistake of an actual military invasion to be the tipping point? That would seem to be the case. I was going to draw parallels between involvement in Somalia and Bosnia but in both of those cases there was no established government and/or a war had already started. Seem callous, but does it make a difference that the North Korean’s are killing their own and not another ethnic group?

Well, there’s Dennis Rodman.

It matters that they’re not killing people outside of their own country. (Aside from some provocations of South Korea that still don’t rise to the level of restarting the war.) If the North Korean government attacked another country, it would be another story. Since they’re primarily harming their own people, it turns into a more complicated question about how to solve that problem and not make things worse. And again, the countries around North Korea (including China) don’t want a war. You can’t just ignore them.

If you want to invade countries and occupy them for humanitarian reasons there are plenty of other easier ones to do it in, mostly in Africa or the Middle East. Maybe a couple in South Asia. Maybe we just need a few more practice runs and we’ll get the whole multidecadal build-a-country-from-scratch thing down.

Seems then that Eddie Izzard was right.

Just as soon as you come up with a plan which is 100% guaranteed to work on the first try to:

  1. Neutralize the 10,000 artillery pieces the DPRK has on the DMZ pointed at Seoul BEFORE they can be fired.
  2. Seal the Chinese border so the Chinese don’t have 20,000,000 starving mouths to feed and house (doing this without alarming the Chinese of your intent - maybe use African troops - China knows Africa (and is colonizing it quickly).
  3. Take out the entire DPRK command and control system
  4. Get your hands on their nuke materials before the Chinese or Russians.

Go for it - we can handle feeding the 24 million suddenly without even the few bits os nourishment they currently get later.

If you want some info on DPRK:

CIA Factbook:

38 North - intelligent analysis:

And, what you’re up against - the DPRK news:

In the meantime, the outside world continues to seep in.

S Korean TV is (illegally) watched by millions, smuggled DVD and VCD make the rounds, and, as the USSR discovered, with so much technology running around, you really can’t stop the distribution of media.

The great lie that is the DPRK is that they (and China) are (well, China was, but we’re not too sure about how) the last islands of “freedom” in a world controlled by the US and the US was desperate to destroy it.
They also believed that, poor as they were, they were richer than the Chinese.
Then a Chinese travel company started tours of NK, and the NK’ers learned THAT part of the story is a lie.
My understanding is the economic mess is now explained as “poor, but getting better”.

When one of your slogans is “One meal a day is enough”, it’s hard to go lower…

North Korea doesn’t have oil and minerals worth fighting over. End of story. Who in the West would have given jack if Iraq was an oil free desert wasteland?

Are you kidding? North Korea is insanely mineral rich, especially with rare earths. It’s thought to have the second largest concentration of magnesite in the world. It’s thought that 2/3 of the world’s supply of rare earth deposits are in N. Korea. That’s a large part of the reason that China is so protective of the country. They protect the current regime and in exchange, get to loot their natural resources.

Is that a real slogan from North Korea?

I don’t think so. But after the Soviet Union fell apart and during the famine, a slogan was “Lets eat two meals a day!”

Are the East children that are incapable of action? If action needs to be taken there are several neighbouring nations that are quite capable, military speaking.

One of the problems with North Korea is that it is the world’s biggest hostage situation. North Korea is a psychopath with a gun held to South Korea’s head, and we can’t incapacitate him fast enough to stop him pulling the trigger. That alone is enough to make intervention difficult.