Test ends peace hopes

Alex Wong, University of Hong Kong
Alex Wong, University of Hong Kong |

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No nation better illustrates the statement "no news is good news" than North Korea. Almost every time the nation is mentioned in the news, it has either fired a missile, or its cadres have come up with a newer method to torture its people.

The latest action is no exception. Pyongyang conducted a nuclear test on February 12, deep in the mountains of the country's northeast. This kind of behaviour can only mean that North Korea has rejected peace and wants to make more enemies.

The world is disappointed with new leader Kim Jong-un. Many had hoped that he would stop the nation from destroying itself. But those hopes have vanished within a year of his taking office. It seems aggression and violence run in Kim's blood, and it is likely that the world will have to put up with his tantrums for a few more decades.

The nation is already starving its people of both food and freedom, and political stability is only achieved by keeping citizens ignorant of what is happening in the outside world. Unfortunately, there is not much the world can do about North Korea.

China is unlikely to cut off trade with its supposed ally because that might cause a war on the Korean Peninsula and lead to a flood of refugees.

And the United Nations' threats and economic sanctions seem to have little effect. Judging from earlier encounters, Pyongyang does not seem to care too much about world opinion.

Also, cutting supplies or humanitarian aid to North Korea might not deal a significant blow to the corrupt, wealthy leaders, but could potentially lead to more suffering - and death - for the country's innocent people, who rely on donated food and goods.

A more plausible alternative would be to freeze the overseas financial assets of the wealthy North Korean government officials, and to pressure them into giving up nuclear arms while providing more food for their people.

Recently, a salon poster showing the 18 hairstyles permitted for North Korean women appeared on the internet. While it was meant to be a joke, it reflected the harsh reality of a country run by a dictator; a place where thoughts and actions are closely scrutinised. Freedom seems like an unattainable dream for the oppressed North Koreans.

North Korea's decision-makers have to learn that they have no right to exploit the people's ignorance, or to spend the country's money on nuclear missiles that are unnecessary.