Even when liars tell the truth, they are never believed. The liar will lie once, twice, and then perish when he tells the truth. - The Boy Who Cried Wolf
**Disclaimer: I reserve the right to make or not make wild accusations and gross assumptions without any scientific basis or expert knowledge.
threats of nuclear war, and the US involvement in South Korea's military training exercises yesterday along the disputed maritime border. But I'm not worried.
For the most part, South Koreans tend to ignore Kim Jong Il completely. They don't pay attention anymore to the angry, bespectacled little Korean man who keeps crying wolf. When something serious happens - a boat sinks, or a bomb explodes - some will hold candlelight vigils and call for blood. Yet his threats of war, or a nuclear holocaust go largely unheeded by the public. Even the news of an actual, isolated attack will blow over within a month or two, and he will disappear from media coverage for a time.
Soon after I arrived in Korea, I asked my co-teacher whether she worried about the situation with North Korea. "Not really." She seemed surprised at the question. If the North attacked, Mrs. Yoon said, she wouldn't be able to go anywhere to escape. What's the point of worrying about something you can't control?
The fact is that Kim Jong Il is a loose cannon. No one is completely sure what he is capable of. In addition to the recent bombing, which killed two soldiers and two civilians, in March 2010 he was blamed for torpedoing a South Korean Navy ship, killing 46 soldiers. (China, Russia, and North Korea disputed the results of the investigation.) Yeonpyeong is the third attack blamed on North Korea in the 16 years that Kim Jong Il has been at the reins, and the second this year.
But crazy and violent as Kim Jong Il may be, he's not stupid. He knows that, while the South Korean public may ignore his persistent wolf-cries of war, the military and global political machines will not. They can't afford to. His reputation as a wild card, as someone who is capable of anything, is the best thing going for him right now, and probably forever. Like a child with a hair-trigger reaction and a penchant for tantrums, Kim Jong Il knows that his "parents" don't want to do something to provoke an outburst. They'll do anything to appease him, even if that means ignoring the occasional broken lamp and trash fire, and giving him a regular allowance.
But he also knows that there's a line. If he crossed that line, and instigated a war with South Korea, he must know that China and Russia would likely abandon their support for him, and the South Korean-allied forces would crush him and his regime quickly. He wouldn't just be sent to his room, with his Xbox and coloring books. He would be sent to boot camp.
To be fair, though, it's not all Kim Jong Il's posturing that is to blame for escalating tensions. South Korea patrols and conducts regular military exercises in disputed waters in spite of North Korea's claim over the territory. Perhaps they are more likened to kid siblings, who pull each others' hair and call each other names, trying to push the other across the line. The one who starts the fight, after all, gets sent to his room. The other, even if he ends up with a black eye, gets an ice cream cone.
Kim Jong Il and the Boy Who Cried Wolf are like two sides to the same coin; the one claimed that a wolf was attacking his sheep, while the other claimed that he was a wolf. Whether or not Kim's claim is valid remains to be seen. In the end, though, the lesson is the same. The liar will lie once, twice, and then perish when he tells the truth. A wolf is no match for a human with a spear.
On a lighter note, here's Kim Jong Il Looking At Things: