40 maps that explain North Korea, by Zack Beauchamp. Recommended article as a backgrounder to the current Korean tensions. The Korean War:
On the system of government:
The North Korean government that emerged after the Korean War is not, contrary to popular belief, a classic Marxist or Stalinist state. For one thing, its leadership is essentially monarchical: Kim Il Sung handed power to his son, Kim Jong Il, who gave it to his son, Kim Jong Un.
It’s guided by an official ideology, Juche (“self-reliance”), that positions Koreans as a pure yet vulnerable people who are building authentic socialism but can only do so with the protection of a semi-divine leader from the Kim dynasty. It’s an odd blend of a kind of racial purity ideology promulgated by the Japanese empire, pre-modern Korean monarchism, and Marxism — cobbled together to justify the Kim family’s control and extreme policies. …
The Kim regime doesn’t simply count on ideological indoctrination, ideas like Juche and Songun, to maintain power. The government violently represses political organization, free speech, and basically any activity not sanctioned by the regime.
There’s no better symbol of this repression than North Korea’s network of prison camps. Amnesty International estimated that in 2016, about 120,000 North Koreans were held in these camps, where they are subjected to “rape, infanticide, torture, deliberate starvation, forced labor, and executions.” Further, Amnesty reports, “many of those detained in these camps have committed no crime, but are collectively punished through guilt by association as family members of those deemed threatening to the regime.” …
On capitalism versus communism:
On North Korean artillery:
The North has such a large volume of artillery pointed at Seoul and other areas just south of the DMZ that it could do incredible damage to the South before they could be taken out.
A barrage targeting Seoul, in particular, is terrifying to contemplate: It’s one of the densest major cities in the world, with 27,000 people per square mile, which means the amount of carnage that an artillery barrage could accomplish dwarfs anything seen even in a conflict as terrible as Syria.
A South Korean simulation conducted in 2004 estimated that there could be up to 2 million casualties in the first 24 hours of a conflict alone — before we get to protracted ground conflict. There is no military option for confronting North Korea that doesn’t end in immense amounts of bloodshed, civilian and military alike.