By a contributor
North Korea’s missile tests continue to grab attention, mainly because of American objection and the resulting regional and world tension.
Governments of the United states, European Union and countries like Australia, repeatedly point the finger at the North Koreans and suggest that its leader is a megalomaniac, out to destroy the world.
The advantage of such a simplistic and wrong take on events, is that it needs no explanation or concern for any real reasons that might be motivating the north to carry on with a nuclear program and missile development and why there is such obvious and massive support for the leadership coming from the population.
History has a lot to do with it.
The Koreans, and this means north and south of the present border, had fought a bitter battle against an extremely brutal Japanese occupation. Those of us in more comfortable parts of the world can hardly imagine what they must have gone through.
After the defeat of Japan, the question of Korean independence loomed large.
Back in 1866, France had taken Korea a colony by force. The period of French control was troubled and met with constant rebellions. Korea was then annexed by Japan in 1910, bringing in a period, characterised by a new level of brutality.
In 1946, After World War Two, a provisional government was set up. A new election was to be held. But within months the acting prime minister was assassinated and the United States set up a military government, below the 38th parallel that still divides the two parts of Korea.
The dividing line had been created to facilitate Japanese withdrawal and not to create two separate countries. The Soviets were stationed in the north and the Americans in the south. According to the existing agreement, both were to withdraw within 5 years and the Koreans elect their own government as an independent nation. However, the military government openly violated the agreement and put and end to the future plan. A permanent separation between the two parts of Korea was the result.
Before the War, the United States had supported the Japanese occupation and had consistently been against Korean independence. Therefore, the intervention after the war was widely seen as a new colonisation and resisted.
For the West, this had become a proxy war between the United States and the Soviet Union, on the eve of the emergence of the Cold War. The wishes of the local population were secondary.
The ensuing Korean War was devastating. The American led alliance targeted civilian centres and bombing raids blew up dams, economic and other infrastructure in the north.
More bombs were dropped on Korea during this time than for the whole of World War Two. This has not been forgotten in north Korea and the memory is being kept alive by the ongoing military standoff.
Fear of a new invasion is real. North Korea feels under threat and that what happened to them in 1945 could happen again and many Koreans are angry, with the perception that their country remains under occupation and divided.
If tensions are going to be diffused, the whole of Korea needs to be demilitarized and the threat of war pushed back. But this will not occur unless there is an agreement for both sides to disarm together and guarantee that the final choice for the future of Koreas must be in the hands of the Koreans.