The Real Costs of Kim’s War

The Real Costs of Kim’s War

Sunday, September 3, 2017 10:42 pm

Tunde Asaju

By Tunde Asaju

If you believe Fake News; then hidden beneath the facade of prosperity that the North Koreans put up at their annual parades lies a cesspit of poverty not known to nuclear nations since the defeat of Hitler. This shameful aspect of Korean life does not show up in guided tours. Fake News says it manifest in the skeletal bodies of North Koreans banished to live in rural areas where food rationing is the order of the day. Before Donald Trump, we wouldn’t believe Fake News naturally, but with his antics, Fake News is now a Real News franchise.

Those of us old enough to remember what happened after the Berlin Wall and the old Soviet Union collapsed saw that life is not usually what is portrayed in propaganda materials. Angela Merkel is not the typical poster-girl of either the physical or emotional effects of communism, but even Germany still struggles to eviscerate the effects of division. Trying to balance the standard of living and development between the Western and the Eastern side of Germany (apology to Sai Baba) is fiscally Herculean.

Kim Jong Un

This article is not about Merkel’s Germany or Putin’s crumbled Union, it is about Kim Jong-un’s reclusive nation, frozen in 1948 but sometimes breaks its cyst to rankle global rulers. So, while we were sleeping on Saturday, Kim’s nuclear warheads were blown into the earth sending shock waves across the Korean Peninsula and reverberating through Guam into Washington and other global capitals.

Now that we know that Trump’s earlier threats were only made to hear the wind blow, why should anyone care if North Korea chooses to fire one missile estimated to cost between $18 and $60 million every minute rather than feed it’s starving population? The people who usually take Panadol for other people’s headaches are concerned about the cost of one nuclear warhead versus the price of bread. Fake News believes that the more nuclear tests are carried out, the less real bread misses from the menu of the average North Korean table. Not that the Koreans value their baguette as much as the French, nevertheless the North Korean hungry are unlikely to subscribe to Christ’s declaration that man shall not live by bread alone. Nigerians believe that bread goes better with a little butter, scrambled eggs and some shayi.

On the scale of preference, as can be seen from the physique of Kim and his Yes-Sir Generals, there is no hunger in North Korea. But this is where the equation gets a little wonky. Sanctions are in place but they are obviously not deterrence. Robert Mugabe has survived it, and so the Mullahs in Iran. The story is usually not the same in hospitals where citizens likely become disposable, as they die of preventable diseases, women from childbirth complications and children from neonatal infections. In an open society these are the real tragedies of Kim’s adventures but in a closed North Korea, Pyongyang makes sure the world sees what Pyongyang wants the world to see – a life-lie.

In the past decade, according to those counting, Pyongyang has carried out ten tests, four of those this year of its bellicosity with America. The nickel and dime cost of nuclear arms are shrouded in mystery even in America for all its Glasnost and Perestroika. What Kim and his generals are doing essentially is blowing up their country’s scarce resources. Its much like the analogy of smokers – they literally roll up their hard-earned cash, light it up, inhale the smoke and exhale the poison to pollute the atmosphere. A smoker’s lung belongs to him, but the atmosphere belongs to all.

The fact that a rogue nation decides to put nuclear bombs over and above the improvement of life should be every rational human concern. In the event of another nuclear war, the type that both Washington and Pyongyang are threatening our world with, there’ll be no survivors. Those who escape the blistering impact in their capsules would break out to find the physical impact the least of their worries – the ginormous environmental impact would be catastrophic.

What should concern us is the fact that Pyongyang does not sign up to any treaty of rationality. With each test, the environmental impact is seismic, shaking the natural alignment of our terra firma and putting the rest of life on earth in serious jeopardy. The long-term impact affects life and living everywhere. Experts are making subtle conclusions to the effect that the spate of so-called natural disasters we now experience are largely the environmental impact of the tons of weapons fired in the Gulf War and others unleashed to save the world from despots but which has made our planet unsafe for habitation. The effect of another nuclear catastrophe would quadruple or sextuple these phenomenon. So, whereas Pyongyang uses its territorial and neighbouring areas as test-site, the environmental effects are bound to be global ranging from earthquakes to tsunamis and its ripple effects.

Now that Trump has stopped teasing the tiger by its tail and is showing a little more rationality, the world needs an order where sabre-rattling is replaced by genuine fear over the preservation of global patrimony. We need to reinvest in determining the five-second period of lucidity amidst the madness to stop the nuclear arms race. Those who have stockpiled them need to commit to gradual disarmament and the UN needs to bite and not just bark. We need it not for the politics between Washington and Pyongyang, but for the sake of the survival of this universe that was bestowed to us and which, we are duty-bound to betroth to our children’s children.

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