Don’t we all love that chubby, 5-foot tall man? You know, the “red” one who dishes out surprises in December and waddles about with his green uniform cronies? Oh yes, I’m talking about Kim Jong-un. Though the supreme leader has been promising us t(h)reats all year round, last Christmas our favourite dictator might very well have come to town – well, Sony’s backyard to be precise.
The infamous Sony hack of yesteryear has a lot of people looking in the direction of the Hermit Kingdom, and for good reason. Pyongyang has a history of launching cyberattacks, such as the 2009 DDoS attacks which targeted government websites in South Korea and the US, the 2011 offensive against South Korean banks, and then the cyberwar against South Korean banks and TV stations in 2013.
To many, the provocations appear to be the product of a crazed, naive middle-aged man – they’re not. In fact, they’re well-calculated moves that the Kim family frequently employs, partly to deter North Korea’s enemies from attacking the country. By appearing to be completely insane, Mr Kim is able to persuade the “decadent western imperialists” to leave him alone.
The other, perhaps more important reason why North Korea launches attacks every so often is to keep its regime alive. The propaganda machine needs its people to believe that the country is constantly at war. They need them to believe that they are poor, malnourished, and stuck in a police state because the military needs all the resources in order to protect its people from their enemies. A provocation a day keeps the rebellion away.
North Korea’s relationship with China and South Korea is actually the force that keeps the state alive. Although the North occasionally murders South Koreans to maintain its facade, the South is still a major trade partner and still continues to contract North Korean workers to manufacture goods in the Kaesong Industrial Region. The region is still alive today because the big South Korean corporations still want to exploit the cheap labour in order to increase their profits.
China is still North Korea’s largest trade partner, its supplies are critical for the survival of Pyongyang. Though Beijing absolutely despises Kim and Friends, it is maintaining its ties to prevent the collapse of the country, which would be devastating for China. It’s the “No war, no instability, no nukes” policy: Beijing uses trade as a tool to prevent the North from starting a war or imploding due to the lack of trade. The DPRK is only alive because China doesn’t want to handle a refugee crisis or see US troops flood into the Korean Peninsula.
But China appears to be the only party capable of shutting down this farce. Though no one can really prescribe a solution to the problem, we can certainly start preparing our defences for future, well-designed North Korean attacks.