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News & Politics

It’s a M.A.D. World

News of unrest in North Korea is saturating the media. CNN, FOX, ABC, NBC, CBS… they have all shown the rising aggressions and looming threats made recently by North Korea. It is no secret that North Korea wants oil, food, and medical aid while refuting any allegations that the people of North Korea are starving and dying due to famine and disease. Meanwhile, the hermit Kingdom continues to make unprovoked threats of violence against South Korea and its allies. North Korea’s young leader may intend for these threats to serve as a means of garnering respect through intimidation. Regardless of the initial perspective one may have on the situation, it certainly deserves further analysis.

FOX News claimed on Friday, April 12, citing previous statements made at a defense committee hearing, that the Obama administration was trying desperately to “down play the errant disclosure” of sections from a Pentagon report that stated North Korea does, in fact, have the ability to arm a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead.

FOX made this statement even though on Thursday, April 11, the U.S. Department of Defense released a reassuring press release in which Press Secretary George Little stated that;

“In today’s House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Department of Defense budget, a member of the committee read an unclassified passage in a classified report on North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. While I cannot speak to all the details of a report that is classified in its entirety, it would be inaccurate to suggest that the North Korean regime has fully tested, developed, or demonstrated the kinds of nuclear capabilities referenced in the passage.  The United States continues to closely monitor the North Korean nuclear program and calls upon North Korea to honor its international obligations.”

Clearly, The D.O.D. disclosed one statement regarding North Korea’s ability at engineering such a device, yet the main stream media turned it into a debate over politics – not North Korea’s true military capabilities.

Due to the media’s selective coverage of the events, on April 15, the 101st birthday of North Korea’s founder and leader Kim Il-sung, USA Today reported that many believed the holiday would be marked by more unsanctioned and unannounced nuclear tests. The day was marked in North Korea by… lots of flowers.

The fear of threatening behavior from the hermetic nation is understandable. This prophesized “doomsday” celebration closely follows recent unannounced nuclear tests in the Pacific, propaganda videos depicting the destruction of America and South Korea, promises to launch a nuclear strike against American without provocation, and pretty much all out global war.

As reported by the Associated Press, when nothing happened on April 15, everyone was very keen to point out that there were three days of celebrations for the late leader – anything could happen.

While the rest of the world watches in horror as this delicate 70 year truce between the North and South crumbles, it’s hard not to wonder what the attitude is of the people who live right under North Korea’s supposedly towering shadow.

As an American working as an English teacher at the Si-Sa English Institute in South Korea, Kelsey Minnig, a Pitt University Alumna, does not share the views of the American media and she is not the only one.

Kelsey Minnig, Pitt University Alumna

Minnig said that when Kim Jung Un announced that foreigners should leave South Korea to avoid thermonuclear war, she received several frantic emails from home asking to help her leave the country.

Yet she felt no pressure to leave. “If it weren’t for friends, family, and news sources back home I wouldn’t hear much about Kim Jung Un,” Minnig said.

“As an American who is currently living in South Korea, I am not too concerned about the situation with North Korea at this time,” Minnig explained, pointing out that she’s not the only one who feels this way.

Minnig is regularly in contact with both South Koreans and expatriates, or those who have successfully fled North Korea and made the long, arduous, and dangerous journey to live peacefully in South Korea.

“Most people that I come in contact with on a daily basis tell me that the North has been threatening the South for years, and many people in the South have become desensitized to their threats,” Minning said. She went on to say that she has taken the precaution of registering with the U.S. embassy, so if an evacuation order comes it does so through the correct channels.

It’s clear that the atmosphere in South Korea is much more relaxed than that in America. While South Koreans have lived next to a virtual powder keg for 70 plus years and have developed a sense for true danger, Americans have a special fear when it comes to talk of nuclear war.

Perhaps things are not as bad as they seem, but the ultimate cost of negligence in this regard could be greater than just one country’s safety.

During the cold war, only one thing deterred the U.S. and the U.S.S.R from going into all-out thermonuclear war with one another, and the world can only hope that North Korea understands the concept. Back in the 1980’s, it was widely known that if the U.S.S.R. fired even one nuclear missile, we would return fire.

This clip from 1983’s WarGames does a good job at illustrating why we never entered nuclear war with the U.S.S.R. In the clip, a defense strategy super-computer on the fritz simulates every possible outcome to global nuclear war only to discover there are no winners. The only way to win is not to play.

Before any one missile hit its target, the entire nuclear arsenal of both superpowers would already be unleashed in a spider web of targets and trajectories in a cataclysmic barrage – like opposing lines of medieval archers. During that quiet moment of hang time, between loosing and landfall – those would be our final moments. The end result? Nuclear fallout – we all die.

In briefing rooms and command centers this terrible possibility was called by its acronym, M.A.D., but you can be sure our parents know it by its proper name; Mutually Assured Destruction.


Reported by: Kathryn Hochgertel

Written by Matthew Nason, a telecommunications student at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. He majors in Journalism and transferred here with honors from the Pennsylvania College of Technology. There he was Music Director and Assistant Manager of Operations for two years of WPTC Williamsport, 88.1 fm. He hopes to work in broadcast journalism.