Is South Korea becoming a liability to the US?
Recent secrecy mishaps by Seoul along with its ill-advised aid to Pyongyang raise the question of whether the United States is risking its own security through its alliance with South Korea.
Pyongyang has hacked US and South Korean war plans, thus gaining knowledge of OPLAN (Operation Plan) 5015, which addresses all-out war with the North, and OPLAN 3100, which deals with how to respond to lesser conditions and situations. This news is greatly unsettling for a number of reasons.
Of immediate concern, both Washington and Seoul must now develop a Plan B. By definition, any Plan B is inferior to Plan A simply because if Plan B were the better, it would have been Plan A at the start. The task at hand is no trivial endeavor.
With North Korea known to have attempted to hack the South Korean Defense Ministry in the past, continued vulnerability bespeaks a gross incompetence – perhaps even an intentional back door to facilitate disclosure by agents sympathetic to North Korea who are hiding in the current liberal South Korean government.
When one then considers that Seoul wants to give Pyongyang US$6 million to underwrite a census, one begins to wonder. To begin, it is highly likely that the South already has estimates of the North’s population that are good enough for planning purposes. One does not need that level of precision to plan for an event – unification – that is not even in the foreseeable future.
With North Korea known to have attempted to hack the South Korean Defense Ministry in the past, continued vulnerability bespeaks a gross incompetence – perhaps even an intentional back door to facilitate disclosure by agents sympathetic to North Korea who are hiding in the current liberal South Korean government
This kind of thinking is astonishing, for it ignores a fundamental of economics: Money is totally fungible. This contravenes the intentions of the United Nations sanctions – and those unilaterally implemented by South Korea’s allies – against North Korea. Japan, an ally of the US in the region, certainly objects to providing this kind of aid and comfort to a common enemy.
Add to that another US$8 billion intended to expand the Kaesong Industrial Complex, and the wondering becomes suspicion. What purpose would a larger KIC serve? More cheap labor for South Korean companies at taxpayer expense is hardly justified. Economic engagement with the North in a fatuous effort to better the lives of a very small subset of the North’s total population? North Korea will oversee the wages of its laborers, paying them perhaps 30 cents on the dollar, with the rest going into Pyongyang’s coffers – for finalizing its missile and nuclear programs.
To cap all this off, Gwangmyeong, a southwestern suburb of Seoul, wants to connect its station on the South Korean high-speed rail system directly with Kaesong in North Korean (I have a printout of the original Yonhap news article, which has since been taken down from its website and replaced with a simplified version). This demonstrates ignorance of how the North captured the city of Kaesong as the Korean War broke out. That city was then located in South Korea when the two countries were separated by the 38th parallel.
For those not familiar with the event, beginning after dark on June 24, 1950, forces of the North reconnected a dismantled rail line from over the horizon in North Korea to Kaesong in the South and steamed into the center of that city to capture it from the inside out (source is T R Fehrenbach’s This Kind of War, first published by MacMillan in 1963 – page 34 in the 1994 Brassey’s hardcover edition). Those who do not read history are doomed to repeat it.
Incredibly, the current South Korean administration initially did not want the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile defense system, Seoul still does not fully cooperate with Japan on defense matters of mutual concern, the South wants to give aid and comfort to its enemy, and the administration of President Moon Jae-in cannot safeguard its most precious military secrets.
As a result, 50 million South Koreans, roughly 2 million citizens from other countries, and nearly 29,000 US troops dedicated to the defense of South Korea are at risk because of the policies and practices of the current Seoul government.
It is time for a “tough love” intervention by Seoul’s allies before it becomes even more of a liability to everyone in Northeast Asia.