By Martin Hart-Landsberg
December 31, 2010 -- Reports from the Economic Front -- What’s happening on the Korean peninsula? If you read the press or
listen to the talking heads, your best guess would be that an insane
North Korean regime is willing to risk war to manage its own internal
political tensions. This conclusion would be hard to avoid because the
media rarely provide any historical context or alternative explanations
for North Korean actions.
For example, much has been said about the March 2010 (alleged) North
Korean torpedo attack on the Cheonan (a South Korean naval vessel) near
Baengnyeong Island, and the November 2010 North Korean artillery attack
on Yeonpyeong Island (which houses a South Korean military base).
The conventional wisdom is that both attacks were motivated by North
Korean elite efforts to smooth the leadership transition underway in
their country. The take away: North Korea is an out-of-control country,
definitely not to be trusted or engaged in negotiations.
But is that an adequate explanation for these events? Before
examining the facts surrounding them, let’s introduce a bit of
history. Take a look at the map below, which includes both Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong Islands.