Word on the Wire

The news has erupted in speculation, disbelief, condemnation and at times, downright panic since North and South Korea exchanged fire across the western sea border.

Back in Canada, CBC‘s Radio Canada International interviewed CanKor editor Erich Weingartner, and Brain Trust members Charles Burton and David Dewitt which you can listen to here.

Another BT member from Germany, Lutz Drescher, pointed us early on to a New York Times article “‘Crisis Status’ in South Korea After North Shells Island” which he says: “has quite some good background, explaining the rationale that might be behind, if the North really has started this attack. The article leaves some space for doubt, mentioning that, “the South had been firing from a battery on the Island of paeknyeiongdo”. If the DPRK did start it is believed to be “a sign of North Koreas increasing frustration.”

Some sources have since speculated that this is little else than the usual fire exchange during the annual joint South Korean – US military drills in the disputed waters between the South Korean Northern Limit Line (which the North does not recognize) and the Military Demarcation Line (which the South does not recognize). Sources also highlight that some show of force often follows the announcement of DPRK leadership succession.

Others point out that what makes this incident markedly different and particularly distressing, is the sustained shelling of civilians. South Korean fire into North Korea may warrant a reciprocal response against a military target. Firing hundreds of shells into civilian habitation however, is an entirely different matter, demonstrating notable escalation from any past incident.

The DPRK media is the last to weigh in on the incident. New York Times blogger Robert Mackie has posted a YouTube video (courtesy of Martin Williams), a recording of the North Korean English language broadcast Voice of Korea. And the KCNA has issued a statement by the Supreme Command of the Korean People‘s Army, which you can find here.

At the time of our exchange with Lutz (Wednesday, 2:00 am in Seoul), neither the English language nor the Korean language edition of the Official Korean Central News Agency (KNCA) carried any report about the incident.

“The last news we find in the Korean language edition,” he wrote “is nearly a plea for the reopening of Kumgang Mountain Tourism. The North is in dire need of foreign currency in order to be able to buy oil, otherwise the population will have a big problem this winter.”

It is doubtful that this conflict will bring any relief to those North Koreans already facing a hard winter.

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