While the U.S. Talks of War, South Korea Shudders

There is no war scenario that ends in victory.

Comments: 170

  1. Thank you. Out of all the coverage of the tensions on the Korean penninsula over the last few months, this is far and away the most unforgettable and important piece I've seen published anywhere. Someone get a copy of this into the hands of everyone in the American government so they don't forget what's at stake.

  2. What makes you think that the ultimate arbiter of this conflict, Donald Trump, would care enough to read it? I'm not sure he has the capacity, much less the curiosity and concern, to concentrate on getting through the first paragraph.

  3. Too many words for people who don’t read and use their gut in place of facts and logic.

  4. Republicans rule, they do not care. Republicans only care about themselves, and will they live, is the only ootcome that counts. They think of it as the human condition, one that cleanses itself of overpopulation. Which means more for them. They don’t even care about their own population of poor in the classed citizens. Why would they care about Koreans North or South?

  5. Please continue to speak for the people of South Korea. I am dismayed and angered whenever read the comments of those who focus only on the continental United States in relation to the threat posed by the North Korea nuclear build-up. It is wrong, morally and politically, to applaud the warlike posture of our president in response to NK missile launches. Americans (except for those living in South Korea and Guam) would not be the first or primary victims if this pointless mutual aggression between Mr. Trump and Kim Jong-un gets out of control. The president is callously gambling with the lives of non-Americans, which makes his provocations and brinkmanship all the more despicable. It is the innocent people living on the Korean peninsula who will die if war erupts--their homes, trees and wildlife decimated by artillery fire or worse. Diplomacy is not cheap or pointless. It is the only sane way forward, as you explain: "We understand that any solution that is not peace is meaningless and that 'victory' is just an empty slogan, absurd and impossible."

  6. Utter dishonesty. Kim and only Kim, with Chinese cover, has destabilized the world and brought a security crisis to all of east Asia. Kim seeks and will have the ability to destroy the US. That is the ONLY reason this drama is now playing out. I pray for a divine judgment day when all shall be held accountable for their putting the lies that make them feel virtuous over stark realities.

  7. I agree. Trump is gambling with the lives of Koreans with his tough talk and thoughtless saber rattling. He has no idea of the carnage he could unleash, and worse, he doesn't care.

  8. Might be a good idea for Trump to watch the Vietnam War series.

  9. Trump has never seen war. He has never worn the uniform of any military service of the United States. No member of Trump's family has ever experienced war or military service. Trump has also always been able to bully and coerce anyone he pleased with tough talk and an army of lawyers. But an army of lawyers doesn't die on the battlefield. Now Trump is commander in chief. He commands the most capable and powerful military in the history of the world. The American military is more powerful than the next ten added together. Trump is frustrated, angry and unable to deal rationally with North Korea or any other nation. He doesn't and can't grasp why bullying on the international level with other nations doesn't work. He doesn't understand national pride. He doesn't understand that bullying compels other nations not to want to negotiate but to retaliate. Colin Powell former Secretary of State once said "The United States of America does not threaten and does not bluff." He was speaking as the U.S. was mobilizing forces to push Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. So far no American forces have been mobilized. But, once that happens someone needs to explain to Donald Trump that bluffing is at an end. If Donald would shut his mouth maybe cooler heads can prevail and we can avoid mobilizing the ultimate threat to North Korea. Let's not allow Trump to push North Korea to fear that invasion is imminent. The leaders of America need to speak out and so do the American people.

  10. Everyone, including the American public, wholly underestimate the colossal lethality and technological superiority of the current US military over every other military on Earth. North Korea and everything about it can easily be erased from existence by the US in 3 hours or less without ever using any non-conventional weapons. Full Stop!

  11. Walter, from analyses I read, it would take longer than 3 hours to neutralize NK, more like three or four days. And three or four days is plenty of time for NK to kill hundreds of thousands of Japanese and South Koreans, not to mention the millions of North Koreans who would be casualties of a US attacked (and that's assuming China stays out of the fray). Don't kid yourself. This is what's at stake whenever Trumpies say "there's only one way to deal with Kim."

  12. The most capable army? Please? If they are so capable why haven't we won in Iraq or Afghanistan? Their weapons may be sophisticated, but they be idiots. Hubris. Don't elevate them just because they have weapons that kill effectively. What they do very well is spend sums of money that are sins against humanity, it defes reason. And they have done an admirable job of conning us into reverence.

  13. While some leaders want to make their country great again by making war on the Korean Peninsula great again, perhaps it is time for the Koreans to make Korea great as one country by making peace great again through negotiations to unify the politically divided Korean people. For a nuclear war would only make atrocities committed by both sides great again, in the sense of a major disaster for human survival on earth. And we know that both sides would commit such atrocities if they even fought another conventional war, but only Koreans would suffer in that war. And now South Koreans are beginning to understand that they were never our allies, but only our buffers to our old communist and WW II rivals. “The Korean War,” Han Kang writes, “was a proxy war enacted on the Korean Peninsula by neighboring great powers. ...Only recently has it come to light that in this tragic process were several instances of the American Army, officially our allies, massacring South Korean citizens.” One need not wonder why it took so long after the cease-fire over a half-century ago to come to light. Concealing such an atrocity only served the interests of the United States and its Korean lackeys against the interest of a peaceful resolution of the divided governments. One hopes that North Koreans see that in South Koreans like Han Kang there is more that unites them than divides them.

  14. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, central Europe was ruled by three Great Kaisers, Wilhelm of Germany, Franz Josef of Austria, and Nicholas ii of Russia. The Great Kaisers would socialize with one another, their families intermarried. They would argue about lesser states much like ordinary folk talk about winning checkers. Then there was an unfortunate 1914 assassination in Sarajevo. The Kaisers argued that in case of war it was only the little people who would die. They practiced diplomacy and demonstrated incompetence. All three were gone by the end of the war. Nicholas II wanted to show his generals how leadership was done. But he was so inept that the people turned against him. He and his family were executed at Yekaterinburg. Nobody knows what will happen to Donald Trump if Kim Jong Un drops a nuclear bomb say on Guam. But my guess his future life in this eventuality will not be pleasant. He may curse the gods for not giving him a lesser fate. The shame will be unbearable. Let's up he listens to the advisors who try to help him.

  15. Would Trump feel shame? I doubt it. I think he looks at this as a sure-fire way to get into the history books. It would be his route to immortality.

  16. Having served in Korea, I have some understanding of their potiential destruction. The writer is incorrect in calling hostile action a proxy war. That may have been true prior to 1991. Once Mr. Kim aimed his nuclear weapons toward the US, and boasted about destroying entire American cities, the stakes have changed. Sadly it appears the Mr. Kim has the upper to get what he wants.

  17. The US, a sovereign nation, has nuclear weapons it can direct to any country in the world. North Korea, another sovereign nation, wants nuclear weapons it can direct to the one nation, the US, that has threatened NK's total destruction and, less drastically, repeatedly announced its desire to effect a regime change in NK. NK wants "mutually assured destruction" (or a reasonable facsimile, one or two US cities for all of NK) to assure its survival and even a measure of prosperity in a harsh world. The US should give up regime change and establish mutual tolerance between the US and NK. Ideally, the fewer nuclear-armed states the better, but consider Israel, Pakistan, and India, new members of the deadly club. Han Kang's article is right on; would that Pres. Trump could read and understand it.

  18. Reply to Pepperman, I wish you would have elaborated on exactly what Mr. Kim wants. I agree with your thoughts here, but need more information. Does he simply want to be a member of the nuclear club? If so, he can't keep threatening to use them in a first strike on the US. And what would he want in return for giving those weapons up? Something he claims he'll never do. He must know that first use would decimate his country completely. And should the matter elevate to a conventional conflict, it also won't end well for him, but millions would still be lost to the madness which is why the general consensus is the use of force is not a good option. However, if attacked, the South and the US would find themselves in a shooting war with the North. At that point the talk of no good options is meaningless.

  19. Pepperman, the writer was referring to the Korean War. All Mr. Kim appears to want is to continue his regime. By threatening him we provoke counter-threats. What good is that? If people, especially American leaders, were good at patience, we could simply outlive that regime. Why rush, at the risk of nuclear war?

  20. I fear that it is going to be this week. I do hope to be wrong. To those who voted for Trump, you will be responsible; however, unfortunately you will not be held accountable.

  21. This IS what we voted for.

  22. Really, not KJU and his missiles? I don't see Trump launching any missiles over North Korea...do you?

  23. We should recall our soldiers currently based in South Korea, and let South Korea lead the dialogue with their neghbor. If they need our help, they should state exactly what they need - because what we have been doing for the last decades isn't helping. If they want to buy nuclear weapons, fine. If they want to buy or build missile defense systems, fine too. Finally, if they want to go to war with NK and need additional troops, having exhausted their population limits for conscription, we can provide reserve forces, BUT their troops will engage first; out troops will engage once they begin to exhaust their own forces. If they want only diplomacy, that's fine too. But without our defense umbrella.

  24. This is not something that South Korea has caused. If we had never been involved Korea would be one unified nation long since. Probably communist, possibly not. If we followed your scenarios, we would still be in the same position, with a nuclear armed North Korea regarding us as an existential threat.

  25. Do you know anything about " WT OPCON (War Time Operational Control)" in Korea? You wrote " If they want to go to war their troops will engage first ...."........ Do you have any idea what you are talking about? In peacetime, South Korea will remain in charge of its own military forces. But in the event of war with North Korea, U.S. military commanders will take control of both U.S. and South Korean forces. U.S. control over South Korean forces in the case of war with North Korea... It has been the official policy since the U.S. took over operational control during the Korean War.

  26. South Korea has twice the population of N. Korea. If news reports are to be believed most N Koreans are malnourished. The South Koreans ought to be capable of dealing with the North on their own. The know the culture and the cultural norms of the area, something we do not know. Bring our soldiers back.

  27. complacency is better word to describe the attitude. I find it most interesting that the US and global financial markets have a degree of complacency never before seen. there is always risk in finance... but not apparently today. is the South Korean situation and the stock market experiencing the calm before the storm. just as the gulf region had said that hurricanes are no problem and a possible effect of climate change and warmer water means nothing or is made up and fake news.

  28. „We understand that any solution that is not peace is meaningless and that 'victory' is just an empty slogan, absurd and impossible.“ This is a concrete truth with regard to every major conflict in our world today - from the Korean Peninsula to the middle east.

  29. Yes, Mr. Han, "( All Koreans) understand that any solution that is not peace is meaningless" but Trump does not.

  30. Afraid it seems so; by the way, it's Ms. Han.

  31. FYI, Han Kang is a female writer~

  32. Han Kang is a woman. So Ms. Kang, or more preferably, Professor Kang.

  33. What a beautiful article. You clearly can see the humanity that resides in all, even "the other". But sad to say it appears that far too many government leaders are playing a different game. Add to it the desires of the military on all sides to try out their "toys" and it's a prescription for carnage. I too believe that most North Koreans desire a life no different than you in the south do.They want the same things for their families. It seems though as if the hopes and desires of ordinary people don't count for much. I pray that a peaceful end to this comes as did the fall of the Berlin wall and the reunification of Germany. War is so rarely the answer. It surely is not here.

  34. "We only wanted to change society through the quiet and peaceful tool of candlelight". I cried when I read that.

  35. My neighbors for one year in Chico were from South Korea; he was an exchange teacher at Chico State. I cannot remember any neighbors who were sweeter and nicer than that small family with two adorable children. They no doubt were more typical of South Vietnamese citizens than the failed State leader in No. Korea. Hopefully, Trump has Cabinet members who will actually dictate our foreign policy in this region. It does not require a degree in psychology to notice Trump's erratic, emotional and bullying speeches. If it is true that his father was also a bully, the apple hasn't fallen far from that tree.

  36. Think about Iraq. Think about Saddam Hussein. He was brutal, but sane. He understood the limits of his power. He did not have any weapons of mass destruction. His army was weak. His people did not want war. We had war with Saddam Hussein and look what happened. The entire region fell apart. The casualties and refugees number in the tens of millions. Destruction is everywhere. Now think about Kim Jong Un. He is even more brutal than Hussien. He does have WMD. He is insane. He does not understand the limits of his power. His nation has one of the largest armies in the world. They are highly trained and most important, highly motivated. His entire population worships him and will follow him into battle. There are many thousands of heavy artillery pieces set to rain down mass death on an instant notice. Now form an image of George Bush in your mind. OK. Now think about Donald Trump. Consider every aspect of his personality. Consider how his mind works. Add it all up. If all of the ingredients of the Bush/Hussein led to horrible loss of life and property, how can all of the ingredients of the Kim Jong Un/Trump conflict lead to anything less? It will be much quicker because the WMD will kill more people much, much faster. I guess some would consider that progress.

  37. Bruce is my humble opinion, the Iraq War was all about advancing special interests and profit, since the entire area is essentially decimated with the exception of that occupied by our “allies” I guess some would call that progress and the fact that the rest of the world is suffering as a result doesn’t seem too matter much, which makes Mr. Hans eloquent verbiage not only that much more poignant but allows one to imagine, if only for a moment, if we were all holding up candles rather than rattling nukes.

  38. Such a great point. The way to approach to North Korean issues must be completely different than any other global conflict only because of the fact that North Koreans are ready, willing and capable of launching WMD at the spur of the moments when agitated. This issue has been dragging down for a decade throughout previous administration for a reason. Besides, a full-fledged war in Korean peninsula means an absolution destruction of the region involving China and Japan which eventually will lead to World War 3.

  39. Agree with everything you say except that he's insane. Insane people self destruct, this man has pursued a strategy designed and crafted on remaining in power. Nuclear weapon advancement at a rate our intel people failed to pick up on. He has been successful beyond anyone's estimate and isn't going anywhere soon.

  40. A beautiful and moving piece. The tragedy is that, throughout world history, it is strictly those with uncontrolled ego who determine the course of world events, and despite mankind's ingenuity and capacity for human compassion, they will ultimately doom the planet. War, all war, despite all pretense to the contrary, has always come down to the tragic and ultimately fatal human flaws of ego and greed. Current times are no exception, except in the fact that now mankind has the technological capability to completely destroy the planet. We should all shudder, because none will survive.

  41. Brilliant article. Yet, I disagree that "...South Korean government, which speaks only of a solution of dialogue and peace in this situation of sharp confrontation,...". After all, the South Korean government has placed itself at the mercy of the US defense. In addition, it participates in military exercises right at the DMZ to the annoyance of the North. How are these actions consistent with "speaks only of a solution of dialogue and peace..."? While its words speak of peace, South Korean actions (or, at least, those of its government) speak of military power. Its alliance with the US instead bespeaks of policy that fears N Korea more than the US.

  42. It is apparent that North Korea feels threatened by the actions of the South Korean - United States alliance. But South Korea in turn feels threatened by the massive military capabilities built up by North Korea just above the DMZ. These tensions will remain unless they can be negotiated away between the two sides. The fact that North Korea has Nuclear capability does not change the need for negotiations, but we need to get by the Nuclear issue and focus on what really matter to North and South Korea.

  43. What price “peace”? If all restraints on North Korea were lifted, by the United States, even by China, the first victim of the “peace” that would result would be South Korea -- because those who call the tune in North Korea don’t harbor doubts about the relative value of winning and perpetuating their power over “peace”. Consider how likely it is that the economic miracle that South Korea created would survive, and with it the prosperity of its people; and how long it might be before the entire Korean peninsula resembled the failed, desperate reality that North Korea represents today. Consider what that would mean to the lives of 700,000 South Korean kindergartners. Yet, it’s those restraints that keep that gruesome outcome at bay while increasing the tensions that in turn impel Kim Jong-un to harden his repressed and hungry society to possible nuclear war. There is no continuity in “peace”, because all the pressures that combat it would remain, the inevitable explosion constantly threatening, the threat itself more potentially devastating with every passing year. Korea is a house divided that cannot stand, half slave and half mostly free. It’s not certain that Korea must finally resolve its civil war as horrifically as we did, but a final resolution can’t be put off forever by one-sided fears of the consequences. South Korea needs to decide whether it’s willing to risk those consequences to remain mostly free and what it has made itself … or whether it’s not.

  44. Interesting that, from the safety of New Jersey (Bedminster, perhaps?), you've apparently decided that now is a good time to "resolve" the Korean civil war by having the U.S. unilaterally end the decades-old ceasefire. Never mind that hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of our allies in South Korea (who most definitely do not want a return of war) would be killed, along with a probably higher number of North Koreans. Sure, all analysis seems to agree that the North ultimately would be destroyed in an all-out war scenario, but why engage in the vast destruction of humanity that that would entail when all analysis also agrees that the militant posturing of the Kim regime over the decades has not been the result of inherent madness but rather a calculated strategy meant to keep the dynasty in power. No, I don't like that the North now has nuclear weapons, but I also recognize that Kim Jong-un isn't going to actually start a war that will inevitably end in the destruction of his regime. We cannot allow Trump's nihilistic boredom with the Korean stalemate lead to the utter destruction of the peninsula.

  45. At what cost? Total destruction of the peninsula and the surrounding region? There are better approaches and peace talks will bear some fruits eventually because everyone involved knows that war is not an option. Period.

  46. "Korea is a house divided that cannot stand, half slave and half mostly free." In terms of population, it's more like one-third slave and two-thirds *totally* free. What do you mean by "mostly" free? South Korea is a consolidated liberal democracy, having reached this status in the 1980s despite the misgivings and skepticism of the United States. At least two South Korean ex-presidents (Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo) have rightfully served time in jail for the crimes they committed. Did you know that? South Korea actually jails ex-presidents who have committed crimes. Don't hold your breath waiting for any ex-US president to ever go to jail for anything, even though one or more of them probably deserve prison time.

  47. When I was in 4th grade a teacher took it on himself to tell us in graphic detail about the dangers of nuclear war. It upset me so much that I had to leave school. The rest of my childhood was clouded by that experience. The strange thing was that I couldn't tell my parents the nature of my fears. I think it was because I realized that they were powerless to protect me or themselves. I have a lot of sympathy for someone who grew up in the shadow of the constant threat of annihilation. It must be even more burdensome today with two leaders who seem undaunted by nuclear reality playing chicken with the lives of millions.

  48. I do agree that peace on Korean Peninsula is the only solution for both Koreas and the rest of the world. Trump's harsh and ambiguous rhetoric certainly doesn't help. However, current Korean government's appeasement for N. Korea doesn't give me any peace of mind that any meaningful dialogue is possible between the two koreas. Never has. S Korean government can't be sending North money or show any signs that S Korea's alliance with the US has weakened. Then Trump may be rethink about blurting out war tweets. President Moon should denounce the dynasty dictator regime for once. I think to avoid any war, and I am sorry to say this, but at least have the strongest possible alliance with the US.

  49. First, to make the distinction. It's not the U.S. that "talks of war", it's Donald Trump. And most sane Americans shudder along with South Korea at the thought of it, for the simple fact that if it turns into a nuclear strike option, alot of people won't get out of this alive...on all sides. One doesn't have to live through a war to know how devastating it is, which is why in such a scenario the least one can hope for is having a country whose leader sees war as nothing more than a deterrent. But unfortunately such is not the case with either Donald Trump or Kim Jong-un. The position that South Korea now finds itself is not a new one. During the height of the Cold War, which threatened to break out and go nuclear at any given minute, I lived in a city that was surrounded and divided by a Wall, and occupied by four different armies. It was nerve-wracking and keeping "calm", while going about one's daily life was the only option to staying sane. Not an enviable position. However what would make any outbreak on the Korean Peninsula so particularly abhorrent, is the fact that it's so densely populated, and the effects wouldn't only be limited to it. Nor would they dissipate overnight, While the symbolism of a "candlelight revolution" cannot fail to inspire, the escalation of the current situation demands for diplomatic action, and quickly. At this point, it's not only the fates of North and South Korea that hangs in the balance, but that of the entire world as well.

  50. We need more voices from writers, artists, activists, and ordinary citizens from South Korea to weigh in on the North Korea nuclear crisis. Han Kang—the Man Booker Prize winner for her novel “The Vegetarian”—rightly points out that there is no victor in a nuclear war. If the Trump administration attacks North Korea when there is absolutely no credible threat to American security and this results in millions of lives lost in South Korea, no American ally will ever trust American security guarantee. Trump’s policy of “America First” would simply mean that the U.S. government is willing to sacrifice millions of non-American lives today to preserve some hypothetical threat to Americans tomorrow. As Han points out, this would be nothing but a return to old imperialist logic: people who have less power have less humanity. If the U.S. government is unwilling to affirm the value of all human life equally, whether in New York or Seoul or Pyongyang, we have completely abandoned our moral claim to authority and made all our allies nothing but fools for abandoning their own nuclear ambitions and filling the world with devices that would have annihilated us all.

  51. Post-WWII, Japan, and South Korea became US protectorate states. America's military might allowed both countries to reconstruct their destroyed economies. It was a win-win situation. The US projected its economic-military power in Asia while Korea and Japan prospered. The current missile/nuclear standoff between the US/NK has ended the status quo. Regardless of the outcome of the current crisis, Japan and South Korea will certainly rethink their military alliance with Washington. Pax Americana is over in the Asia-Pacific region.

  52. The so-called Korean War began and ended in the early 1950's with an armistice between the ethnically historically identical so-called North and South Korea divided by socioeconomic political educational differences that led to civil war. That war could have easily been named the Chinese Soviet American War to identify the most deadly powerful belligerents in the conflict. Much like the Vietnamese remember their French, their Japanese and their American wars. Much like Americans remember their civil war as being between two halves of the nation of the same people. Even though that war predates Korea by nearly a century, myths about the civil war still infect American partisan politics. today. Since no one in the House of Trump has ever been bravely honorable and patriotic enough to wear the military uniform of any American armed force and there is no Trump hotel nor resort nor golf course in South Korea there is no shuddering about war talk in the Trump United States.

  53. The the South Koreans apparently believe they can achieve peace through dialogue and resent U.S. involvement in their affairs. This is excellent news indeed. In fact, it's a win-win. Let's now immediately withdraw all U.S. forces and explicitly exclude South Korea from our defense umbrella, conventional and nuclear. We should not risk one drop of American blood or one cent of American treasure to defend a country that doesn't want or appreciate our involvement.

  54. Trump should deal directly with the Chinese and have them create regime change in North Korea and achieve unification. Sounds far fetched, but in exchange, the US would totally pull out of the Korean Peninsula, the North would get new infrastructure with help form US, China would have a stable, non nuclear, peaceful trading partner and neighbor. China would avoid massive nuclear fallout, human catastrophe and permanent massive militarization of the peninsula by US troops. Seems like a good deal to me. Trump needs to go personally meet with Chinese leaders which would be appropriate under the circumstances. Cmon Don, show some maturity and skill.

  55. If "there is no war scenario that ends in victory", then D-Day never happened and World War II had no victors. Changing society "through the quiet and peaceful tool of candlelight" is as naive and dangerous as "peace in our time". If we dare let history be our guide, the U.S. and South Korea delay decisive action at our collective peril.

  56. Bob, it is not insignificant that in 1944, no country had perfected a nuclear weapon. Widespread nuclear casualties changes the calculus markedly, as do Trump’s bluffs, emboldening Kim.

  57. The primary beneficiary in the current situation on the Korean peninsula is China. Surely the current situation is a result of a strategy to eliminate US influence there, just as Chinese island-building in the South China Sea is intended to reduce US leverage in that region. North Korea can pursue the development of nuclear weapons and missile systems only with the approval of the Chinese regime (imagine if the South decided to start developing nuclear weapons). The long game is to weaken our alliance with South Korea, by creating facts on the ground where the primary agent for a rational resolution of the region's tension will be China, not the US. Example: North Korean incursion(s) across the DMZ. US solution: a catastrophic war. Chinese solution: a negotiated settlement where they tell their client to stand down. The price for that settlement: removing US troops from the peninsula.

  58. I believe everybody reading this article would like negotiations and peace with NK. But it takes two sides to negotiate, and NK has shown absolutely no willingness to negotiate in three decades. What NK has shown is an unstoppable desire to build a nuclear arsenal capable of blackmailing the world. As for war, I do not believe any western planners are considering an all-out invasion of NK, aimed at conquering that country. The discussion of military intervention is aimed at destroying their nuclear and missile capability with targeted, limited strikes. It is not necessary to destroy their entire capability, but merely to inflict damage that NK cannot afford to rebuild. The fear that NK would retaliate with a massive military strike against Seoul, Guam, or Japan because the US shot down a few missles or destroyed nuclear facilitieis is plausible only if one believe Kim Jung Un is suicidal, which I believe He is not. Panicking over doomsday scenarios is not a realistic or fruitful reaponse to this situation.

  59. This is a lovely piece, but astonishing in its moral myopia. No, the Korean War did not just "break out", like a case of acne. It began with a brutal invasion of the South by the Communist North. This aggression led directly to the deaths of 140,000 people in the South, as well as the almost 40,000 American troops who sacrificed their lives to defend Mr. Kang's homeland. By any sane calculation, likening the moral culpability of the two sides, as he implicitly does, is not highly questionable. It borders on the offensive. Likewise astonishing is that the author singles out the US President for criticism, but does not even mention the Kim regime. This elision seems to imply that the ongoing human tragedy in North Korea is some kind of impersonal natural process, perpetrated by no one, to which US and South Korea leaders must accommodate. Yes, many of us are appalled by the behavior of our current President. But false equivalencies do not enhance Mr. Kang's moral authority.

  60. A brilliant essay. Thank you Han Kang for speaking for so many of us.

  61. The title should be changed. Nobody in S. Korea gets scared on possible thermal nuclear war. they go out on real estate speculation. The condominium price of Seoul is as expensive as that of Manhattan. The tile of this column needs revision. "While the U.S. Talks of War, South Korea Speculates" S. Korean are notoriously insensitive of war or any catastrophe by nature.

  62. One solution to this situation is for the Republic of Korea (ROK), aka South Korea, to recognize its own strength and to act accordingly. Inform the USA, that while the ROK is very grateful for our efforts and sacrifices in the past, the time has come for the USA to return our beloved military forces to their home. In the future if those are again necessary then the ROK will request their return.

  63. I had read about the massacre conducted by US troops in the Korean War. Whenever an atrocity like that happens, whether in WWII, Vietnam, or elsewhere, it is a failure of the chain of command to maintain control. South Korea owes its existance to UN and particularly American intervention and continued presence. If Trump's "cowboy" attitude provokes a nuclear strike on Seoul or on US forces in South Korea, the casualties will be staggering. The South Korean military is srong, and certainly capable of self defense. North Korea has nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them--certainly to any location on the peninsula. Perhaps it is time to reduce our presence and allow the two Koreas to negotiate and de escalate this dangerous situation. The vacuum of leadership in this situation is horrifying.

  64. "The last line of defense by which human beings can remain human is the complete and true perception of another’s suffering" 100% true, and 100% absent in our president.

  65. As Charles de Gaulle once warned, being an ally of the United States potentially amounts to "annihilation without representation." Never has this fate been more threatening than it is right now to South Korea while Mr Trump resides in the White House. Like others, I previously believed that replacing Mr Trump with Mr Pence would not necessarily be an improvement. I changed my mind on that for two reasons: the situation in Korea and the agreement with Iran. It's an odd world where the lives of millions of Koreans on both sides of the DMZ appear to be in the hands of Robert Mueller. How on Earth did we get here.

  66. Pacifism is lovely but little else. It needs to be remembered that the peace the writer would preserve comes at the cost of ordinary North Koreans who are living and dying, decade after decade, in the meat grinder of a communist dynastic military dictatorship. How do we raise a candle for them?

  67. “Pacifism is lovely but little else” sounds like “life is lovely but little else.” The article puts faces and stories to the masses of souls Trump’s bluster ignores, just as the shooter ignored the lives of victims in Vegas. In the shooter’s mind those distant, unknown figures on the concert grounds had to die. But why? And would he have sprayed the random fire had he known his mother, girlfriend and brother were at the show? Of course not. If the North Koreans are unhappy with their dictatorship they must overcome it, with the support of the civilized world. That’s their “burning candle.” Instead, people without mothers, girlfriends and brothers there, argue they must be destroyed.

  68. Our very human tendency toward binary/black & white/good & evil binds us to this never ending hostility toward one another, sometimes breaking out in hot war, sometimes simmering below the surface, sometimes held distantly at bay. Read just a few of the comments and this rings especially true for the Korean peninsula. We are very likely on the path to a major crises, led by deeply troubled individuals who do not understand humanity in any thoughtful way whatsoever. Because they hold all the power, all we can do is hope and pray they will not use it. Given these two know-nothing petty dictators, I fear our hopes and prayers will not be enough to prevent this crisis from becoming all out war. May the universe find a way to stop them.

  69. This is an excellent article, so deep and truthful on many levels. By contrast, for the Manipulator-in-Chief war or peace are not valued on their own merits; they are tools for serving his personal needs, and he'll deploy whichever of those tools he thinks will best suit his personal needs at the moment. This is what makes his Presidency so unpredictable and dangerous to the rest of the world. He is in very deep domestic trouble on several important fronts, so one fears a war in the Far East would serve his need to distract from his real problems by changing the conversation. Those Americans who can make a difference really need to prevent this from happening.

  70. Powerful op ed piece. Han hit the nail on the head discussing a "proxy" war and the motives of the U.S. never aligning to the interests of the South Korean people. Sadly, our government, not just now under the current Trump administration but for years before it, has been morally and ethically bankrupt. I've had the unpleasant experience of dealing with our Department of State and the Immigration authorities. If U.S. citizens watched firsthand how our government disrespects and mistreats non-U.S. nationals applying for U.S Visas to enter the U.S., you would feel the same sense of shame and disgust. Our government in so many ways abuses its authority and covers up its misdeeds in lies and false messages about its objectives. Of course the U.S. will downplay the death and destruction of South Korea (and the innocent victims of the Kim Jong Un dictatorship on the "enemy" side of the border) in the name of saving the world from a nuclear armed rogue nation, as statements from Trump will bear out. The U.S. will always ensure that it wins at all costs, especially when the costs are innocent people, whether here in the U.S. or more often, those in other countries. All one has to do is look at our actions in Iraq and Afghanistan more recently to find examples of this. The author makes a compelling case that what our government "sells" as the best interests of the U.S. is not aligned to what is in the best interests of the South Korean people. We don't seem to learn from history.

  71. Yes. we hate war, and all we want peace. I absolutely believe that Korean peninsula should remain peaceful in any circumstance. However, I would like to ask the author why not saying "While North Korea launches missiles, US and South Korea Shudders." The North Korean leader's nuclear weapon program is obviously one of the greatest threats around the world, particularly for South Korean people.

  72. I hope DJT reads this. Or has it read to him. Or someone summarizes it for him. War - Sad!

  73. What a beautifully written article, thank you NYT for bringing it to my attention. As another human being, I just do not understand how the POTUS can threaten the entire destruction of a nation, which includes the usual demographic constituency of old people, women and chidren. And as the author points out, the South will suffer alongside of any escalation. The POTUS (for he too is just a man) while having no experience of suffering in his own life, has refused the education and contemplation of history. I was told once by a US serviceman in his late thirties that "the US is a very violent society". He was not being unpatriotic, just expalining his own experiences.

  74. Beautiful. Moving. Brilliant. We must all press our governments for peace to sustain the humanity of the world. Violence, whether with fists, guns, or nuclear weapons, is not the answer.

  75. I don't agree with her. She seems to be anti-US, while she never tell about human violation of the Kim's regime of north Korea. She spoke ill of the sacrifice of over 50,000 US soldiers. Korean war is not a proxy war for super power countries. 16 UN countries dispatched soldiers and the other over 50 countries sent medical ship and provided material aids. Can Koreans keep a peace forever without preparing to fight?

  76. It is a shame that the future of South Korea will not be decided by its people, but rather by the two irresponsible heads of nations who are not really involved with them at all, yet are the ones thumping their chests like adolescent gorillas and playing with nuclear charged rhetoric. Sometimes I year for simple lives. Perhaps we didn't have the global wealth nor poverty, medical advancements or space exploration. But we didn't have to go to a bank to take out our money because we feared our nation would be destroyed...and I might ad, we didn't have guns that could push out hundreds of bullets a minute, or leaders who were more interested in their power or wealth than those in their "tribes".

  77. There simply is no explanation that can resolve the question of why some people would willingly add to the suffering, pain and death of others and some who wouldn't. There is no way to really answer the question. We are all going to die in the end no matter what we believe. You'd think that would be enough of a reason to not want to hasten the inevidable. But, it isn't.

  78. "They only understand one thing" is not the comment of an intelligent president of the united states who understands nuance or humanity. It is the comment of the loud obnoxious guy at the bar who knows nothing. There are those who say the reality TV host in the White House is employing the "mad man strategy", by which he makes the North Koreans shake and collapse because they'll think he is so crazy he won't do anything. Apart from whether he is such a strategic thinker rather than an impulsive one, let's see what recent history tells us. Crazy Manuel Noriega was put in a position of back-down or else -- and we had to go to war. Crazy Saddam Hussein did the same thing. In both cases the assumption was that they would be sane enough to know they would be defeated and would capitulate. In both cases they went to war. In the case of the Koreas the stakes are much higher, nuclear-higher. Yet the Man of Six Bankruptcies plays this dangerous game of putting a rattlesnake in a corner and daring it to strike. He is unfit for his job and he endangers millions. Never again do I want to hear a pundit say the American people make wise choices when it comes to choosing leaders. They clearly did not do so last year.

  79. Let's give peace a chance. There is no viable alternative.

  80. From the article: "We understand that any solution that is not peace is meaningless and that 'victory' is just an empty slogan, absurd and impossible." So insightful. So simple. If only Poland had adopted that approach in 1939. The death camps could have been built and operated unimpeded, while the "cafes and teahouses" remained open. Above all, let's discuss every atrocity and war crime in the past, but remain silent about the killing and torture of hundreds of thousands of North Koreans in the present.

  81. A moving reminder to us that we Americans have profoundly hurt other tribes, other nationalities, other races, other ethnic groups during our short history. We will never be "great" until we face our own atrocities to "the other" and change. We don't have to belong to a religion, but we do have to acknowledge the truth that most religions prescribe, humility, for this is the only way to peace.

  82. Sorry. We will never be "great" until we recognize the hurt and atrocities we have visited upon our own tribes, nationalities, races and ethnic groups. Charity begins at home.

  83. Beautifully written and translated. Full of truth about how people can wage brutal wars against others who are, like themselves, human. I hope our president and his advisers understand that Koreans - North and South - are people with as much right to live in peace as Americans. Are not to be used as pawns or to satisfy egos. And so will choose diplomacy over violence.

  84. Sadly, tragically, Trump cannot understand one word of this. He has his heart set on war and I'm afraid he we will find a way to have it. I mourn for all his victims.

  85. Finally, an article that says what I've been saying for months. The attitude that "if thousands die, it'll be over there, not over here" means apathy at the minimum and, in case of white nationalist Trump, likely a racism. Moon, who said he can say no to the US during the presidential campaign, should say that US - Korea alliance will be over if Trump keep insisting on the current path. And then have the US troops removed and defend their own country themselves for a change. That's the only way for Koreans to determine their own destination in this Trump era and beyond.

  86. Thank you for the reminder that South Koreans are not pawns on a checkerboard, they are people just like us who want to live in peace. War is not and never should be the answer. Trump doesn't have the mindset to facilitate a peace agreement but I hope things stay calm until we get a leader who is. We shouldn't have troops on the Korean peninsula 70 years after the Korean war ended. Seriously our foreign policy is ridiculous.

  87. 'It’s an accurate comment. Koreans really do understand only one thing. We understand that any solution that is not peace is meaningless and that “victory” is just an empty slogan, absurd and impossible. People who absolutely do not want another proxy war are living, here and now, on the Korean Peninsula.' Let us hope that that understanding - and the empathy required to feel it in one's bones - becomes widespread, not only on the Korean peninsula and in East Asia, but throughout the world as a whole, not least in the United States. It is not only Koreans who do not need another 'proxy war', i e, a war for control of China, as the various wars conducted on the Korean peninsula ever since Hideyoshi's day have always been ; none of us will benefit from such a war, which now will be conducted with thermonuclear weapons if we do not succeed in hindering it.... Henri

  88. As much sympathy as I have for South Korea, if North Korea threatens the US with nuclear weapons, we have a right and responsibility to respond.

  89. A very timely article. I wish this were a part of the statement made by the Korean government. A nuclear war seems to be talked about too casually by the press and others these days probably because it may be considered a remote event outside their home country. We are trying to remain calm in Seoul, but that doesn't mean that we like the way Mr. Trump uses this situation to flex his muscle recklessly. Kim Jong-Un knows exactly how to use fear to play his game, and we should not dance to the tunes of the Pied Piper. Unfortunately, Mr. Trump seems to be ready to dance.

  90. Well said. So long as we keep PEACE in the road to final resolution, everyone should be OK. This guiding principle of avoiding the war at any cost should not be compromised by other seemingly strategic moves. Admittedly, it is the ultimate source of difficulty. That President Trump is blocking this approach is an understatement. As Pearlstine pointed out in a recent essay in Time magazine, South Koreans worry more about this unpredictable man than anybody on this planet right now. At closing, once again I AM ALREADY AGAINST THE NEXT WAR, ANY WAR.

  91. The presentation of the No Gun Ri Massacre here does not square with other presentations of the event and does not present it in the context of how, where and under what conditions it happened. The story elsewhere is that a retreating US and South Korean Army had been under attack from their rear and were suspicious of infiltrators among refugees that were actually North Korean agents and because of force protection were under orders to shoot refugees that attempted to cross the lines. That is a very different circumstance than an Army directed massacre of Korean civilian refugees. I was not there- it was before I was born- and I have no doubt there was some unfortunate massacre of civilians and an official coverup of the incident. The United States has admitted the incident occurred, but not in the manner implied by the author of this article. As an American and as an Army veteran, I would like to know the truth of the matter as regards this incident. As presented by the author here it was a war crime committed by racists instead of an unfortunate action of war under unusual circumstances. If the author’s accusation- which is exactly how it is stated- is true, we should know more of it and the details. If it is in dispute, someone from the Army’s Center for History should be given space to present the official record in context.

  92. Never. Either bow down to the propaganda or go away. Truth is the enemy. And yes civilians were massacred.

  93. The US has the nuclear hardware to vaporize every single person in North Korea. The firepower in three or four nuclear subs may be enough. Follow on attacks with land based ICBMs and air dropped nukes could be added. Each sub has 20 odd Tridents with multiple thermonuclear warheads. North Korea is just not that big. Rebuilding and manufacturing new nuclear capability after using what we have could be an economic boost. Mr. Trump and his generals may not be aware of the secondary effects.

  94. As a resident of Seoul I also earnestly hope the rhetoric in America would reflect consideration of what is really at stake. But the argument here might be more persuasive if, in mentioning the many horrors of war, the author also pointed out the thousands of Koreans killed in Jeju alone by their own government or the tens of thousands slaughtered elsewhere by the first ROK administration. The Korean War was indeed a proxy fight brought to a people in no way prepared for the complexities and treacheries of modern international conflict. But that doesn't change the fact that much of the killing (as the author knows well from study of later events in Gwangju) was perpetrated by Koreans against Koreans. Perhaps an answer to the essay's final question will be found when the Korean people on both sides of the border find the strength to stop forever painting themselves as victims of history and outside powers and realize they have more to gain in concert than in their often grievance-fueled outlooks. After all it is the brothers and aunts and cousins of everyone here in Seoul with which this fight is ongoing.

  95. So when Koreans embark on a war against their fellow Koreans it is a proxy war? One the US was loathe to be in? I guess life itself is a proxy war then.

  96. Kudos to the artist, the looming face of Kim Jong-un brings to mind the original Great Gatsby cover, except far more ominous.

  97. Peace at any cost is not peace, it's just pushing an even worse war off into our children's future.

  98. So much sympathy for the writer and his fellow ordinary Koreans - on both sides of the border. But still, "peace" sounds good but how? Looking forward to that op-ed, and really, that leadership. But, unfortunately, just yearning for peace isn't going to make it happen here.

  99. Thank you for sharing such a moving,evocative article. To date, President Trump seems capable of only the most cursory cognitive explorations into complicated issues. Empirically - watching him as a businessman and then as candidate / president - Trump appears overwhelmingly driven by visceral reactions. Like a toddler, he seems to have no other strategic process beyond lashing out. I pray this article gets into the hands of lawmakers and Cabinet members and hope they read it, because Trump's actions to date have mostly been aggressive and destabilizing. That should scare us all, and it will hopefully push our lawmakers and key Cabinet staff, to check our President's violent proclivities and balance our nation's response.

  100. Well said. No, there is no victory for anyone if the military options are used. Having served in South Korea, I admire its people and its astounding economic progress. I also don’t want to sacrifice a US city (or cities) to a nuclear armed and untrustworthy North Korea. This leaves the South trapped in a situation that it has little ability to influence or control — which must be positively scary for millions and their elected officials. Kim Jong Un and his father already had dettternece in their vast conventional and nascent nuclear capability. But now the North has gone to something beyond deterrence, which threatens hundreds of millions. I don’t know what the solution is, unfortunately. But I fear greatly for the South Koreans who I learned to admire.

  101. There is no reason for war. The US is on a mission, ostensibly to protect the world from nuclear war, by provoking it. An awesome strategy. It is as if our President has decided that our diplomatic strategy is to be culled from "Lethal Weapon" with Rex Tillerson playing the staid Danny Glover roll, and Trump the crazed and suicidal Mel Gibson. All I know is that we can't seem to stop the train from rolling, and whether it stays on the track or not is becoming more a matter of luck. Yes, I if I lived on the Korean Peninsula, I'd be worried. I am worried from the other side of the world.

  102. We should only listen to what the South Koreans want us Americans to do, it is their lives at stake, not ours. It is preposterous to think that Americans know what to do. The Koreans speak of the "Three Betrayals" of South Koreas by the US. It is true. We have betrayed the South Koreas three times in the last 120 years. We cannot do it again. Mr. Trump is, as usual, totally unaware of history. I am in Daegu now, a beautiful city. People seem very normal and unconcerned. Some students here think that the North will collapse under its own weight and there's nothing to worry about. I hope they're right.

  103. Trump is like a little boy, who is at that stage in development where he destroys things. Trump just wants to destroy to get the attention he believes he deserves. The military has to know that to follow Trump down the road of war, whether in Korea or Iran will lead to its total loss of influence in the U.S. It will make Vietnam War protests look like Sunday school picnics. Let's move pass Trump and become the country we should be.

  104. This war is coming, it's been too long and with too little progress. The NK will get what they deserve soon and everyone else will fall into line.

  105. "The Korean War was a proxy war enacted on the Korean Peninsula by neighboring great powers." This is not the complete truth. As per (https://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/kim-gu-reunification-and-war-1948) ". . . The Soviet Union did give a conditional greenlight for an invasion of southern Korea in early 1950, but it was only after the constant badgering of Kim Il Sung. The initiative for war came, in large measure, from Koreans, not the Soviets or the Americans." If I am not mistaken Syngman Rhee also was itching for war.

  106. I think you should perhaps read the report that you mentioned here more thoroughly. Or perhaps the report does not mentioned the fact that the Korean peninsula was divided by Soviet Union and US after the defeat of Japan which colonized Korea. Yes, the war was instigated by Kim Il-Sung who did have support from Soviet Union, whereas South Korea was left out from the Marshall plan. I highly doubt that South Korea could have started a war because they really did not have any support from US or any means to start war at that time. Even if Korea was not divided by these two neighboring great powers, they still might have ended up a bloody war. Who knows? But you have to realized that Korean War was a result of the forced division of one country by Soviet Union and US. Thus, Korean War was a proxy war enacted on Korean Peninsula by neighboring great Powers.

  107. Most sad is to realize that it is S. Koreans who are most in harm's way in the conflict being stirred by both Kim Jong UN and Trump. The history of the Korean Peninsula since WWII is that the land was divided in settling WWII at the insistence of Russia. The Korean War was the result of NKorea's efforts at forced reunification. The verifiably brutal NKoreans choose not to end the Korean War. Clear is that KJU has not abandoned an obvious intent to invade SKorea. Nuclear weapons are intended to intimidate the world if and when NKorea does decide to invade SKorea. There is no credible threat that the USA, SKorea, and Japan have plans to invade NKorea. Politics in all 3 nations would prohibit that. How much lethal threat to the USA, Japan, and SKorea should be tolerated? Strategic anti-missile responses to every NKorean missile launch with clear notification of NKorea: announce that test missiles will be fired not intending to take down NKorean missiles. Next, take down NKorean missiles. Thereafter, destroy NKorean missiles as they prepare to launch. I wouldn't care particularly if NKorea has nuclear capability if NKorea also signed a binding peace treaty w SKorea and the USA. And, I'd love for NKorea to become a part of a peaceful, high volume trading consortium from N Asia.

  108. The author is to be commended for beginning to articulate the enormous stakes involved in Trump's -- and Kim's -- escalating bluster. But in fact we cannot even comprehend the disaster that these two leaders have within their control to unleash. God help us.

  109. Portola, we have to try to comprehend it. Looking for an answer from God would only be irresponsible.

  110. Terrific. Why are the people themselves so much better than those who lead them? A question I wish America could answer too.

  111. As others have noted in these comments, it is not accurate to depict North Korea as a tool of outside powers. The communist regime pursues its own agenda, which includes the reunification of the Korean peninsula by force. By the same token, the government in Seoul is pursuing what it sees as its own interests in hosting a large contingent of US soldiers, who are there to prevent the thriving economic and political success story that is South Korea from being overrun by the North. I have no problem with bringing to light the war crimes of American troops during the Korean War. But the author of this piece seems curiously divorced from reality--both the tyrannical if not genocidal reality of the North Korean regime, and the military reality of US support for South Korean democracy.

  112. Instead of arrogant and humiliating bullying, why can't Trump give some variation of Reagan's speech: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" He could invite N Korea to join S Korea and the rest of the world in trade and progress, and be open-handed in his respect for the N Korean people. He could make it clear by example that we aren't remotely interested in war, and that tearing down the DMZ wall would show the world by example that N Korea isn't either. One could combine such an approach with common sense discussions behind the scenes with China to provide motivation for N Korea to understand. Trump could change the world for the better, instead of making sly references to a coming "storm" that will only succeed in killing millions.

  113. They are just becoming aware of this? If we hadn't paid for 99% of their defence budget for the past 50 years maybe they would have hardened themselves to the fact that the war isn't over.

  114. So many articles about Trump and North Korea, never a mention of what South Korea thinks about all that, after all IT IS about them. Not a question. After more than 50 years of US military provocation and humiliation North Korea has a deterrent. Kim Jong Un is no fool, he has what he wants, not war. Learn to live with a nuclear North Korea thanks to US intransigence.

  115. What about the 25 million north Koreans that can't protest a corrupt regime? While I am not a war hawk, it is obvious that the status quo is only making the situation worse. Somehow ,someway the north Korean regime needs to be put in the dust bin of history.

  116. President Trump’s continued name calling and belittling another country’s leader is sickening. I realize that his name calling says more about Mr. Trump than about his targets, but name calling and ridiculous sobriquets is a to dehumanize others. His apparent inability to see those he disagrees with as human may make it easier for him to lead us into war. When I think of the generals in his cabinet, especially his Chief of Staff, I wonder how a person of Gen. Kelly’s stature can be part of this Twitterdom, and then I also hope he stays as this White House needs one or two adults with impulse control or we are all really in trouble.

  117. Trump is a dangerously unstable dilettante who's vision extends only as far as to see himself as the greatest ever. Ramifications, reality and consequences do not enter in his calculus...obviously...but obtuseness, obviously, certainly does.

  118. If I were a South Korean, I would want for my country to be free both from fear of invasion and conquest (as in 1950) by the ruthless Kim-led vandals to the north and from dependence, for protection, on the military-industrial barons that dominate US foreign policy. That could be accomplished, given South Korea's population advantage and industrial capacity, by adding nuclear arms to the South Korean military deterrent. Kim would not dare to invade. The US could told that its military presence in South Korea was no longer needed.

  119. What people always fail to realize, is that their arguments fall on deaf ears. When you give the 'wrong man' the 'right power' they do a lot of 'wrong things'. It's just the way of the world. What is sad, is that we 'forget' this 'universal truth' just long enough to see another man take the reigns. It is no coincidence, that the time between these events last just about 70 years, the average human lifespan. It is obvious, that it tends to 'skip' a generation, and land hard on the next. That we 'forget' the horrors of war, just long enough, to for the next generation to 'remember'.

  120. Of course, Donald Trump knows little of history. He could have done what he is doing now when he was 40. He has no need to forget the lessons he never learned.

  121. That American indifference you write about us unfortunately real, and something you find to some degree across the political spectrum. It’s why liberals mostly ignored our assistance to the Saudi bombing of Yemen when Obama was in office. On the conservative side, with some honorable exceptions, the indifference is almost universal. When we hear summaries of our past wars they usually include the number of American dead and only rarely the estimates of the foreign dead. Trump is probably the worst of all since he only cares about himself and his family, but it is a longstanding problem, an important part of why our foreign policy is often so immoral.

  122. It is ironic that the biggest bullies are also the greatest cowards. The danger they pose stems from the often irrational fear that the bullied will retaliate by striking first. Alas, the US has an ignoble record of bullying, from the very moment of its creation. The ease with which every administration can whip up fear and warmongering hysteria among the population is truly frightening, and depends on keeping the native population poorly educated and indoctrinated with a fake nationalistic fervor. Too often, fear in America results in horrific violence abroad, with no moral shame or accountability among the native Americans. What a horrible state of affairs!

  123. Any person with a heart agrees with you 100%. Unfortunately Trump only cares about "looking tough" in front of his base, and couldn't care less about any real "life", no matter where they are. Had there been an exact opposite of the Nobel peace prize, Trump would have "won" it easily.

  124. Wow, this was beautifully written. I really hope Donald Trump is just jingling his spurs for the sake of the attention it gets him and not because he's seriously considering war. Renewing war on the Peninsula would snuff out the lives written about in this essay; we'd never hear from them again. That would be an unimaginable tragedy.

  125. Nice to know through a statement from a Korean individual like this one read at the article, that they have the clear perception of being, like their fellow citizens from the North, mere pawns used by foreign powers, just to satisfy their vanities based on ideologies. Certainly if the citizens of those foreign countries that truly touch the trumpets of war were really faced the possibility of being affected by war (not only a mere possibility of being hit by a couple of stray missiles), obviously there would be no war. Because it's so much easier to pose as a hawkish if you can risk the lives of other nationalities other than their own.

  126. The columnist and I share a common surname, Kang (Sin-Chol Kang). My Kang family came from Northern Korea and fled across the DMZ before 1950. Many of us have family members that we have never met and for our older relatives not seen in years. To hear war talk isn't helpful by President Trump and the response from the North Koreans. For us, this fight is personal. Hopefully, there won't be a war and with millions of killed, wounded, and missing. Loose talk won't help either.

  127. The Seoul government would be wise to deal with North Korea on their own. Their dependency on the US for their security reminds me of the way it turned out for Vietnam. The American people will not allow their young men and women die for a country that has such a rich economy and capable military. The Seoul governnment must ask the US to leave their soil, and take the initiative to handle Mr. Kim.

  128. While Vietnam is of course a cautionary tale, the reality of the military cooperation between the countries is much more similar to the NATO model of 'joint security', so this makes it quite different from what happened is Vietnam.

  129. This piece speaks to the core problem we all now have. It is apparent in everything he says and does that for Trump everything is only about Him. He truly considers everyone outside his family as "subhuman" especially if they are nonwhite. He has no humanity and will not hesitate to cause the death of millions. He is incapable of making a careful decision based on real facts. It is terrifying that one person holds so many lives in his hands.

  130. I'm sure the U.S. could ensure its own peace with North Korea by pulling out the troops (currently 28,000, I believe) we have had stationed in South Korea since well before I was born (I will soon be 62) and telling South Korea "you're on your own---good luck!" We could even let some of our NATO and other allies step in and shoulder this ridiculous burden---any takers?

  131. "Only relatively recently has it come to light that in this tragic process were several instances of the American Army, officially our allies, massacring South Korean citizens. In the most well-known of these, the No Gun Ri Massacre, American soldiers drove hundreds of citizens, mainly women and children, under a stone bridge, then shot at them from both sides for several days, killing most of them. Why did it have to be like this? " Part of the answer comes from 1950 when I began my undergraduate years at Norman ,Oklahoma. I was in the cheapest dorm and one third of the students were serious and two thirds were sure they would be drafted to fight in Korea. The two thirds bullied the serious students, had loud parties all night, and shoved stuff I leave to your imagination under the doors of the one third. At the start of the second semester the two thirds were gone, and I presume were drafted. I hope this sheds some insight into some of the elements of the American army in Korea who escalated their bulling while there.

  132. Beautiful and well told. We need more voices from Seoul, everyday.

  133. Mr. Han, the Korean Conflict is a winning paradox, if certain rational state actors abrogate their treaty obligations,namely the PRC and the DPRK-PRC Mutual Defense Treaty. The PRC is the linchpin to total ROK victory. While the PRC is not eager to have US or UN forces across the Hall, it should not worry with ROK forces as it's northeastern neighbor. The ROK should consider a Mutual Defense Treaty with the PRC, since the PRC is the ROK largest trading partner. The PRC could easily sever all ties with the DPRK and recognize the ROK as the sole legitimate government on the peninsula. Do your homework, solutions are available that benefit the Korean people!

  134. Excuse me. The "US" is not talking of war. Donald Trump is. Donald Trump is not the US. It's such a shame we have to be thought of that way around the globe.

  135. Koreans have themselves to blame for not having made peace. In 60 years, they could not go forward beyond the armistice.

  136. War has no winners, only dead people. It has been about 50 years since that part of the world and the U.S. has learned that, so perhaps it is time to learn it again. Eventually, people will get sick of learning this over and over again, and they will create international government and order. Until then, bombs away.

  137. "There is no war scenario that ends in victory." Oh, I'm sorry. did you think that "victory" is really on our minds here in the USA? After the past five presidents did absolutely nothing to eliminate the nuclear threat from this lunatic personality cult regime? The Plan today is not for "victory," but for eliminating the threat that millions of Democratic voters in San Francisco or Los Angeles will suddenly be incinerated because North Korea will not disarm. We do not speak of "victory," because there are no "victors" in a war with North Korea. But if we are lucky, there will be more world stability after North Korea, and fewer wars. It seems the human race needs to be reminded of the horrors of war every so often. We forget. We forget that evil men want more power. And when we remember, it is usually too late. But I believe with all my heart that the Iranian Mullahs will never build a Bomb and that their intentions are peaceful. It is a good thing we have an "agreement" with Iran, cause the next President can handle that problem down the road.

  138. A little background on the No Gun Ri Massacre of South Koreans by American soldiers. I entered college in 1950 and the dorm I was in was divided into two groups, those who were fatalistic about being drafted to fight in Korea and those of us that were serious about our studies. The first group had loud parties all night and bullied the serious students. They even did things like shovel excrement under the doors of serious students. After one semester two thirds of the fatalistic group were gone and the dorm returned to peace. The fatalistic group could have been the bad apples in the American army, but we should honor the sacrifice of the good people caught up in that horrific war.

  139. "The last line of defense by which human beings can remain human is the complete and true perception of another’s suffering, which wins out over all of these biases." And this is what terrifies me about Trump...he perceives nothing and nobody and he feels nothing except his own pathological need for adulation. Puerto Ricans are just the latest in a long line who have felt the sting, the realty of his lack of humanity. Would Trump start a war, drop a bomb to make himself look like a tough guy to his base, to bump his approval rating, to secure re-election....I have just about zero doubt he would. "Calm before the storm" he says, and "you'll find out" he says....the manipulating, false lover of military personnel playing with their emotions and lives, along with the rest of us including 700,000 S. Korean kindergardeners and families. This morning he tweets: "Sorry, but only one thing will work!" Simpleton. This presidency is a tragedy that I fear will only end in greater tragedy. Does Trump really think China and Russia are going to sit back while he takes military action in North Korea? Maybe the fool does, he's so wrapped up in feeling so powerful as leader of the "greatest" military, who would dare to oppose him. He needs to shut up and let the professionals and diplomats talk and talk and talk till the sun burns out.

  140. Trump may be able to start a war unilaterally, but he won't be able to terminate it on his own.

  141. ''“victory” is just an empty slogan, absurd and impossible.'' Unless you are in the Military industrial Complex.

  142. I wish I could sooth the writers fears and say that there will be no war, because there can not be a victory. Kim Jung Un knows this. But Donald Trump doesn’t. Donald Trump needs a victory, and he needs a distraction, and is not long for this office. He will be impeached within a year, he should’ve been impeached long before this. But his rise has shown that mankind has the ability to play the fool, and the capability of destroying its existence. The fact that a narcissistic low information egomaniac, greedy self-centered bombastic primate can win over a major party in the Unite States proves that mankind has a death wish.

  143. A deeply moving and insightful piece. Peace through diplomacy is the only viable option. Sit around a table and talk. Give a little, take a little. That is how the Iran nuclear deal was reached without a single shot fired. Both sides may have to swallow their pride and accept uncomfortable concessions. If a military option was viable, it would have happened already and every sane, informed person knows that except the nincompoop in chief who by hurling insults and pounding the drums of war makes the potential for miscalculation almost a certainty. It is confirming the North's previously unfounded belief that all the US wants is the "total destruction of North Korea". How can that even be considered a strategy?

  144. I'm a South Korean, living in northern suburb of Seoul, South Korea. I just happened to read an article on NY times by Han Kang, a renowned female novelist in South Korea. As a fellow South Korean, I know Ms. Han's opinon does nor represent people's idea residing in this country. Frankly speaking, her article is pretty misleading. She said "the last line of defense that makes human beings is the complete and true perception of another's suffering." She would know how the North Korean regime treats its people with different political view, different religion, so on. I'd like to ask her question that why she is so mediocre to hold the North's regime accountable for the tremendous suffering it endows to its people. The North's leaders and the government have mercilessly persecuted, killed, tortured the pepole whom the regime think not loyal to it. Having seen all these, hate run so deep especially among the South Korean Christians toward the wicked North Korean regime which brutally persecuted North Korean Christians, demolished their old churches and has made all North Korean people worship their "great leader" like a god. Peace without justice is evil. The US and South Korea must be united to liberate the North Korean pepole by ending this evil regime asap and have the people regain, most of all, the freedom of religion. Remember the verse: Then Conquer We Must, When Our Cause It Is Just."

  145. Do you think Trump is so stupid that if the U.S. military were going to make a preemptive strike on North Korea he would tweet about it in advance because it would make him seem big and important? I think he could do it, and Secretary Tillerson seems to share my opinion of his intellectual capacity.

  146. This is required reading for anyone in the US. I am actually astonished that the South Koreans haven't told the US to get packing out of their country, since Trump is threatening to annihilate them too, not just North Korea. I am also reminded of Akira Kurosawa's brilliant move, "I live in fear." https://www.fandor.com/films/i_live_in_fear The NYT dismissed it for its cinematic weaknesses, but it's central truth "Are we, who can remain unperturbed in an insane world, the crazy ones?" is undeniable.

  147. When will the South Koreans take responsibility for the menace across their border, the ignorant and neglected other half of a dwindling ethnic population? Fighting for a noble cause, liberating millions from tyranny, may come with costs, but so does every worthwhile goal. North Korea is a global threat and a localized cancer for the South Korean people. Does the majority of humanity not agree that cancer is worth curing, even at the risk of temporary diminishment? North Koreans are Koreans, and the South would do well to finally attend to the malignant growth threatening their body.

  148. I am a student from South Korea studying abroad. My family is back in Seoul. My heart just sank as I read the comment "I am afraid it is going to be this werk". It alone demonstrates how much indifferent Americans are in this matter. If it is going to be this week, it means that my family and everything I love, everything I have left behind, will be gone. This week, I will be left with nothing. This week, my life, my everyjing will be demolished. If you truly cared, you won't be here writing comments. You would be out in the street protesting. But you are not. You are calmly predicting my doom just "pretending" to care. Because the truth is that Americans are too used to foreign lands getting demolished by their political mishaps. You are used to people losing life, families getting torn apart. You are used to seeing it on CNN and clicking your tounge. Death and misery of actual living breathing people have become nothing more than a political talk point fot American. I am terrified. Do South Koreans seem unusually calm to you? It is because we cannot do anything. We are sickened to death with worries, but there is absolutely nothing I can do if the war breaks out this week. My sister is 17 years old but I cannot save her. I won't be able to hug my mom and dad ever again. I will be left with nothing. I cannot stand this fear. So I jusr repress it. Seeing comments like "it will be this week" kills me.

  149. You can do something. Kick Americans out of your country and make your own destiny.

  150. The Republican President, Republican Congress, and their respective supporters consider all people subhuman and subordinate to their zealot quest for wealth and other narcissistic values, as such, there is no room in the world or America for other points of view, including world peace. True American patriots understand the benefits of peace and diversity, but not these Republican hucksters and suckers who willingly adopt and accept any position to serve their thirst for power. This includes the collateral slaughtering of innocent South Koreans, Japanese, and those living in Guam if they get in the way of a Republican campaign promise. A morally disgusting thought and potential action being contemplated by the Republican leaders. These are not the American values our best and brightest leaders have espoused and acted upon historically. These Republicans and this Sucker like supporters represent the worst of America, so sad.

  151. The author writes eloquently but cannot bring herself to utter a single harsh word about the psycho regime of North Korea which is responsible for the current threats and was the aggressor in the Korean War of 1950. Of course, she has no problem bashing the "officially our allies" Americans, who are the only ones standing between her and the NoK army, without which she would be a gulag somewhere starving as slave labor. There will not be any candlelit vigils, opening of cafes, teahouses except those protected by the sharp swords of the Americans. If that offends the author so much (and you know it does), it would be relatively easy to ask the Americans to leave SoK and peacefully unite with the NoK as and when they chose. The Americans are not occupiers and will leave if the local government requests them. Why must a farm boy from Wisconsin die in a far off land in the defense of a country that obviously does not want him there and probably hates him secretly?

  152. It must be so disheartening for citizens of South Korea to see the leader of the free world so cavalierly play with their lives---throwing out threats and one-liners that could cause another great folly of war at the expense of men, women, and children just trying to live a decent life.

  153. I'm flying to South Korea on Tuesday for a 3 week holiday. I absolutely can't wait to go there - it's the first time I've ever been there. As much as anything I can't wait to get away from people looking at me surprised when I'm going to Korea. First they will ask 'North or South?'. Then they pause for their own solemn moment and ask 'Are you sure you should be going?' I tell them - 'It's ok, if I get nuked it should be pretty quick - otherwise I'll just be enjoying the KFC - Korean Fried Chicken.' If they want me to be totally serious about it then ok. But it's not Kim Jong-un I'm worried about. It's the POTUS that I'm worried about. For someone to even think that - is the REAL concern to me.

  154. Depending on where you are going you should be worried not about being nuked, but rather being shelled or trampled to death.

  155. Mr. Trump, the saying is "walk softly and carry a big stick," not "carry a big stick and publicly threaten others with it via Twitter storms." The latter is the characteristic of a bona fide madman. Maybe it's time for our generals to storm the White House and haul this lunatic away. A President Pence may set back women's, LGBT and other civil rights back by 50 years (temporarily), but he probably would not blow up the world (permanently).

  156. So you are suggesting a military takeover of our country? And nobody is blowing up the world either.

  157. True, war would have a devastating effect on Korean people. I don't want to see another war in Korea either. But wars cannot be avoided by one party's wishes. If dialogue can stop all the wars, the UK didn't have to have its soldiers and civilians killed in the WW2. NoKo has been consistent in claiming that the US invaded it in 1950 and it courageously defended NoKo from Imperialist US. SoKo is not dealing with some guy who speaks/acts reasonably. NoKo has a reason to claim that it was invaded. It lays the foundation to their strategies - that US troops are in SoKo to invade NoKo again (which may will find absurd) and US troops must leave SoKo. What does NoKo want to do once the US troops withdraw from SoKo? Does the fact that they invaded SoKo in 1950 and has been lying that they were invaded tell anything? There have been numerous terrorist attacks on SoKo in the past seven decades. Does anyone know it is illegal to listen to SoKo broadcast in NoKo? The law there demands all radios have fixed channels and the government can barge in anytime and open the radio set to see if it was hampered. NoKo can exist only in the vacuum of information - or truth, in this case. It's a country with an official propaganda article that Kim Ilsung and Kim Jongil could practice "Chook Ji Bub" - they were able to shorten the distance like folding a carpet. You can google it.

  158. Your aims are beautiful, and your words poignant and heart wrenching. I don’t know that Kim Jong Un will care about your candlelight, and will simply snuff out the light if given the chance. Candlelight works in South Korea precisely because it is a western style republic founded on, and maintained as, a cultured and intellectual society where words matter more than swords. Remember, it was North Korea invading the south that initiated the war in the first place. I love that you see the humanity of your children in yellow school buses, of the elderly who fear war, of the lovers at a tea house. I think liberals can be guilty of sometimes thinking “we can just be reasonable and ‘Love ‘em up’ and they’ll come around,” but that just isn’t realistic. Some people are vicious, violent, and sadistic for no reason at all. This isn’t the grinch who stole Christmas: Kim Jong Un’s heart isn’t going to miraculously grow three sizes that day. Which begs the question, what now? How do you deal with this? I can tell you candlelight is a beautiful symbol, but it will be brutally extinguished at the first opportunity by the Kim Jong Un’s of the world. I fear for South Korea. I fear for their lives and their hopes and their dreams. I fear that there isn’t a great answer in dealing with Kim Jong Un, and that Trump is just gasoline on a bonfire.

  159. Han Kang has written an extraordinary appeal to compassion and humanity to stop an insane war on the Korean peninsula. Missing is the sense that the danger is global. Such a war will not be a slaughter limited to Korea. Former CIA director Woolsey has written that "According to the Congressional EMP Commission, a single warhead delivered by North Korean satellite could blackout the national electric grid and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures for over a year—killing 9 of 10 Americans by starvation and societal collapse." http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/defense/326094-how-north-korea-cou... Comparable space infrastructure serves Europe and China. During the election candidate Trump referred to Kim Jong Un as a "smart cookie". Kim also expressed admiration for Trump. The appearance of the possibility of dialogue prior to the election was dashed by the fragility of personalities. Now that the world has been pushed to the edge of the abyss by irresponsible threats from both leaders, there is no road back to half-measures. An opportunity has been created to work towards long term solutions. President Nixon visited China at a time when propaganda posters from every wall in China spoke of war with America. The result of that visited has been a mutually productive relationship between the U.S. and China that has evolved over 45 years. Bringing peace to the Korean peninsula may be possible. What are the options?

  160. Another reason to not permit him to have nuclear weapons and to have SDI as well.

  161. Great piece. I say all of the citizens of SK should ask your government to throw out the Americans. You can have no piece as long as you rely on America and allow it's army to be their. I also believe Japan should do the same.

  162. If war beaks out you can be assured that very few Americans will view it as a "proxy war". Most experts agree that North Korea would never be stupid enough to attack the US. But the American public are not Korea experts. All they hear is a constant barrage of threats against them coming from North Korea. The North Koreans are living in some strange parallel universe if they think their behavior is helping them in any way.

  163. Yes rocket boy is crazy, and yes he might either intentionally or by accident attack our allies.

  164. What I don’t understand now is why aren’t millions of South Koreans taking to the streets in mass protests against Trump? Instead, there is not a peep, so Americans can only assume that South Koreans want war with the North too.

  165. Couldn't South Korea just tell America to leave the peninsula? North Korea is no longer at war with South Korea. Back then it was all about Communism. No doubt Kim knows that his country can only prosper, like Vietnam, under the capitalist system, despite its own corruptions.

  166. First no peace treaty was ever signed so South Korea is technically at war with the North. Yes they could tell us to leave but then they might be conquered and made slaves to rocket boy.

  167. In Japan, the money dropped on the street would never have been stolen.

  168. I can't recall reading an article as morally and historically obtuse as this one in the NYT in a long time, and that's saying something. The Korean war wasn't just a proxy battle, it was a fight for the kind of freedom under which South Korea has thrived. Would it be better off as the southern part of Kim Jong-un's nightmare polity? The reality of North Korea is not a blank page, international human rights organizations have documented its severe repressions. The information is there for anyone to know. The U.S. is not talking "of war". Kim Jong-un is. Reacting to aggression does not have the same moral quality as the aggression itself, else no war is just, nothing is worth fighting for. And Kim has threatened luridly the U.S. many times, so the U.S. is not going to sit idly while a totalitarian nutcase continues his aggrandizement and seeks the nuclear gun. The tragedy of innocents being killed has been omnipresent since war began. The killings of the civilians mentioned in the article by American soldiers were found to be non-deliberate by U.S. investigators. Would it have been better that the U.S. stay out of that war? After reading articles like this, I sometimes think the U.S. should pull out of South Korea.

  169. I'm not trying to overlook the hellishness of war, or to cast blanket blame on US forces who fought in Korea. I remember reading about an American who survived a mass execution of POWs by NK forces - he returned to SK for a memorial and to thank him and other former soldiers, and there he broke down in tears and told of a time later in the war when he was forced to shoot a child who was carrying a grenade, a 9-yr old girl, forced to approach US forces by NK soldiers threatening her family, and he had to kill her. That comment from the writer of this piece about the attitude of US forces during the war is a part of the context of the war here. And I fail to see how a knee-jerk reaction to this very valid point can contribute anything worthwhile to this discussion.

  170. I agree with you. No war in Korean Peninsula. Any solution that is not peace is meaningless and if war happened ,there is no victory but massacre and destruction of humanity.