7 reasons why North Korea suddenly attacked

Lots of rumours circulating about the possibility of all out war in Korea, following the first artillery attack in the area since the guns fell quiet in 1953. The question is: What does North Korea have to gain out of all of this?

Other than the obvious answer which is: ‘nothing’, here is a brief and incomplete list on North Korea’s motives:

1. Internal struggles within the KWP in the lead up to Kim Jong-un’s ascendancy to power.

http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-world/nkoreas-attack-to-bolster-heir-seoul-20101124-1879v.html

The North was aiming “to brandish heir apparent Kim Jong-Un’s military prowess, strengthen internal unity and vent internal discontent toward the outside”, the premier told the National Assembly.

2. A clever ruse to restart multi-lateral peace talks

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3988549,00.html

A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Hong Lei, also told a news conference that both sides of the Korean peninsula should “do more to contribute to peace”, and said it was imperative to return to six-party talks aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. (Reuters)

3. A bid by successor Kim Jong-un to ‘prove himself’ as the next leader of North Korea

http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/asiapcf/11/24/north.korea.attack.analysis/

“The first reason for this attack is the instability of Kim Jong Un. That is the fundamental reason. Constant military tensions help him to keep the support of his military, and to unite the North Korean people.”

4. North Korean soldiers felt legitimately threatened by a routine South Korean training exercise

http://www.newsy.com/videos/analysis-north-south-korea-exchange-artillery-fire/

“They were firing as a routine firing exercise and they were firing to the west and to the south, not in the direction of the North Korea mainland. It is important to point out, at least according to the South Koreans, this was a firing exercise, not live fire.”

5. A bid for attention

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/11/23/analysis-attack-north-korean-bid-attention/

Two weeks ago, Seoul basked in the limelight of hosting more than 30 world leaders for the Group of 20 summit in what was seen as the country’s diplomatic debut. Next week, South Korea will make its case for the right to hold the 2022 World Cup. But a rising South Korea does not sit well with its poorer northern neighbor. Once the richer of the two Koreas, the North has suffered over the years from the loss of Soviet aid, economic mismanagement and natural disasters that destroyed its precious few resources.

6. An attempt to coax South Korea into all out war

Most analysts consider this highly unlikely, but perhaps ol’ Kim is going senile and has unfinished delusion of grandeur?
Kim Jong Il and the Gang of Four know that all-out war would be suicidal, but they have learned over the decades that provocations have few downsides. Even after the sinking of the Cheonan, trade with South Korea remained steady, while that with China increased.

7. Pure unpredictable impulse

This is the wild-card explanation. Perhaps the reasons for this flare up will never be known – simply the whim and caprice of an aging, emotionally unstable dictator. In the same way a child playing a video-game commits virtual ‘crimes’ including declaring war for no particular reason – the leaders of North Korea may be simply toying with war, without fully realizing the implications of their actions.

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Short story: Venus Unreached

(submitted to the 2010 Glen Eira short story awards)

Venus unreached

The stubborn roar of the rear thrusters sending me closer to my death have become so ordinary, that in the coldest of nights I feel surrounded by an eerie silence. I huddle alone by a thick glass window, peering into an endless night of magical stars and lost dreams. As I accelerate away, my little blue home, Earth, joins the night sky and I wonder how a place so small can be filled with so much life. A condemned man has no hopes I am told; a condemned man has no will to live. Guilt will haunt me they say, haunt me until I meet my inexorable fate. For I am the condemned man – a human experiment in the final frontier, patiently counting his numbered days on death row.

I can imagine her thick suffocating atmosphere. I will approach the first sulphurous clouds at 60 kilometres above the surface – beginning a slow process of asphyxiation down to the surface. Underneath her veil of poisonous clouds lies Hades’ unimaginable lair, coated by incendiary rivers of lava, melted molten and a garish orange sky. A rank, hostile heat, eats away at all life. The eternal ovens of a suffocating greenhouse burn me from within and smother me from without. I can wait inside the capsule for two minutes before the walls begin to decompose, or I can unlock the hatch and invite the scorching winds to hasten my demise. Whatever my choice, images of my imminent death remain prisoners of my psyche – embedded on every thought and every nightmare. I know what lies ahead yet I don’t know how to face my fears.

I’m sorry. You’ll have to forgive me. I just can’t take it anymore. The tension is killing me faster than my voyage into the unknown. Though I have never been considered a particularly serene person, during these past few days my anxiety level has reached new heights.

Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m innocent – as much as they try to convince me otherwise – that makes this whole process a lot harder. 15 months of solitary confinement prior to certain death is not as easy as it seems. “It’ll give you some time to think about it” the aggressive litigant pointed at me with the ferocity of a man hungry for blood, and revelling in sarcasm. The whole country was hungry for blood, really – and I don’t blame them. Whoever committed those atrocities certainly deserves the fate that awaits me now. Only that I don’t, and it was always futile to deny my involvement. Swabs of DNA, strong circumstantial evidence and sensationalist headlines landed me in police custody. A glib lawyer and the furious public, driven by a mob-mentality sent me to the fiery hellhole that awaits my vulnerable death cage.

In a blurred reverie of court hearings and flash photographs, my sentence was pronounced by the ‘sacrosanct Supreme Court’. As a demonized criminal, I sat in a trance behind bulletproof glass windows, wanting to cry out in indignation and proclaim my innocence. Yet I was swept by a malignant self-control that seemed to prevent me from comprehending my incredulous situation. It disgusts me that I didn’t do more to explain my innocence or request an appeal. Therein lays my fate, a perversion of justice; an unlucky providence from below. Perhaps if I were not as pessimistic my story might even seem puerile. Perhaps if I weren’t so willing to passively resign myself to the portentous sequence of events that I now regret so much, I might’ve been saved.

Due to the severity of my “crimes” they meted out a rather harsh and gratuitous sentence. They realized that I’ve no desire for suicide and the news of my capsule approaching Venus will come with much relief and celebration for the victims and their families. I remember reading my story on the front pages of the morning news – summaries of my life story, ‘profiles of a killer’, ‘Exclusive: inside the mind of a mass murderer’. It felt ironic yet poignant that I was viewing the movie of my life in third person, detached from the narrative, yet unshakably devoured by its consequences. I engender so much hatred back home, that my case seemed to unify people who would normally be polarized on such issues. I certainly won’t be missed. Not by my people, nor my family – and perhaps even by myself.

I feel cold in these tight confines in which I am mentally and physically imprisoned. However, the constant shiver and the unreliable chatter of my teeth are more a symptom of dread than temperature. The omnipresent sensation of Venus’ fiery heat gives me a ghostly warmth that frightens rather than kindles me. I am like a trapped animal surviving on my thoughts and a panorama of distant cosmos that spread themselves across the large icy window. Abandoned by humanity, I patiently tally my days left; no chance of an appeal or a retrial, no chance of a future or an escape.

The oxygen onboard my capsule feels strange and artificial. How I long to step inside my fantasy and return home, to feel the august rustle of a midnight breeze. The imperceptible movements of the wind, rushing past fern trees and dancing through blades of grass seem to carry me to freedom, like a young bird leaving its nest for the first time. My mind has become my solace; the depths of imagination are boundless, and I have become a different person – a madman tenaciously clutching onto the final guises of sanity, so perceptively aware of what he has become, yet so at peace with exploring his baser natural instincts. Not survival instincts – they have abandoned me as I lie trapped in this cage of doom. But rather an innate sense of apathy that quells my inner activist and only allows me to think and feel a range of docile emotions that hardly express what I ought to be feeling. The sacrificial lamb does not ultimately survive to witness how effectively it placates the people’s need for revenge – any revenge, even that of the guiltless will suffice.

Everybody seemed to comment on the unique heinousness of my iniquities, and the unrivalled extent of my malevolence. Through sinking into the absolute depths of moral depravity and turpitude I had lost my right to life and freedom, they all agreed. If I, the alleged murderer had no compassion for my victims, why should I be shown compassion or given a fair trial by the legal process? Surely that is a luxury ill afforded at such a time of national crisis. I sincerely replied that the usual punishment for supreme moral debasement was a life sentence in the public sector and a job for a political party. Shocked by my ability to respond, and the wry humour in my comments – which was simply a hapless, personal, attempt to feel human in the face of adversity – the airwaves went berserk, as callers on talkback radio and opinion pieces concocted all sorts of vile accusations. I had become their convenient scapegoat – the national embodiment of evil. My attempts to point out the widespread hypocrisy of my accusers were turned against me, in a malicious hate-fest of conspiracy theories and government resolutions. No purpose to live, just to die, for the ‘good of the people’, silently, and into the night without protest or whisper.

There is no cockpit on board, no steering wheel, and no joystick to swerve back. Nothing in my power to alter the course set for me. My spaceship is controlled from a command centre on Earth, my every step monitored by the numerous cameras that surround my abode. Yet I still feel so alone, even without privacy or comfort, as millions of people back home tune in to watch me consume myself – a cynical Big Brother experimentation gone awry.

O wayward people, do you see what I see, as I farewell the final stretches of Earth’s atmosphere? A hypnotic gift never to be experienced – now immortalized in my thoughts and feelings that will no doubt live on. The deep blue ocean is warm and inviting, stretching a divine aura across the Earth’s vast surface. Beyond the blackening void past the curvature, the first rays of sunlight cast a halo over sapphire blankets that flow past specks of dry land – a mystical sight that shields me from the incessant chimera of melted volcanoes and burnt deserts that gladly await me. The stretches of clouds form millions of fluffy pillows, reborn each time anew – so ever reminiscent of our enduring life cycle, destroying and rebuilding, blaming and then apologizing.

I see white lights in the distance nearing my insignificant space capsule. The artificial fluorescent lights on the walls flicker and then die out, together with the rest of the electronics on board. The low hum of the engine follows suit and then ceases completely – a sound so previously pervasive that its absence generates a deafening silence. As I peer out past my reflection in the window, blinding lights shroud an incoming object in obscurity. Having spent so long in solitary introspection, I seriously wonder whether this is real, or some cruel, beguiling illusion.

My capsule is now entirely dark – bar the beams of radiance streaming onto my pale, vapid face and casting a silhouette across the empty wall behind. Whatever that is beside my space pod, it seems to approach inquisitively and with purpose, as if on the verge of some great discovery. The intensity increases and I shut my eyes, only sensing the warm embrace of the white light saturating my body from head to toe. A deeper unexplainable sense of tranquillity has infused itself within me and I finally feel at peace. My eyes are shut, yet I see more than ever before. Enveloped by the warmth, I return the embrace and place my palms on the icy window.

P.S.

“In breaking and unexpected news, it appears that police have apprehended the real killers who perpetrated last year’s May Day atrocities that shocked and horrified the nation. In other news, no sighting has been made of the Venus capsule containing the previously accused killer, since it disappeared from the radar a year ago. Police headquarters have confirmed that the space pod did not reach Earth’s fiery twin planet. Investigations continue as calls are made to exonerate the missing prisoner in what appears to be a case of mistaken identity. More shortly. . “

Victorian state elections 2010: Underwhelming. The Greens cash in on voter apathy.

Today was supposed to be a momentous occasion in my life. Having recently turned 18, I was able for the first time to exercise my democratic right to vote, and to finally take the future of Victoria into my own hands and make a difference – if at least by one vote. Needless to say, the Victorian state elections have been painfully underwhelming and drop-dead-boring to follow. In my previous post on the 2010 Federal elections, I noted that there is no longer any passion in politics: same boring ads, same staged debates, same cliched speeches masked over with fancy promises and sweet nothings. Politicians are in slumber mode, and the electorate wearily shows up to the voting station once more – feeling numb and expecting nothing at all. In many ways, these elections are similar to the recent Federal elections, in that they have been exceptionally uninspiring – except in the case of state elections, nobody really cares anyway.

One thing that I’ve found odd (someone please explain this to me), is that the Greens are so fashionable. Not politically of course. Their policies carry little substance. I’m talking about Green’s supporters and the way they dress.  It’s as if they’ve realized that no sane person would vote for a haphazard party, hastily put together on a vague idea of “saving the planet”, so they resort to Mac-style tactics by appealing to the lowest common denominator: looking ‘cool’ appealing to the smug, hipster demographic. That’s right, if you’re an artist, in a band or you buy your jeans from a grocery store, chances are you fit the Greenie stereotype.

At the polling station, I was met by the usual crowd of party-fanatics handing out as many fliers as possible, in the hopes that they could win me over in the last minute. There was something different about the Greens supporter. Let’s just say off the record, that not even that attractive 20-something Greenie girl, waiting for me at the entrance with short-shorts and a handful of glittering ‘eye-candy’ fliers, could get me to vote for The Greens. If this is what I think it is, then it is: Desperation. If they can’t win you over logically because of sound policies, then they go for “plan b”: trendiness.

That’s not to say that the two major parties, Liberal and Labor ran anything resembling a campaign either. The only admirable thing I can say, is that, scare tactics and campaign smearing have been at a minimum. Perhaps that’s because neither party has the budget to launch a successful smear campaign – or they just didn’t have the imagination to make anything up. No-wonder then, that voter apathy is skyrocketing and becoming the norm. At times like these, a quote by Elie Wiesel comes to mind:

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.
The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference.
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference”

click to enlarge

Indifference is what many people feel in regards to politics today. The only way to get voters’ attention is with novelty: “Provide me with a revelation of TigerWoods-esque proportions, or leave me alone to play golf”. In a world dominated by political-correctness (pun intended) and a clinical dissociation between the leaders and the people, no wonder people are thronging to vote for the Greens. At least they seem ‘alternative’, and hey, it makes you feel good about saving the environment! Now stand aside as I park my hummer and guzzle a can of coke that 12 Chinese children died to make. But what have the Greens really got going for them? Well nothing. And here’s the election flier they hand out at polling booths to prove it:

There are so many things wrong with this flier, that it practically embodies what is bad with politics today. Firstly, the slogans “Your vote is powerful” and “Because who you vote for matters”, is the kind of crap I’d expect to hear dished out of a Nivea hair ad: “because you’re worth it”. These slogans lack any context as to why we should vote Greens, and leaves a glaring question unanswered: does my vote still matter if I don’t vote Green? Perhaps, you’re “powerful” enough to make that decision on your own – without having fake Green guilt shoved down your throat by misguided friends. But they’ll have you know – that they’re very capable at branding you as a right-wing bible-belt fascist if you don’t agree with them.

The list of their policies is even more ludicrous. They represent an over-simplified summary of nothingness, and I kept thinking to myself: this must’ve been a project given to Grade 5 kids, because there is no way this was written by an adult. These are simply milk-n-cookies feel good goals that you would come up with, if you posed the following question to a primary school: “What can make Victoria better?”. So unless you can be bothered reading through their flier, their policies are essentially:

Water: Save more water!

Health: More money for health!

Education: Make it better!

Public transport: Put more buses on the road!

Climate Change: DUH!

At least The Liberal party were respectable enough to give out a no-nonsense, one-sided simple flier. Because unlike the Greens, they realise that they have no need to appeal to uninformed constituents in a last-ditch scramble for votes:

Labor wasn’t exceptionally terrible either. At least they can vouch on John Brumby’s good record and that killer automatic smile with nothing behind it:

The one thing that all the fliers shared in common? They were each printed on “100% recycled fibre” and certified as “Carbon Neutral” and “Greenhouse friendly!” Wait: did they just steal the Green’s “green” message? Nope – because if  The Greens get the votes, they’ll be sure to put a “Carbon tax” on everything imaginable: next election, you’ll be paying to see each flier, and you’ll feel guilty about it as well.

According to an article in the Australian:

The acceleration in the Greens vote, he says, is being driven more by instinct than specific issues: “It goes across a range. At one end it is almost apathy: ‘What have I got to lose?’, ‘I’ve tried the other two, they are just going to be more of the same, so why don’t I try these other guys?

All the major parties ran underwhelming campaigns, and The Greens are standing on the side, looking trendy and snatching up votes, not based on the party’s merit – but simply the fact that they’re a ‘change’ and they represent an idealized version of what most kids hope to emulate. Well here’s one teenager in the key ‘Youth Demographic’ (18-24) that is bucking the trend. By voting for one of the major parties, I might be voting for crap – but at least it’s the kind of crap that I’m familiar with.