B.R. Myers: North Korea Will Never Play Nice





[B.R. Myers, the director of the international studies department at Dongseo University, is the author of “The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves — and Why It Matters.”]

WHILE it is cowardly and foolish not to resist an act of aggression, the best way to deal with a provocation is to ignore it — or so we are taught. By refusing to be provoked, one frustrates and therefore “beats” the provoker; generations of bullied children have been consoled with this logic. And so it is that the South Korean and American governments usually refer to North Korea’s acts of aggression as “provocations.”

The North’s artillery attack on a populated South Korean island is now getting the same treatment, with the South’s president, Lee Myung-bak, vowing that Pyongyang will be “held responsible” and that “additional provocative acts” will be punished “several times over.”

There is no reason that North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-il, should take those words seriously. Mr. Lee made similar noises in March, when the North was accused of killing 46 South Korean sailors by torpedoing a naval vessel, the Cheonan, and what was the result? A pacifist South Korean electorate punished Mr. Lee’s party in regional elections, and the attack faded from the headlines....

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