Friday, 10 July 2009

Return of the Il-matic

[cross-posted from Accumulating Peripherals]

Nuke tests, missile tests, and now what appears to be a massive denial-of-service attack on South Korean government websites? Whilst the thought of Kim Jong-Il commanding an army of robot computers brings forth thoughts of 'ronery' dictators in people like me who've seen way too much Team America: World Police, the real question should be: why?

The answer until recently has been that this posturing is motivated by the North Korea elite positioning themselves ahead of a transfer of leadership, but now that the Il-est is back (even if looking distinctly Il-er) then we have to ask whether it it's actually Kim who is driving these moves. B.R. Myers suggested a possible answer in a recent WSJ article:

"North Korea is a state more interested in enhancing national pride and strength than in raising the masses' standard of living. Its militarism is ideologically driven and not a reaction to U.S. policy shifts. This runs counter to current thinking on the left in Washington, which argues that North Korea, a chronic violator of contracts and treaties, would have adhered religiously to the Agreed Framework of 1994 if U.S. had only kept its side of the bargain. This is worse than mere naivety. The "military first" policy was premised on the principle that a normalization of relations with America was neither possible nor desirable. It proclaimed a mere 10 weeks after that agreement was signed."

This could explain the missile shots and the nuclear test as moves to show some result from the Korean people's sacrifices, but it doesn't explain the latest web attacks (presuming that they come from NK) which are necessarily both secret and hardly a show of strength. In fact if they were announced at least some North Koreans might be given cause to think that their relative invulnerability to such attacks is far more a sign of how much they are missing out on due to their country's backwardness and isolation. On the other hand, if this move is all part of some preparation for war, you would need to explain why they used a method more commonly employed by killjoy geeks to put offline websites they don't like. As always with North Korea, we are unlikely ever to know what is going on, let alone why.

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