On Sunday morning it was announced that an American navy strike group would move from Singapore to be stationed in the waters off the Korean peninsula in accordance with the Trump administration's increasingly bellicose language about preventing any further developments in the North Korean weapon program which threatened the mainland United States. The biggest problem with our understanding of North Korea from the outside is a tendency to take appearances on a face value with even the small amount of information which is available to us being ignored for stereotypes and outdated 'realpolitik'.
Journalists and diplomats aren't allowed to travel freely in North Korea and the barbarity yet absurdity of the regime to 21st century Western eyes tends to lead to the North Koreans as being perceived as deeply cynical Machiavellians who repress their people to keep themselves on top. There is too little emphasis placed on examining the regimes domestic propaganda in Korean aimed at North Korean audiences, instead relying on output aimed at an outside audience playing on our outdated caricatures of the North Koreans rather than the terrifying reality of what the regime actually is.
North Korean domestic propaganda has an unhealthy emphasis on the racial purity and superiority of the Korean race. The most prominent monograph on the subject is The Cleanest Race by Professor B.R. Myers of Dongseo University Whilst this book divides opinion among the academic community, it cannot be denied that the material that Myers cites provides clear emphasis that the North Koreans view themselves as being more pure than all other people with racist invective that wouldn't be out of place from the 1930s and 1940s being aimed particularly at people of Japanese, Caucasian-American and African-American descent being common.
This material rarely reaches Non-North Korean ears at least enough to register the true nature of the regime. The regime's vile insults against President Obama on the basis of his race alone had very little impact possibly due to its language being so archaic to Western ears it evoked half-forgotten 1970s sitcoms leading to mockery rather than concern. Other language evokes more the propaganda of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, with the crew of the USS Pueblo (an American Naval research ship captured by the North Koreans in International waters in 1968 for 11 months) being described in North Korean propaganda aimed at a domestic audience as being permanently unclean both physically (emitting a foul smell, wallowing in their own filth) and mentally (displaying extreme sexual deviance and having no morals whatsoever).
This sort of dangerous and disgusting nonsense is ludicrous to non-North Korean audiences, but imagine this being the officially stated view of the world outside your country's borders and having this hammered into you at every available opportunity? What will that do to a people when war comes?
Whether we agree with the extent of Myers theories about the nature of North Korea (controversially Myers states that he believes Marxism and Confucianism have very little influence over the internal North Korean ideology which other experts disagree with) it cannot be denied that North Korea is a state where the people are taught to see their opponents as racially inferior. The Trump administration must take the inherent bigotry of the North Koreans towards all outsiders into account when deciding what to do about this terrible regime.
Obviously they can't be allowed to develop the capability of striking well into the American mainland, but in taking any action against them, Trump must remember that any of the North Koreans war-making capabilities left intact past the first wave will be used against any target military or civilian in the wider North East Asian region. Any attack on North Korea will have to destroy as much as possible of their ability to hit South Korea, Japan or American bases in the Pacific in the first wave of attacks and even then there will be countless fatalities of North Korean actions there.
How many will die is a matter of conjecture, but one thing that always struck me when reading academic monographs about North Korea is the usually sober writers of these pieces are upfront that any second Korean war would likely lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths. American military fatalities are sometimes estimated in the tens of thousands alone. This is a war that is very different to any America has fought since World War Two and it is intensely worrying if it turns out that President Trump thinks he's dealing with morally malleable and realist deal makers like himself rather than fanatics rarely seen outside the mid-20th century.