On August 20, North Korea fired artillery shells toward the South near the western border region. The South Korean military retaliated in kind. Now, South and North Korea, which have been technically in a state of truce since the Korean War, is in a "semi-state of war."
So, what will happen on the Korean peninsula? Below we detail the reasons for the latest skirmish.
1. Why did North Korea fire the shells?
It's hard to fathom why North Korea would do this. The important thing is North Korea has threatened additional attacks if "the loudspeaker broadcasts" do not cease. South Korea had been broadcasting anti-North Korean rhetoric via the loudspeakers since Aug. 10 as a countermeasure to the landmine explosion on Aug. 4, which the South concluded was the handiwork of its neighbours.
2. Has there been similar incidences in the past?
This is not the first skirmish between the two countries since the Korean Armistice Agreement in 1953. North Korea has repeatedly lobbed artilleries into the Yellow Sea, and the South Korean navy has had to fire occasional warning shots at North Korean ships inching past the Northern Limit Line (NLL) that divides the North and South. In the sea near Yeonpyeong Island which practically sits atop the invisible boundary line, there have been sizable sea skirmishes in 1999, 2002, and 2010.
3. How come nothing was hit?
North Korea’s artillery attack on the southern side resulted in no damage as they were firing into the demilitarized zone (DMZ), still within the outer perimeter, and thus the reason why military and North Korea experts are interpreting the most recent attacks as mere warning.
4. Was anyone hurt? Any collateral or property damage?
North Korea’s artillery fire and the South’s reprisal occurred wholly within the DMZ which means that the shelling was happening away from where the soldiers were actually stationed. Therefore, no lives were endangered and there were no other damages to speak of.
5. Why is North Korea demanding that the loudspeaker announcements be stopped?
Mainly because they view the loudspeaker broadcasts as a threat to their “hold on the regime” as content includes everything from such mundane topics as the weather and the latest hit music to more grave matters such as “North Korean regime’s corruption.” They are especially sensitive about the possibility that accusations about the corruption passed down through three generations of Kims might surface and spread among the civilians as well as the military. The loudspeakers have a maximum range of 24 km at night and 10 km during daylight, which is calculated to be strong enough to reach many border-side North Koreans.
6. What’s the prognosis for the near future?
North Korea has warned if the loudspeaker broadcast is not stopped and the equipment not dismantled there could be additional military actions. The North’s stated deadline is 5:30 pm Aug. 22 (Saturday) local time. A South Korean official said, “We’re sure there will be some form of provocation,” but added with caution that “the likelihood of a major frontal attack is unlikely.” There’s also the chance that the North might lob a missile toward the East Sea.
7. How are the South Koreans taking this?
A lot of people are concerned about the confrontation but hardly anyone believes that it could actually lead to war. They know that the South or the North can ill afford it. As such there has been no mad scramble for wartime readiness such as “stockpiling.” Everyone’s going about their daily lives pretty much same as always.