Academic journal article The Journal of East Asian Affairs

Unveiling North Korea's Crisis Provocations: A Garrison State Hypothesis Revisited

Academic journal article The Journal of East Asian Affairs

Unveiling North Korea's Crisis Provocations: A Garrison State Hypothesis Revisited

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper aims to discover the main factors that steered North Korea in determining its provocations against South Korea. To this end, we first did a survey about what actually happened in the Yeonpyeong Island crisis to detect any driving forces for North Korea to go for provocation. From this, we confirmed that it was an internal factor that provoked North Korea to open fire on Yeonpyeong Island. We also referred to the garrison state model to explain the reason and factor that is behind the provocation, based on the hypothesis that North Korea is likely to provoke according to shifts in the military's status in North Korea. We analyzed North Korea's state system as it corresponds with the garrison state model. Then, we inferred the circumstances and period that made it possible for the North Korean military to carry out this act of provocation. As a social group, the military and its policy is more important than any other interests or values in North Korea, thus holding enormous political power in collusion with the supreme leader. Consequently, the military has supposedly determined a provocation when they find it necessary to consolidate their vested position or power from any domestic challenges. The last question is estimating the time or conditions for the North Korean military to act on a provocation. According to the analysis of main crisis provocations since the end of the Korean War, there are three internal circumstances that are likely to trigger the military to act on a provocation: when they feel obliged to create stability during the transition of political power; when they feel endangered by a relative decline of power or interest vis-a-vis other social groups; when they feel urged to create a crisis situation spurred by fear of signs of a peaceful security environment. Based upon the results, we suggest a few policy recommendations for South Korea to seek reliable and credible measures for the deterrence of provocations from the North.

Key Words: Garrison State, North Korea's Provocations, North Korean Military, Yeonpyeong Island Crisis

INTRODUCTION

Yeonpyeong Island became a target of another provocation by North Korea in November 2010. Unlike other provocations, North Korea took a different stance by shelling actual South Korean territory. South Korea was in near chaos since this was another provocation by North Korea that happened only eight months after the Cheonanham Incident. North Korea denied that it was behind the Cheonanham Incident, which is normally how North Korea reacts to these kinds of accusations until critical evidence is presented. The shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, however, happened openly, which was unlike how North Korea had behaved in the past. North Korea argued that it was a military action taken in self-defense against the joint South Korea-U.S. military training in the West Sea. Yet, it was not the first time South Korea and the U.S. had carried on military training, which is held on a yearly basis. However, the provocation against Yeonpyeong Island was the first time North Korea executed direct military action.

This paper aims to discover the underlying forces that steered North Korea in determining its provocations against South Korea. To this end, we attempt to prove the proposition that up to now the North Korean military initiated armed provocations only to fulfill domestic purposes and not to remove or counter any security threats from its external environment. Eventually, the proposition can be proved simply by one undeniable fact to observe that North Korea has never encountered any security threats from South Korea and the U.S., not to mention China and Japan. Over the last decades, North Korean officials occasionally expressed their fears of the military preparedness of South Korea-U.S. allied forces. However, the standpoint was overstated and manipulated on the grounds that China, located in close proximity to North Korea, as an ally has never avoided its security commitments. …

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