A great opportunity fell in my lap a few weeks back. An adjunct professor at The University of South Florida and retired Marine Corps Brigadier General, Thomas Draube, who fought in Vietnam and Desert Storm teaches a class titled Why We Fight and How We Fight U.S. Wars. General Draube collected numerous medals during these wars to include the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart. His normal guest speaker for the Korean War was unable to present this year, so he got my name from Admiral Olsen, former SOCOM Commander who had selected me to be the Special Operations Command Korea Commander (SOCKOR) in 2009. I immediately accepted the opportunity and the challenge of teaching an undergraduate college class.
The class was on March 20th and to say that I enjoyed it is an understatement. It was an enlightening opportunity and it gave me confidence in the future generation. They were attentive, confident and their questions were intelligent and relevant especially in light of the current events in that region of the world. So, has anything changed with regard to North and South Korea in almost seven decades since the armistice was declared? Let’s review...
Kim Il Sung established North Korea as a communist structure, but in actuality, it was designed more like a cult. His priorities included preserving his regime leadership and political-military structures; establishing a requirement for absolute loyalty to the leader by all North Koreans while protecting the North Korean homeland and maintaining total control of the populace; and finally, unifying the Korean Peninsula under Kim’s terms and under his made-up ideological foundation. He did this by establishing policies that focused on State over People, maintaining internal political control and externally engaging in espionage and sabotage in order to undermine the Republic of Korea (ROK)-US alliance. His strategy also included maintaining a full array of WMD and missile delivery systems designed to extort and gain political and economic concessions.
So, what has changed since Kim Il Sung created this monster and passed it to his son Kim Jung Il and now to the grandson, Kim Jung Un? I submit nothing has changed. The same principles apply today and techniques used by the country’s leaders have remained in place for almost seventy years. Every U.S. President that has attempted to negotiate in good faith has walked away in total disgust and disappointment and today is no different. The only difference is the North’s fledgling nuclear arsenal that threatens the world today.
The ROK is currently the 4th largest economy in NE Asia and the 10th largest economy in the world and whatever happens with US-North Korea negotiations, the internal contradictions and struggles inside the North, together with the incompatibility of Kim Jung Un’s regime and the ROK survival will eventually lead to a crisis on the peninsula.
It was a pleasure to share some of my experiences in the U.S. military – especially the ones from my time on the Korean Peninsula - with the young people at USF. I am more optimistic today than I was a few weeks ago that America’s ideals and values will prevail on the world stage and that we can unite as a Nation in the months to come.