N. Korean and N. American tensions could create a second Cold War


CMYK-Kim Jong Un-1-Prachatai-Flickr

The newly released trailer for the upcoming movie The Interview, which stars Seth Rogen and James Franco as reporters who are recruited by the CIA to assassinate Kim Jong Un, has struck a nerve in North Korea.

A spokesman from North Korea’s foreign ministry says that the film represents an act of terrorism and war for depriving “the service personnel and people of the DPRK of their mental mainstay and bring[ing] down its social system,” which will result in “merciless countermeasures” if the film is shown.

Kim Myong-chol, the executive director of the Center for North Korea-US Peace, and an unofficial spokesperson for the North Korean regime, has compared the film to American involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine, as well as the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

These statements are reminiscent of Cold War propaganda and show how North Korea is neutralized in American eyes: North American media interprets their responses as madness.

Even if the republic’s response to this film is threatening, they haven’t threatened war, something which The Huffington Post and several other prominent media outlets reported. The Huffington Post even quotes The Christian Science Monitor, saying that Kim himself threatens “all-out war” upon release of the movie, though there aren’t any sources cited to prove this.

North Korea is neutralized in American eyes: the media interprets their responses as a madness.

North Korea could be using American perception in line with Nixon’s madman theory. Vox.com explains the madman theory as a tool of President Nixon during the Vietnam War to scare the Vietnamese and Soviets into concessions by convincing them that he wanted to launch nukes. Hence, North Korea may want to stop the US from attacking its country’s image by presenting itself as unpredictable and irrational.

On the other hand, the Americans also seem to be using Cold War rhetoric to quell any fears of irrational retaliation by North Korea as Americans downplay any threats of war, showcased by casting the story of Kim Jong Un’s antics in a humorous light.

Many of those same articles mentioning North Korea’s response to the film portray it humorously, in line with The Interview, as well as Team America: World Police, and several prominent Internet memes.

Generally, the American government and media have viewed Kim Jong Un as a 21st century dictator stuck in the 20th century, due to his isolationist policies, his unwillingness to give up his nuclear program, his human rights violations, and his cult of personality. These are all characteristics that were prevalent in communist dictators of the Cold War.

Indeed, I find that the situation is ironic as the movie that has provoked threats is about the American media and Kim Jong Un’s cult of personality and plays on America’s perception of North Korea and North Korea’s image that it presents to the world.

A day after North Korea made its statement, it launched three precision directed missiles off its east coast. This test seems to confirm that they intend to hold to their threats.

While the nation may not have threatened all-out war, this situation brings the threat that they pose to light. We need to re-examine the modern state of international and political relations with this country, specifically the separation between a country’s view of how the world sees it versus its fears and intentions and how it deals with these.

If we don’t, we could find our world regressing into another Cold War.