Why North Korea has nothing on Canada

29 Nov

It was a busy weekend, what with the TEDx conference at Ryerson on Saturday and all. The day was quite fun with a lot of good talks. My favourite was the one given by David Brame, who aside from being an assistant professor of fashion at the university is also a comic book artist. His speech, about how to unleash your inner six-year-old, resonated with me because it was basically all about comic books and how they inspired him to get to where he is today. After his talk, I told him we were pretty much the same person.

My talk went fairly well, I think. I didn’t freeze up and there were a few chuckles, so I couldn’t really ask for much more. The team at Ryerson did an excellent job at organizing the whole event and they’re busily editing the video of all the talks. They’ll have them up soon and I’ll point to them when they do.

One of the things that came up during my talk was how technology, and particularly the internet, has changed the shape of war over the past century. There are reasons to oppose globalization, but one of the big facts in favour of it is how interconnected the economies of the world have become. While this may cause us problems whenever some part of the world goes into recession, the upside is that one major nation going to war against another is pretty much suicidal for all involved, and therefore highly improbable. As I said in the speech, if the United States were to go to war with China, as some people think will eventually happen, the flow of goods would stop dead and Americans wouldn’t even have clean underwear to fight in.

Afterward, I got to thinking about this whole situation with North Korea. As you probably know, the North has been agitating again by shelling one of the South’s island, thereby killing two sailors. Tensions flared up again over the weekend and various military forces mobilized.

North Korea worries pundits for two reasons. One, the country may have some nukes and Kim Jong Il may just be crazy enough to use them. Two, nobody’s really sure where China sits on the whole issue. If the U.S. were to become involved on South Korea’s behalf, China might decide to side with North Korea, or so the thinking goes.

I’m thinking neither scenario is likely. As the WikiLeaks documents revealed over the weekend, the U.S. has been cutting all sorts of deals with China over North Korea. A betting man would be smart to believe the U.S. has a whole lot more to offer China than the electricity-challenged North Korea does, and vice-versa (like clean underwear). If it came down to war between North and South (sponsored by the U.S.), China would make some noise but probably largely stay out of it.

Said war would be really, really quick. Let’s compare the two. According to CIA numbers, North Korea has the world’s 20th most powerful military force compared to the U.S., which is of course rated first. North Korea also has 1% of the military budget of the U.S. I think that’s about the only number we need to look at. South Korea is no slouch either - the country is ranked 12th and has five times the budget of the North. A U.S.-South Korean takeover would be so swift, the North wouldn’t have time to use nukes, if it even has them.

And even if Kim Jong Il has nukes, is crazy enough to use them and had time to do so, his country would then be wiped off the face of the planet after all the other nations of world piled on him for going so nutso.

I’m not one to advocate for war, but it may just be time to solve the whole North Korea problem. While it has been labelled a “rogue nation” for possibly developing nukes against the will of the international community, it’s more of a rogue for refusing to enter into the world economy - the same interconnected network that keeps the rest of us safe. The best way to ensure lasting peace between nations is to make them dependent on each other, so that hurting one is akin to hurting oneself. North Korea needs to be brought into that fold.

That said, there is one thing I’ve always found funny about North Korea (other than the portrayal of King Jong Il in Team America). Did you know that the sole cellphone company in this defiant and isolated rogue state is the same one that is challenging the big three providers here in Canada? It’s true. Egypt’s Orascom operates cellphone service in North Korea - it’s likely that only military and government personnel are allowed to have a mobile - and is the chief backer of Wind Mobile here in Canada.

The funny part? Orascom had an easier time setting up service in North Korea than it did in Canada. It’s pretty obvious that as far as telecommunications goes, Canada is the rogue state.

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Posted by on November 29, 2010 in korea, telecommunications, war


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