PHYSICAL ECOLOGY OF KOREA: POPULOUS SOUTH, RESOURCE-RICH NORTH, UNRESOLVED WAR
by A. Joseph Lynch
The Korean Peninsula is home to almost 75 million people, with approximately 25 million living in the communist north and 50 million living in the south. The peninsula remains divided since the Korean War, which ran from 1950-1953 but has never officially been resolved. Finding itself a bridge between China and Japan, Koreans have tended to mistrust their immediate neighbors. For example, in a 2014 poll 79% of South Koreans were found to hold an unfavorable view of Japan. Nevertheless, Japan and South Korea have tenuous military relations aimed at containing China and North Korea. Although the south has double the population, the north is better endowed with natural resources including: coal, petroleum, lead, tungsten, zinc, graphite, magnesite, iron ore, copper, gold, pyrites, salt, fluorspar and hydropower.
Geopolitical tensions remain between the north and south with the resumption of war a looming possibility at all times. Although the north continues to be loud and threatening, Stratfor argues that this is a three-part "Ferocious, Weak, and Crazy" strategy that has worked well in the past. The south continues to hold a strong alliance with the United States and depends on it, along with the Japanese to some degree, for its long-term strategic security. CNN has posted some excellent videos on what a war on the peninsula may look like today along with how military officers have war-gamed an outbreak of hostilities. The results were not promising. As the US military pivots to Asia, it will need strong allies in any future regional war. Such allies must include the Christian Philippines, Sunni Muslim Indonesia, and even a militarily resurgent Japan. Or the pivot may include stepping back and accepting the hegemony of China in the region while working to help reunify the great people of Korea.