This Is Why No One Pays Attention To The Crazy Threats From North Korea

kim il sungKim Il Sung used to make crazy threats too.

Photo: AP

North Korea is threatening Seoul again, this time over a disputed island.If you’ve watched the news at all in the past decade or so — ever since Pyongyang tested nuclear weapons — this may sound like a broken record.

But you may not realise just how far back the North’s histrionics extend.

We went back and pulled news headlines from more than 50 years of North Korean bluster against the South.

In some ways we shouldn’t be surprised: the war never officially ended. An armistice was signed when the U.N. withdrew troops in 1953.

But the five decades of mostly empty threats we’ve put together should show you that the latest flare-ups are nothing new.

Hostilities had ended by 1954. But just four years later it seemed like there'd barely been any progress.

And by '66, skirmishes had begun breaking out again.

Kim Il Sung, who ran the country during this time, can be credited with starting the trend of periodic bluster, which was mostly came from frustration over American forces' ongoing presence in the South. He ended up ruling until his death in 1994.

But for decades South Koreans struggled under their own quasi-autocratic regime. Park Chung-hee, who ran the country from 1961 to 1979, often used Northern threats as a pretext to assert his own control.

A quarter of a century after the armistice, nothing had changed. Often the North's pretexts for saber rattling were totally regular events like the U.S. presidential election.

This story is insane. Captain Arthur Bonifas and Lt. Mark Barrett were hacked to death by North Korean soldiers after refusing to stop pruning a poplar tree in the demilitarized zone separating the two countries. It sparked an international incident that lasted over a year and by one account led Sec. of State Henry Kissinger to order up full scale bombing plans.


Eventually the U.S. decided it was better to maybe leave the peninsula entirely. But no sooner would they announce they were contemplating doing so than the North would threaten invasion. Thus, U.S. forces remain.

The late '70s were probably the most turbulent time for the Peninsula since the war. On Friday, Oct. 26, 1979, Park was assassinated by his own security forces. The South preempted the inevitable by telling Pyongyang to lay off.

Things were mostly quiet during the '80s, until the Seoul Olympics. Again, the North took an otherwise totally predictable occasion to threaten to blow everyone up in the South.

Until they went nuclear, the only threat the North could credibly back up was in sports. Here's the headline in advance of the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing. Pyongyang won 12 gold medals that year.

By the mid-90s, the North was struggling to figure out how to step up their game — their threats had become tiresome.

Here's the lede on this story:

'Weaving his white cab through the streets of downtown Seoul, Kim Chang-won sniffs at North Korea's weekend threat to engulf his city in 'a sea of fire.' 'Sheer bluff, that's what it is,' said the 54-year-old driver.'

But it wasn't for lack of trying, and occasionally it worked. Exit polls in the 1996 parliamentary election showed a North announcement that it would no longer recognise the '53 armistice had influenced a sizable portion of voters.

But by the end of the decade, the North could only mobilize against their own imagined enemies.

By 1999, President Clinton had agreed

But, perhaps inevitably, they couldn't keep it together.

Which leads us to the present, arguably more screwed up than ever.

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