The last blog featured the apocalyptic horsemen of Revelation. Apocalyptic though it may have been, it spoke clearly about the world we live in! This week’s blog features a real life illustration of the warning behind one of those apocalyptic horsemen. I have in mind the current North Korean threat which seems only too well to relate to the red horseman who took peace away from the world.
Why has such small country, exactly half the size of the UK and with less than half the population of the UK, suddenly become the source of much apprehension and alarm in the world? It has become a powder keg big enough to blow apart the delicate balance between much greater super-powers who have atomic weapons and have learned, so far at any rate, to live without using them.
The first reason we can give is that North Korea is geographically in a prime strategic position between China and the USA. The USA has great influence in the Far East on account of its military presence and connection with South Korea and Japan. This has always been an embarrassment to the rapidly developing China. North Korea (attached to the Chinese border) is something of a buffer against this USA presence and China watches North Korea’s independence of the USA very closely and jealously. The Chinese are not prepared for North Korea to come under American influence. This has been the case ever since the Chinese unleashed their army to control North Korea in the early 1950s when the US army looked like taking the whole of Korea from the communists. The border between North and South remains an impregnable flash point nearly 70 years later. Thus, because of its communist affinities with China and because of its border with China, North Korea has been able to develop relatively undisturbed, and in particular able to develop its atomic weaponry. Hidden and shielded it has grown into a monster.
Perhaps a more crucial explanation of its present threatening behaviour lies in the nature of the political structure and its philosophy which has developed since 1948 when the North was separated from the South by a U.N. resolution. In the seventy years from that resolution there have been three generations of ruthless autocratic government centred on one family. Their power is absolute and the veneration of them is constantly demanded of the people (and seemingly willingly given); two huge statues of the two “Kim”s that have died are placed in the area of the central government buildings and Koreans constantly kneel before these statues. Elsewhere there are 70 bronze statutes and tens of thousands of other monuments of the founding Kim further encouraging this pseudo-religious personality cult. The founder is called the “Eternal President” and his son “The Eternal General Secretary”. It is a type of idolatry that recalls the Pharaohs of Egypt and other god-like rulers of history. This is a communism with an extraordinary idolatrous twist.
Alongside this, the vulnerability of the nation has inevitably led to an autocracy which is very heavily militaristic. For its size North Korea has an enormously powerful army, ready and fully equipped, presenting a massive threat to South Korea. The military is the one great boast of the regime to its people. This is part of the ideology of “Juche” (self-determination or self-reliance and “action with reference to no other power”). All this has been achieved through immense deprivation among the people of North Korea. The development of atomic weaponry which is a threat to the USA is a crucial part of this militarism. It is seen to be a critical factor in undergirding the regime, and it will allow North Korea to put enormous pressure on South Korea and even to get it under the North’s control. The unification of Korea has always been a prime aim of the Kim.
After so many years of such entrenchment and development the fact is that the world is in very real danger; a deluded autocrat with an iron grip on his country and with a deadly ambition of the most destructive type is a world threat. The present Kim is more likely to die in the destruction his ambition brings than to give it up. Talking to him is highly unlikely to bring about a change of mind; and mockery of Kim by the USA at Presidential level is certainly not helpful; it can only harden the determination of the dictator.
However, there is one great weakness for the regime. It is not in any way a self-sufficient economy; indeed it has been very heavily dependent on outside aid and support from its inception. Starving the economy of an already starving population would inevitably bring huge pressure on the regime. China, though reluctantly, is at last tightening its grip and making its sanctions bite (this week it has sent home all the N. Korean business men – or so it seems). The question is whether the sanctions will achieve their aim and prevent Kim getting together his atomic warhead and long range missiles or whether they will be too late. The situation is critically poised.
What I have written so far is an analysis of the human factors in the situation; is there a “spiritual analysis? We might make a start in that direction by asking how it is possible that men of the stamp of Kim, deluded and destructive, gain power and control? Why do they appear? History has always been full of them. The 20th century had a surfeit of such rulers, and the 21st century is following suit. The answer lies fundamentally in the fact that “the whole world lies in the hand of the evil one”. “The Prince of this world” is active in the human principalities and powers (rulers and leaders) of this world by means of the principalities and powers of the unseen world. The “unseen spiritual powers” impinge on the “visible human powers” and bring their evil character to them. So this world’s rulers very frequently live through imposing fear and violence both on their own domain and on others. Satan’s imprint is to be seen in many other ways. We need to give full weight to the fact that Satan was able to offer all the kingdoms of the world to Jesus in an effort to thwart the coming of the Kingdom of God. Sadly this kind of fundamental truth is all too often lost in much of our secularised Christian thinking. But Satan is the Prince of this world, a world ruler, and he has placed many tyrants in power in that world. Thankfully it is also true that God is God and has the ultimate rule over the world and over the Prince of this world and what he can do. When God allows Satan to raise up destructive leadership in nations (or even confusion in a nation) it is always in order that God’s purposes might be fulfilled. In particular he allows such happenings as a form and measure of judgement on the world. We have very clear examples of this in the rise of Assyria and Babylon in Old Testament history. It is God who writes the essential narratives of history, and he is writing our current history! “His judgements are in all the world”!
Professional historians are given to debating whether events are caused by momentary human decisions or by long term trends or by some combination of both. For them God is not a factor. And for all their historical knowledge they can never be accurate in forecasting events. But for us God is the fundamental factor, the key to proper understanding of events. Thus with regard to the present great danger, we cannot say for sure how the Korean threat will ultimately work out. Any number of contingencies are possible, some leading to peace, some to destructive war. But the essential fact is that God holds the reins . The decisions that matter are always made in the courts of heaven, not in the ruling bodies of humanity. It is for this reason that we must address ourselves to having a clear spiritual analysis and, as a watchman for the world, to seeking God for his mercy.
The one thing we may be sure of is that the situation with Korea is a warning bell from God!