Are North Korean Sanctions Effective?

This past week, I was engaged in a brief Twitter discussion with Joshua Stanton and Lisa Orme regarding my thoughts on North Korean Sanctions. Specifically, I said I thought things needed to change.

Joshua Stanton and I went back and forth via the 140 character medium and came to realize we weren’t too far apart, but Orme asked me what I thought might work. It’s a fair question, since I do often take exception to what South Korea and the West do when it comes to the DPRK.

Before I get into what I think might work, let me explain why I think things need to change.

The Korean conflict ended in 1953 with an armistice — a ceasefire agreement, and not a peace treaty, so North and South Korea are still technically at war — a civil war as some might have it — although I would argue that after 60-plus years, there’s little in common the average citizen in either country these days.

As North Korea pursued its militaristic policies, the West imposed various sanctions. They have done some good, but some of the strongest sanctions have been put in place to halt the nation’s pursuit of nuclear and conventional weapons.

After three successful nuclear tests, a fourth one to occur when it’s politically advantageous (perhaps on August 15th to send a message to the world), and successfully placing a satellite in space, even before South Korea — The DPRK has continuously demonstrated the ability to circumvent the restrictions to achieve goals opposed by the West.

Then there’s the ridiculous bait and switch tactics employed by Pyongyang that still goats South Korea, Japan, and others. What I’m referring to is the practice of lifting or reducing sanctions when North Korea promises to change its behavior.

With the sanctions lifted, the DPRK may change the way it acts a little, but not in any sustained way. The most recent example of this can be seen with its interactions with Tokyo. In exchange for agreeing to look into Japanese abductees, Japan agreed to reduce or waive sanctions. A year later, North Korea hasn’t done anything of substance and Prime Minister Abe has once more issued a “this is your last chance” statement to the Kim regime before he’s forced to reinstate the sanctions.

From day one, I said that this is what was going to happen. It’s what North Korea does and the West just plays into it. We also see similar tactics at play at the Kaesong Industrial complex. I just don’t get why governments still fall for the same shtick.

So what are my ideas? Well in no particular order…

It’s time to formally end the war. As I previously mentioned, no one’s been earnestly fighting since 1953. One thing I believe that hampers dialog with North Korea, is that they can fall back and use “the war” as an excuse for their behavior.

To a certain extent, it’s a valid argument, as we see governments around the world use war to justify abysmal behavior. In South Korea, there’s the National Security Law — something touted as necessary and still used to silence citizens. Even in the United States we see vast powers given to government because of a war.

Take the war away from North Korea and make the dictatorial state an equal. Take away their excuse.

Something else I’ld like to see is unification off the table. President Park Geun-hye has continuously hyped unification during her administration calling it a “bonanza for business” and a fundamental path to stability on the peninsula.


While I would like to see the Koreas unified one day, I just don’t think it’s going to happen any time soon, unless there’s some sort of collapse or coup. I don’t see the Kims relinquishing control or China and Russia allowing an opportunity for the US to move in closer.

North and South Korea were created as separate states following the war and it’s time to leave them that way.

Focus on a path towards diplomatic trust to build Park’s business bonanza. Build a better relationship with Pyongyang that will foster an environment where families can spend time with one another.

Of course, it won’t be instantaneous and the influx of western media, technology, and what not will pose a problem for Kim in terms of control, but if the West removes the threat of toppling his government, there might be room for improved relations.

Because that’s exactly what unification is all about – toppling Kim.

With regards to unification — North Korea wants unification with Kim as the head of the combined state, while the rest of the world wants a democratically elected head of state. Those two positions are diametrically opposed. There is no middle ground, so why waste energy pursuing it?

Prepare for it, yes… but don’t advocate for it now.

Finally, let’s talk sanctions. As I’ve previously mentioned, I don’t feel the current course of action has been effective. I believe there are two avenues that should be explored.

The West needs to find a better carrot to elicit desired behavior for North Korea. Find a motivating factor that will make Kim want to change in the desired way. Accompanying this, the practice of lifting sanctions in exchange for a promise to change needs to come to an end. Only reduce or remove sanctions after the desired behavior has occurred for a measurable amount of time.

Also, when enacting sanctions, make them count. Make the sanctions vicious and all encompassing to the point there’s no way around them. If North Korea does find a way to circumvent them, plug that hole. Use the sanction to force a change in behavior, because right now, they’re merely an inconvenience.

Those are my thoughts on dealing with North Korea. As always, I welcome your comments, so please share them with me here, on Facebook, or Twitter.

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Cheorwon DMZ – Steve Miller’s EYE #10

I awoke before dawn and traveled north of Cheorwon, past military checkpoints into the controlled area of South Korea’s Demilitarized Zone. While I had been inside this tightly guarded zone many times, the heavy fog and eerie silence, coupled with a half dozen Korean soldiers standing nearby sent a chill up my spine unrelated to the weather.


Walking over frozen rice paddies, I arrived at the Togyo Reservoir. It isn’t a place listed on my must-see travel itineraries, but local residents are proud because it’s the sight of several migratory geese and cranes. When the sun, which I couldn’t see, broke the horizon, waves of geese called out and took to the sky. Their calls were almost deafening to those of us on the ground.

As we continued through the DMZ, several Red-crowned cranes picked at bits of rice still in the field. These are the largest of the Asian cranes and are known to be a symbol of good luck, longevity, and fidelity.

The Cheorwon Peace Observatory is located atop a small mountain. Walking up the hill from the lower parking lot, I passed by the remnants of an old military bunker that dated back to when the area faced fierce fighting between North and South Korean armies. Moss grew in the fine crevices created by time and war, reminding me that nothing lasts forever. With thick fog still obscuring visibility, there wasn’t much to be seen; however, my thoughts drifted back to all those who had served here under similar conditions so many years ago and the terror they must have felt not knowing what lay in the mist.


  • Address: 588-14, Junggang-ri, Dongsong-eup, Cheorwon-gun, Gangwon-do / 강원 철원군 동송읍 중강리 588-14
  • Phone: +82-2-1330, +82-33-455-8275, +82-70-4124-8275
  • Closed Tuesdays, Children’s Day, Chuseok, Seollal
  • Admission W2,000
  • Parking is available; however, one must contact the observatory in advance to gain access. To get there, take a taxi from the local Dongsong bus terminal.
  • Website

The last stop on the Gyeongwon rail line is Woljeongni station. It was the sight of intense fighting during the Korean war and while no longer in service, does show the remains of an old iron locomotive that once traveled into North Korea.


  • Address: Hongwon-ri, Cheorwon-eup, Cheorwon-gun, Gangwon-do
    강원 철원군 철원읍 홍원리
  • Phone: +82-2-1330, +82-33-450-5558/9, +82-33-450-5365
  • Closed Tuesdays, January 1st, Children’s Day, Chuseok, Seollal
  • Admission W4,000
  • Parking is available; however, this is located inside the DMZ. Usually a tour or special arrangements need to be made before traveling here. Cars and buses are allowed entry only at specific times. Contact the offices for complete information.
  • Website

The Taegukki, or Korean Flag flies high above Baekma Hill, a small piece of land that saw some of the fiercest fighting during the war. Over a period of ten days, North and South Korean forces battled back and forth for control 24 times. The landscape was virtually destroyed, making it look like a bare white horse. Towering twin spires rise into the sky remember those who have fallen, while the peace pavilion on top looks forward to North Korea.


Dopian Temple isn’t anything out of the ordinary, despite dating back to the 9th century. However, that doesn’t mean it was devoid of charm or secrets to be found by those with observant eyes.


  • Address: 450, Gwanu-ri, Dongsong-eup, Cheorwon-gun, Gangwon-do
    강원도 철원군 동송읍 도피동길 23 (동송읍)
  • Phone: +82-2-1330, +82-33-455-2471
  • Directions:

From Suyu Station (Seoul Subway Line 4), Exit 3, take Bus 36 to Yeoncheon Station.
* Bus schedule: 03:50-25:00, 7min intervals
From Yeoncheon Station, take Bus 39-2 and get off at Sintanri Station.
* Bus schedule: 06:30-22:10, 20min intervals
Transfer to Bus 39-3 and get off at Dopiansa Temple Station.
* Bus schedule: 07:00-23:30, 1hr intervals


This video was filmed with the Canon EOS C100 provided by Canon Korea.

Transportation and accommodations provided by the Korean Tourism Organization.

And now for some extra clips from the series…

Imjingak in the DMZ

The Imjin River serves as the border between South and North Korea near Paju. Imjingak is a park on the banks where a bridge causes the river and was once used to transport goods into North Korea and where POWs were repatriated after the Korean War.

BREAKING NEWS: North Korea suspect in latest Cyber Attack

steve miller - qiranger - breaking newsTuesday afternoon, Yonhap News reported that North Korea has been named as a suspect in the recent June 25th cyber attacks against Blue House and several other government websites on the anniversary of the onset of the Korean War. If proven true, this marks the second successful high profile attack on South Korean networks this year.

Is North Korea that adept at cyber warfare or is South Korea incompetent at defending itself?

BREAKING NEWS: North Korea Calls For WAR!

Tuesday, North Korea stated that it will move to back away from the 1953 armistice that effectively ended the Korean War.

CNN Article

In doing so, North Korea also vows to cease communication with the US. This is interesting, given Dennis Rodman’s recent visit with his new best friend.

While this most likely will not mean a return to hostilities, it does pose some questions, especially for the DMZ and JSA area between the two countries. What do you think will happen?

The Incheon Landing

Today we embark on a new series about Incheon, South Korea. The truth of the matter is that most of us never take the time to go back to Incheon after landing in Korea. So this month, I thought I’d take a look at some of the more historical and fun places there.

incheon landing operation memorial hall arch - steve miller - qiranger - johanne millerYou can read more about the museum and the operation at The Korea Blog, but a special travel tip for you here is that don’t really follow the official instructions on getting there. The best way to get there is take Incheon Subway Line 1 to Dongchun station and then get a cab there. It cost us W3300 from station to door and was far easier than waiting for one of the buses going to the area (and then having to walk for “5 minutes.”

The majority of the video was filmed with the Canon HFS11 and RODE Microphone; however, I removed most of the sound from the video, since I wound up doing a voice over. What I also didn’t include in the write-up was a score of pictures taken by Jo. She really shined here. Some amazing pictures.

I thought it interesting when researching the landing itself, that most military scholars count the operation as one of the best military victories in modern warfare. The surprise nature of the attack, coupled with lack of casualties and swift victory earned its respect. However, one scholar indicates that because it MacArthur ordered a “slow” advance on Seoul (11 days), that portion of the operation was a failure and negated any gains made by the landing. I’m not sure I agree with the assessment, for after traveling over much of Korea, the terrain is tough and unforgiving.

What do you think?

Also, per the video, what’s your favorite landing?

The Battle of Osan

Ask many about the Korean War and they’ll probably be able to share with you the highlights. June 25th, North Korea crossed the 38th Parallel and launched an all-out invasion of the South. This war is one that very few talk about in the United States and most associate with the television show M*A*S*H. Since I live near Osan, the war has special meaning to me.

Osan Battle - Korean War - QiRangerThis is Sema Station on Line 1. It sits about 5km from my house and is adjacent to one of the most important battle sites in the Korean War; however, when I mention it, almost no one knows what I’m talking about. Not only is this site important, it’s the spot where US (and thus foreign) soldiers first engaged the North Koreans.

Task Force Smith was formed out of the Eighth Army’s 21st Infantry Regiment and 52nd Artillery Battalion. This accounted for just over 500 men and they dug in just north of Osan, despite having half the number of troops they needed and were stuck with outdated and ineffective weapons.

Beginning at 8am on July 5th, two waves of North Korean armor and over 5000 troops reached their position. With only one-in-six ever seeing combat before, weapons that couldn’t penetrate the advancing tanks, and being outnumbered ten-to-one, it’s amazing that the unit managed to hold the lines until 2:30pm when an orderly withdraw was issued.

The US troops fell back after delaying the advancing army for about 7 hours. This battle, and others like it, allowed UN Forces to rally and cease the North Korean advance near Busan. Later, Task Force Smith would return to Osan and join members that participated in the Incheon Landing to finally roust North Korea.

Osan Battle - Korean War - QiRangerThe Battle of Osan Monument stands in memorial to these brave men that came to the aid of Korea. Currently, the only way to get to this roadside monument is to take Line 1 and exit at Sema station. It is located a short distance away to the southeast. However, bus service will be starting soon.

Osan Battle - Korean War - QiRangerOsan Battle - Korean War - QiRangerFor complete information on the Battle of Osan, check the Wiki.


It was sixty years ago today that North Korean troops launched an attack across the 38th Parallel. The resulting conflict devastated the peninsula. Unfortunately, that war never ended. It is my sincere hope that the events so long ago, never repeat themselves.

For more information on the Korean War, check out the Wiki!

May peace finally settle and be long lasting!

The War Memorial of Korea

The War Memorial of Korea

The War Memorial of Korea

Originally this weekend I had planned on hiking Inwangsan, but a steady downpour on Saturday lead me to change my plans (because I hate being muddy!). I’m glad my plans did change, as I had the opportunity to visit the War Memorial of Korea. It’s an amazing exhibit hall, that’s dedicated to providing an educational and emotional experience to visitors.

The Lonely Planet guide book recommends spending at least 3 hours there… something I think is a bit light. You see, there is so much to see and learn there, that one can easily spend a full day taking in the over 13,000 items on display.

The Memorial opened in 1994 and has a steady flow of visitors. When you first arrive (I recommend by subway, since parking is quite limited), you are greeted by an amazing display of military hardware ranging from the small (rocket launchers) to the large (a B-52).

Military Hardware

Military Hardware

Outside the main hall are also six distinct areas that pay tribute to armed conflict that are worth seeing. The Korean War Monument, The Two Brothers, The Clock of Hope, and the Monument to those killed in action being the most moving in my opinion. Walking the grounds (which is free) can easily take a few hours to accomplish. Then you can enter the massive three-story museum structure.

Inside you’ll seen the history of war in Korea dating back to the its settlement days. I really wish I had more time to view these items, but time was running short on my day. It’s something I’ll have to go back and see again.

For the most part, the museum area focuses on the Korean War. There are several movies available to watch (Korean, English, Chinese, and Japanese languages available), as well as a guided audio tour. When I return, I’ll have to spend more time watching the films, as they are well made, but I simply didn’t have the time to wait my turn for the English version of the movies.

You can see more photos from my visit here as well as my video on YouTube.