When one thinks about North Korea, typically the first words that come to mind aren’t, ‘technologically advanced’ or ‘highly sophisticated.’ Rather, the slew of recent North Korea propaganda films, like the one above, bear a striking resemblance to the war reels from the 1940s, but with Cold War era technology.
Such videos depict a triumphant North Korean Army, stampeding across the 38th parallel to vanquish all who stand in their way. Advancing with a battle charge more akin to General Custer’s time, it’s not a coincidence that the popular perception of the Democratic People’s Republic is one that’s out of touch and technologically lagging.
The few glimpses an average American has into North Korea are usually tinged with the bizarre and unusual.
The insulated and highly homogenous society has created a strange set of economic and cultural circumstances, essentially cutting it off from the western world, while still projecting all outward communication to great effect. However, North Korea may not be as far behind as many presume.
A highly synchronized and very sophisticated cyber attack was unleashed on Seoul last week. Likewise, such attacks are not new. Highly trained ‘cyber warriors’ have launched multiple campaigns against both the U.S. and South Korea.
Looking past the vintage quality of the North Korea propaganda films reveals how North Korea has been coordinating shows of military aggression with nationalistic media campaigns. Both of these tools, propaganda and cyber attacks, have significant potential to lead to a very real conflict despite not physically crossing military boundaries — in essence a new kind of Cold War.
Although North Korea may be limited in a traditionally militaristic sense, a simple Internet connection, combined with appropriate will power, can have catastrophic effects. A proverbial shot heard-round-the-world in today’s terms may not be a shot at all, but a computer virus.
An attack catalyzing armed conflict would be the first of its kind, but the United States already recognizes such attacks as ‘acts of war’ and can respond as such — with military force.
North Korea’s history regarding demonstrations like these is long and winded, but given the additional factor of propaganda, one should not discount how easily tensions could escalate, even if it were unintended.