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Future Histories I hope will stay fictional… The Second Korean War


The Second Korean War (often nicknamed the Christmas War) is one of those historical mysteries. Why on earth did they do it? And how did they so nearly win?
The why is quite easy to answer although no one will ever know the details of what was going through the mind of KiM Jong-Il, successor to Kim Il Sung, known as the Dear Leader of North Korea. The last remaining Communist state was collapsing around him, for reasons he may not have been able to understand. Kim Il-Sung\’s totalitarian command economy had been propped up by Stalinist Russia and Communist China for reasons of realpolitik that he probably thought were ideological. The fall of the Berlin Wall must have been the worst week of his life, just as it was for all the little communist parties that fell apart at about the same time. Suddenly the subsidies and cheap oil were cut off and during the 1990\’s Korea suffered famine, power blackouts and the kind of fifth world misery that happens to industrialised countries when the power goes off. Industrialisation is really something of a one-way bet.
But the North Korean economy had been falling apart for twenty years by the end of 2010 and an extraordinary degree of government control and ideological flim flam had somehow kept the show going. The Chinese had taken a cold hard look at capitalism and decided that they could do a lot better with it than with Marxism. That they had then proceeded to do with great aplomb and skill, leaving little brother North Korea in the dust. One day, perhaps soon, their support would run out. Still nobody had risen up and killed Kim Jong-Il, as they had Ceaucescu in Romania, and although his health was bad, he was in the process of annointing and bringing on a successor in his third son, Kim Jong-eun.
Perhaps Jong-Il\’s mind was confused by the period-piece Cold War propaganda about American Capitalist Running Dogs pumped out by his minions. Perhaps, like Tony Blair, he believed his own publicity. His people had probably at least started to wonder: they were beginning to realise that South Korea was prospering mightily, its people well-fed and successful while they were still shuffling about in the grim darkness of a failed command state. Eventually they would work it out, surely? According to the army, the best thing to do was distract everyone with a victorious war.
Both north and south had a long-held dream of reuniting the two Koreas – the thing the sick Jong-il had to do to go to his ancestors with honour, was achieve reunification with the economic basket-case North Korea on top.
Perhaps Jong-il was even upset by being mocked as a puppet in the satirical movie Team America: World Police (in 2004) – as a big move fan he probably watched himself warbling about feeling so ronery.
And so, some time around 2005/2006, the decision was made to invade the south in a surprise attack and finish the job Jong-il\’s father had famously only narrowly missed completing. Of course, Jong-Il had no doubt that it was a noble aim and that he himself was a hero for attempting it.

There was, of course, a problem – the little matter of the heavily mined demilitarised zone on the 38th parallel and the 40,000 American troops still garrisoned there. One of the motives for North Korea becoming a nuclear state – at huge expense in money and lives – was the idea of using nukes to set off the mines and clear paths for the troops to cross. Another was to stop America invading, and in that they succeeded. But the trouble with nukes is that they\’re useless, militarily. Nobody wants to conquer a radioactive wasteland, which is really the whole idea of war – it\’s armed robbery under another name.
In the end, Jong-Il went for a different, more difficult and more original option. He dug two tunnels straight through the Diamond Mountains and underneath the minefields and wildlife and US troops on the 38th parallel. He didn\’t do it personally, of course: hundreds of thousands of political prisoners did, all those who had disappeared into the camps. Most of them died, not least because of the ingenious use of underground nuclear explosions to pre-loosen the rock for tunnelling. Who cared if traitors got irradiated?
Originally there were three tunnels, but one was abandoned – did it help cause the famine of the 1990s by taking too many labourers away from the fields?
By autumn of 2010, the tunnels were well-under the 38th parallel and about ten feet from the surface in carefully chosen locations in South Korea, near road links but far from surveillance. A trivial amount of blasting and clearance would be needed to break through.
The tunnels were full of vehicles ready to roll – where else would you park them so they couldn\’t be seen by satellites and spy planes? North Korea had made heavy covert purchases of petrol in summer 2008, thus accidentally sending the price of oil soaring because none of the men in charge really understood how markets worked. Still, they had acquired large stockpiles which would give them three weeks of campaigning to achieve their objectives.
Unfortunately ventilation in the two huge tunnels was primitive and often went wrong so they couldn\’t keep the troops there, but they were being brought up to the multiple tunnel entrances under cover of the darkness that covered North Korea during the unpowered nights. The army high command was full of confidence.
Meanwhile young Jong-Eun had added to the plan. He wanted to use high technology as well: accordingly, on 23 November 2010, the little island of Yeonpyeong in the Yellow Sea was deliberately hit with about 200 mortar shells. All the eyes, digital, satellite and physical immediately swivelled to the western coast of North Korea and the diplomatic shouting match kicked off. Meanwhile on the eastern coast, facing the Eastern Sea and the hated \\Japanese, North Korea\’s only nuclear submarine was brought to the sea and launched. It carried some of the precious nukes, one of them targetting Tokyo. The submarine itself was called Vengeance.
And so, on Christmas Eve 2010, the North Korean army broke through into South Korea. They had two major objectives: firstly they were to capture all the American troops and hold them hostage to stop the US taking action; secondly they were to blitzkrieg south to Seoul and take the South Korean capital by storm, holding hostage as many Western corporate employees as possible.
They knew they only had a short time because their logistics were wobbly. Their plan then was to call a ceasefire on taking Seoul and negotiate for the reunification of Korea on their own terms, no doubt with Jong-Eun as the military governor of the South. It was an audacious plan, they could expect the advantage of complete surprise and then…

[from Quantum Reverse Tunnelling Fragment A78]

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