Korean Peace Process Haltingly Moves Forward

Korean Peace Process Haltingly Moves Forward

In recent months, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has pushed for closer ties between north and south. But a complete rapprochement may be on hold. A high-level U.S. diplomat recently said that only the North’s complete denuclearization could bring about such a result. So far, that has not happened.

Moreover, North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un appears to be in no hurry to follow up on the promises he made during his summit meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump. Nevertheless, U.S. Special Envoy Stephen Biegun said he was “absolutely certain” that the peace process would move forward. There are rumors of a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and top North Korean diplomat Kim Yong Chol, but nothing has been scheduled. Meanwhile, Mr. Biegun is focused on keeping South Korea and America on the same page.

“Because the denuclearization process is at a critical juncture we need to meet up as often as possible to make sure there is no daylight whatsoever between our two allies,” he remarked.

Roots of the Conflict

According to a recent survey, 2% of Americans believe that climate change caused the Cold War, presumably because it was “cold.” But most people know that the conflict between capitalism and communism caused this decades-long conflict.

Many people think that the U.S.-Soviet conflict was a slow burn that began early in World War II, but actually, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and Soviet dictator Josef Stalin got along pretty well for much of the war. Tensions began to emerge in a February 1945 conference. Since the war against Germany and Italy was winding down, and the U.S.-Soviet common enemy was going away, it was obvious that Roosevelt and Stalin had much different visions for the future.

Things really got bad in May 1945, when Stalin learned of ongoing secret negotiations between Office of Secret Services head Allen Dulles and S.S. General Karl Wolff (the OSS later became the CIA). On the surface, the two negotiated a limited surrender of German forces in Northern Italy. But Stalin suspected that there was much more to the talks between Dulles, who was basically the original CIA spook, and one of the highest-ranking Nazis in the Reich. Stalin may have been right. Despite his culpability, Wolff only received about 10 years in prison after the war and only served about half that time.

What does all this have to do with Korea? We are glad you asked. The paranoid Stalin believed that Roosevelt and his successor Harry Truman had betrayed him. So, Stalin was unusually aggressive in the Pacific War against Japan. He not only declared war as agreed, but launched a massive invasion of Japanese-held China and Korea. Allied Supreme Commander Douglas MacArthur rushed troops into southern Korea to prevent the Soviets from dominating the peninsula.

To avert further conflict, the two sides divided Korea into spheres of influence. The North Korea/South Korea division was supposed to be temporary, but we all know how that turned out. War broke out in 1950, and the parties signed a ceasefire in 1953. However, a peace treaty was never signed. In fact, the two sides barely even negotiated.

Future Prospects

The North/South split survived the end of the Cold War in 1991, and it looked like the two sides would never reconcile. North Korea had become one of the most isolated dictatorships in the world, and South Korea was one of the world’s most stable democracies. It was an oil and water thing.

But then, between 1994 and 1998, a massive famine struck North Korea. No one knows how many people died, but estimates range as high as three million people; that is over 10% of the population. Subsequent attempts to build strength through a nuclear arsenal basically backfired. This combination of events brought North Korea to the table.

Despite U.S. misgivings, the prospect of a peaceful Korea is more real now than it has been since the Japanese violently took over Korea more than a century ago. Until that happens, war could literally break out at any time over the slightest pretext or misunderstanding, and it would probably be one of the most violent wars in the history of mankind.

Why Contractors are Important in South Korea

In many ways, contractors are every bit as important to the defense of South Korea as the U.S. Eighth Army. In years past, soldiers counted on “camp followers” to keep their equipment in order, their laundry clean, their stomachs filled, their spirits high, and so on. Private military contractors are basically today’s camp followers.

Contractors play an even broader role. Many of them are armed and trained. So, they man checkpoints and perform other essential duties. Their service frees up regular servicemembers for front-line duty. Additionally, contractors work further behind the lines. They are the longshoremen who unload supply ships and the workers who build and renovate military facilities.

Injury Compensation Available

These multiple roles increase the likelihood of injury. Today’s contractors are just as likely to fall at a construction sight as they are to fall under an enemy’s bullet. So, the Defense Base Act pays all reasonable medical expenses for injured contractors.

The DBA also includes lost wages benefits. Many times, a contractor is a family’s primary or only source of income. So, there are various kinds of wage compensation available, such as:

  • Temporary Total Disability: Most victims sustain TTD illnesses or injuries. They are unable to work until they fully recover. The DBA usually pays two-thirds of the victim’s lost salary during this period. The exact amount takes into account both regular and non-regular compensation, as well as performance and other regular bonuses.
  • Temporary Partial Disability: Many victims move from TTD to TPD status as their recovery progresses. They may go back to work, but they are limited to light duty. Therefore, they receive two-thirds of the difference between their old and new salaries.
  • Permanent Partial Disability: Some injuries never heal 100%. For example, a contractor might hurt her knee at work, and even after she recovers, she may have some permanent loss of motion. Some form of financial compensation is always available in these cases.
  • Permanent Total Disability: PTD cases are rare. However, remember that “disabled” does not mean “bedridden.” A person can recover most physical functions yet still be legally disabled. There are a number of other factors to consider, such as the victim’s educational background and job training background.

Temporary lost wages benefits usually continue until the victims can return to work, or until they reach their maximum medical improvement levels.

For more information about DBA medical benefits, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen & Frankel, P.A.