Tensions Escalate in Korea

Tensions Escalate in Korea

North Korea reversed itself and blamed South Korea’s “improper control of the citizen” for the shooting death of a Seoul fisheries official in disputed waters.

According to the state news agency KCNA, Northern soldiers shot the official at least 10 times when his craft drifted into North Korea’s territorial waters. Initially, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he was “very sorry” for this “unexpected and disgraceful event.” Details are still sketchy, but apparently, the 47-year-old government official expressed a desire to defect prior to his shooting.

Then, Pyongyang suddenly reversed course. KCNA declared that the coronavirus pandemic had put its soldiers on edge and the South should have exercised more control over the official. Additionally,  North Korea “could not but take self-defensive measure” since the alleged defector “had made an illegal intrusion into the waters” of the North and supposedly tried to run. “Therefore, the blame for the incident first rests with the south side. This is our invariable stand,” KCNA condlued.

In its most recent statement, KCNA pronounced that “we have tried our best to retrieve the dead body from the waters of the West Sea and return it to his family, but to no avail, to our regret.”

Recent Developments in Korea

The sudden end of the Cold War almost meant the sudden end of North Korea. After Soviet economic aid stopped, thousands of North Koreans defected to South Korea. Sensing an opportunity, in 1998, South Korean President Kim Dae-jung rolled out the so-called Sunshine Policy, which called for better relations between the two Koreas.

A few years later, U.S. President George W. Bush delivered his “axis of evil” speech. Then in 2010, a mysterious sinking of a South Korean naval corvette promoted an artillery skirmish between North and South. So much for the sunshine.

Things changed just as suddenly in 2017, when incoming South Korean President Moon Jae-in vowed to reinstate the Sunshine Policy. Bolstered by the elusive Olympic Spirit (the Winter Games were in South Korea in 2018), a genuine rapprochement seemed to be within reach. North and South marched together in the Opening Ceremonies and the two Koreas fielded a joint women’s ice hockey team. Over the next several months, a series of summit meetings, including one with Moon, North Korean strongman Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Trump, culminated with several agreements, including the Agreement on Reconciliation, Non-Aggression, Exchanges and Cooperation.

Then, things changed again. South Korea continued buying American military hardware and participating in joint exercises, moves which North Korea called a “grave provocation.” A few months later, due to an ongoing dispute over propaganda broadcasts, North Korea cut its lines of communications with the South. In June 2020, North Korean foreign minister Ri Son-gwon said that chances for peace between South and North Korea had “faded away into a dark nightmare.”

So, the DMZ between North and South Korea appears to be permanent. Private military contractors play a pivotal role in protecting South Korea’s people and American interests from possible North Korean aggression.

Contractors in Korea

The U.S. military first arrived in South Korea at the end of World War II, exclusively to prevent the Soviet Union from dominating the entire Korean Peninsula. The facilities that were built back then served the U.S. military well for decades. But today is different. In recent years, North Korea has successfully launched a satellite and conducted ballistic missile tests. New technology and new weapons demand new responses. And contractors are there.

These responses demand a special kind of expertise. Private sector contractors are usually more familiar with these tools than public sector Army mechanics. Contractors are more innovative, mostly because they probably developed this technology, or at least worked on it, before the military adopted it.

The fluid situation in Korea also demands a flexible response. If full-scale conflict returns to Korea, there is no telling what form it will take. Generally, military academies are very good at training people to fight the last war. To fight the next war, the government usually relies on contractors. Fully-trained contractors can have boots on the ground much faster than fully-trained regular servicemembers.

Additionally, South Korea is one of the few places in the world where private military contractors can serve in any armed capacity. The Eighth Army’s mission is purely defensive. Likewise, private military contractors are purely defensive. Their job is not to launch operations against the enemy, but to be ready for anything. That’s a job they have performed very well since the General Accounting Office essentially legalized private military contractors in the 1980s.

Injury Compensation Available

Since contractors serve in both a support and combat capacity, they have twice the risk of injury. These injuries take various forms.

Most combat injuries, including training accident injuries, are trauma injuries, like gunshot wounds and broken bones. Treatment is usually quite expensive. Injured victims must quickly be evacuated, normally by helicopter, to Seoul or even Japan. Once they arrive, they face weeks or months of specialized treatment.

On the other hand, most construction and support injuries are occupational diseases. These conditions, such as toxic exposure poisoning, hearing loss, and joint pain, occur slowly over time. Although medical evacuation and intense trauma care usually isn’t required, these injuries are extremely expensive. Frequently, by the time these victims seek treatment, their injuries have reached an advanced stage where they are more difficult, and more expensive, to address.

The Defense Base Act takes care of both these kinds of medical bills. By law, the DBA insurance company must pay all reasonably necessary medical expenses. Additionally, by law, these victims may choose their own doctors. So, an attorney not only arranges for medical bill payment. A lawyer also ensures that these victims get the medical help they need, and not the help the company doctor is willing to provide.

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