The Second Korean War would be arguably one of the most devastating we’ve ever seen in our lifetime. Some figures of potential casualties range upwards of a million people on both sides with the near complete destruction of both Seoul and Pyongyang. It’s easy to say that it’s justified to react with a “massive military response” should North Korea launch a nuclear strike. Yet I’m constantly reminded of a kind and gentle young North Korean woman in a hotel restaurant in Pyongyang asking me to describe to her what the ocean looks like in my country. Her prospects of surviving the war are bleak. She’ll be the one that will pay the price of a high stakes game of nuclear chicken. That will weigh on me forever, and it breaks my heart.
“You see them everywhere, they’re not just the country’s defense, they’re part of North Korea’s entire identity,” he says. Soldiers do development projects, they build infrastructure, and they keep life in Pyongyang running smoothly under the country’s regime. Guttenfelder’s access also included invitations to the annual Mass Games performance and the highly choreographed military demonstrations of goose-stepping soldiers and artillery on parade. Everyone at the event has a role to play, including the spectators, who use color flip-books to make grand mosaics from the stands. The images are usually tributes to the country’s leaders, or simply, the military at large.