In our ongoing exploration of some of the most important global issues, today we sit down with Liverpool and Uruguay striker Luis Suarez to discuss one of the world's seemingly intractable problems: North Korea. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea was formally declared in 1948, three uncertain years on from the end of World War II and nearly fifty years of Japanese rule. Three years after that, civil war broke out—a war that despite a 1953 armistice has never officially ended.
The Liverpool Offside: So, Luis, North Korea is back on the front pages with suggestions new nuclear tests are imminent and fresh UN sanctions raising tensions in the region. What's your take on the ongoing conflict?
Luis Suarez: It's a complicated situation, and as trite as it sounds, there really are no easy solutions when it comes to North Korea. Certainly any attempts to soften the regime's grip and improve the health and human rights of its citizenry will have to involve Russia and China, and it's unlikely any change will happen as quickly as those of us watching would like, but in the end there's no magic bullet. Military action that doesn't result in an almost unimaginable loss of life remains an impossibility, and efforts to ferment a desire for change within the population continue to show few meaningful signs of progress.
Mostly you just have to feel sorry for the families that have been torn apart, some who have now been separated from relatives and their traditional homes for generations.
TLO: So you expect the standoff across the demilitarized zone to continue?
LS: Yes. For some time, I'd imagine. The North Korean state has, in part thanks to its relatively small size, managed to keep the population almost entirely isolated more effectively than any other police state of the past century. And as in other such states, for those in the position to realise just how badly off the average North Korean citizen is it's hardly in their interest to see change. Meanwhile, with the nuclear threat and erratic—to put it kindly—tendencies of the state and military establishment, moving beyond sanctions to force those few who benefit to change the country's course hardly seems an option.
TLO: You call North Korea "erratic." Some might suggest insane is a better term for their dealings on the global stage. But are they really as dangerously unstable as they seem? In your expert opinion, would they actually resort to nuclear war or perhaps even instigate it?
LS: It's hard not to speculate that the apparent insanity behind North Korea's interactions with the rest of the world and the erratic stance their military takes is anything but a carefully cultivated image. Even if you assume this to be the case, though, it's a bluff that simply cannot be called because the consequences of doing so and discovering it hasn't been a ruse meant to protect a tiny and militarily disadvantaged country against more powerful combatants are far too dire.
Acting insane is, within the framework they find themselves in and accepting that those in power wish to hold on to it the same as those with power in despotic regimes everywhere, entirely sane. Yet knowing that makes little practical difference. And so the standoff will—must, even—continue, with any changes taking place gradually, perhaps even over generations, until a tipping point is reached. However, at present such a potential tipping point seems a long, long way off.
The only possible silver lining for those hoping to see a reunited Korea is that monumental events of the sort—the fall of the Berlin Wall and dissolution of the Soviet Union come to mind—often seem impossible until the moment they happen and inevitable afterwards.
TLO: Finally, Luis, what does human flesh taste like? Chicken?
LS: Pork, actually.