“ The 2015 Great War for Unification ” and Cyber Warfare

The late 20th century has been rife with numerous speculations and conjectures in interpreting Nostradamus’s predictions. Among his predictions, there appears a story about four monstrous creatures with horns on their heads. One of Nostradamus’s predictions states that the four monstrous creatures with horns on their heads will appear and captivate children all over the world. However, at the end of the 20th century, this monstrous creature neither appeared nor ate the children. Then what is the identity of these four monstrous creatures? Many sneered at the possibility raised by some that the four monstrous creatures are actually Teletubbies.


Although one of Nostradamus’s predictions of the four monstrous creatures never materialized and eventually tapered off as a joke, it was enough to inject fear and anxiety into people. This was possible especially because not only was the story beyond our logical reasoning but also the origin of such prediction was untraceable. The possibility of “The 2015 Great War for Unification” that appeared at the end of 2014 works the same way in injecting fear and provoking anxiety among people. For the generation of people who have not experienced war, war is a concept as foreign, incomprehensible, and beyond capacity to logically evaluate as Nostradamus’s four monstrous creatures. For most South Koreans, the explosion of the Cheonan and the bombardment of Yeonpyeong are distant occurrences in the news that are not as realistic and relatable as a fender bender.

However, ever since Kim, Jong-Un’s first Chairman of the National Defense Committee firmly pronounced the possibility of “The 2015 Great War for Unification” in 2013, the war is perceived more vividly by the public. Although the concept of war is vague and unknown, the anxiety over the possibility of an imminent outbreak of a war is tangible. Such fear regarding the possibility of “The 2015 Great War for Unification” rooted in the unknown, indecipherable, and unpredictable leader of the Democratic Republic of Korea is inevitably contagious. But if one looks at the pattern throughout the history of a totalitarian dictatorship regime and understands the reoccurring characteristic of “Autocratic rule”, it is evident that the fear of an outbreak of “The 2015 Great War for Unification” is baseless.


It is known that in the Army Squadron Leader Competition held on October 2013, Kim Jong-un started to mention “The 2015 Great War for Unification”. Afterwards, the North Korean military intensified through a long winter military training that lasted until March. Throughout 2014, North Korea heightened combative tensions by undertaking several missile tests in the South and West Sea and intensifying scouting activities near the Military Demarcation line. Yet in the international arena North Korea did not benefit through these efforts. North Korea’s diplomatic strategic pattern has been to create a situation that is beneficial to them by formulating and heightening a sense of crisis to impel the United States to the negotiation table and attaining compensation to get through the economically strenuous periods. However, the U.S. is no longer dancing to North Korea’s tune. Furthermore, it has reached a point where even China is raising the need to reevaluate its relations with North Korea.

In such a situation where the authoritarian foothold is relatively unstable, Kim Jong-Un’s inevitable choice is autocracy. If the nation state cannot be governed normally through an open door policy, the leader inexorably rules with an iron fist to implement a dictatorial regime. That method of rule requires upholding extreme measures such as the execution of Jang Sung-taek to govern the power elites and military mobilization and creating a sense of crisis that induces a sense of alert to control the mass. Small resistance may arise here and there through adaptive or passive actions or half-hearted resistances. However, it can be perceived that “The 2015 Great War for Unification” is a controlling mechanism used relentlessly for domestic regulation.

But one should not completely ignore the dangers posed by “The 2015 Great War for Unification” as meaningless just because it is used as a governing mechanism to control North Korea internally. Even if the overall probability that North Korea will possess or deploy weapons of mass destruction is relatively low, there are other ways in which “The 2015 Great War for Reunification” can be played out without having to involve weapons of mass destruction. Furthermore, it has been seen that North Korea’s ability to engage in cyber warfare is next to the United States and China. According to data analysis, North Korea has 5,000 to 10,000 agents affiliated with the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces. North Korea has demonstrated a top-notch capability in engaging in cyber warfare as the cyber terrors including the 2009 attack on DDOS, the 2011 NH Bank computer network threat, the 2013 press homepage hacking, etc. that have occurred in South Korea have been attributed to them.


One can perceive the formidability of North Korea’s cyber warfare capacity with the recent cyber terror issue surrounding the Sony Pictures movie The Interview, North Korea, and the U.S. When North Korea’s internet network shut down during the controversial issue, it was operating again and functioning within a day. Of course, one can interpret this speedy recovery was due to the limited nature of North Korea’s internet network compared to that of South Korea or the United States so it was relatively easier to restore the network. But on the other side of the coin this also means that when North Korea engages in cyber warfare against South Korea and the U.S. it has a relatively large target, whereas the United States and South Korea do not have much to gain through the cyber warfare due to the limitation of North Korea’s Internet network. Therefore, the United States and South Korea need to strengthen their countermeasures.


Considering the paradigm of the modern war in which many different weapons of destruction are being developed, war is not just a final policy measure. An attack such as a cyber-warfare for which the origin of attack and the culprit is untraceable with clear evidence can always be initiated by one party as if not an act of war. Unlike weapons of mass destruction that underscores- in both capacity and reality- a contrived display, a nonlethal weapon such as cyber warfare capability underscores concealment. And this nature of concealment makes is difficult to determine whether it is a declaration of war or not. That is the reason why North Korea adamantly declares its “Nuclear Capacity” while flatly denying the possibility of its involvement in hacking cases such as the recent Sony incident. Furthermore because less developed nations can harness nonlethal weapon at a relatively low cost, it can be used as an asymmetric capability. In this context, it is inevitable for North Korea to turn to high tech weaponry like cyber-warfare.

Taking into account the recent chain of cyber-warfare events, it appears that North Korea’s pursuit for the attainment of nonlethal weapons through asymmetric power will continue. In response, it is advised to take swift and effective action by taking into account the current officially recognized rules of cyber-warfare such as those laid down by the experts at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. South Korea should take swift and effective counter measures as well. At a brief glance, this advice seems to create a nonexistent problem by enlarging the definition of a war. It might look hostile and destructive because it is an act of expanding the concept of warfare. However, this procedure of obtaining and institutionalizing cyber-warfare rules of engagement and protection manual at least within the military is a fundamental method to secure peace and security. In comparison with North Korea, South Korea has considerable level of cyber goods and services and infrastructure to protect. It is a self-evident truth that the entity that has more to protect must make the effort himself. No matter how strange and baseless North Korea’s unilateral choice to declare “The 2015 Great War for Unification” is, the side that will suffer a greater loss through war should actively contend for peace while simultaneously and thoroughly prepare defenses in all possible facets. Such preparation is not at all unilateral.



Yonsei University Institute of North Korean Studies Issue Brief

38th Edition (Jan. 2015)


Translated by Jean Yi Yoon


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