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Posted on Mon, Apr 15, 2013 : 9:40 a.m.

Global fears: Is North Korea our enemy?

By Wayne Baker


A father and his son walk past the Revolutionary Martyrs Cemetery in Pyongyang, North Korea. (Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Nicor)

Editor's note: This post is part of a series by Dr. Baker on Our Values about core American values. This week Dr. Baker is discussing global enemies.

What world events keep you up at night? This week, we will look at the ever-changing array of “enemies” we face in the world. I deliberately use quotes around the e-word, because politicians and the news media keep changing the list of global hot spots that they indicate we should fear.

Today, let’s start with what apparently is the most threatening hot spot at the moment: North Korea. Please take a moment to leave a comment today. We want to know: How seriously do you take North Korea’s nuclear threats? What specific news events about North Korea caught your attention? Did they make you think of North Korea as an enemy of the United States?

When I was in Korea two months ago, South Koreans seemed more worried about Asian Dust than their northern neighbors. I wonder how much that’s changed, given that North Korean has amped up the threats and rhetoric. Park Geun-hye, the new president of South Korean, is on record stating that she takes the threats very seriously and has authorized immediate responses to attacks.

Right now, a majority of Americans (56 percent) take North Korea’s nuclear threats against the U.S. very seriously, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center. Another 27 percent take these threats somewhat seriously. Only 14 percent don’t take the threats seriously.

What do we fear? Our nation is almost equally divided with 47 percent of us saying that North Korea’s leaders are willing to push the button and follow through on their threats. The same percentage thinks that North Korea is actually capable to launching a nuclear missile that would reach our shores.

But, this is interesting. Only about 1 in 4 Americans (28 percent) think that North Korea is willing and capable of following through on its threats of a nuclear attack.

Most analysts think that Pyongyang’s saber rattling results from a combination of factors: the new, young leader’s desire to show that he is tough and in charge, anger over U.N. sanctions against North Korea, and a ploy to wrangle concessions.

Is North Korea an enemy?

How do you see North Korea affecting your life, if at all?

Is there another country you worry more about?

Wayne Baker is a sociologist on the faculty of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Baker blogs daily at Our Values and can be reached at or on Facebook.



Tue, Apr 16, 2013 : 1:19 a.m.

"Is there another country you worry more about?" There is another nasty dictatorship that has also been wasting the resources of a crumbling economy on building nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them. It also hates America and hates freedom. It has been buying military technology from North Korea. Their ostensible ideology is totally incompatible, but they are united in hate. You may enjoy the trivial exercise of arguing as to whether North Korea or Iran is the worse menace, but there is no doubt that they are both evil and that they mean us harm. That their capacity to do so is limited should not be construed as a mitigating factor.


Tue, Apr 16, 2013 : 12:58 a.m.

The title of this piece asks: "Is North Korea our enemy?". The author does not answer his own question, but resorts to sophistry to dance away from it and equivocate as to how capable North Korea, or rather its absolute dictator, is of delivering on its threats. "Is North Korea our enemy?". Their dictator has been ranting and raving that he is, and has repeatedly screamed that he wants to kill us all. Do you doubt him, Wayne Baker? Putting that as a question is intellectually dishonest.


Tue, Apr 16, 2013 : 12:12 a.m.

Dr. Baker - I happened to see this posted today in the "recent articles" feed, and then since have had a great trouble trying to find it again. This difficulty at first was probably due to lack of tagging or reference to it anywhere in the site. Here is my take on your questions... I don't think there is any great insight here, just my opinions. Is NKorea our enemy? Well, the regime there certainly is due to their threatening rhetoric and their abuse of their people.. Are the people of NKorea our enemy? Generally no. The people remain ignorant of anything outside of NKorea, so asking if NKorean people are our enemy is like asking if a 5yr old in Columbus the enemy of Ann Arbor because the child has been indoctrinated as a Buckeye. NKorea directly affects my life in a few ways. 1-The regime threatens our citizens and armed forces with destruction. 2-The regime threatens our allies in the region with destruction. 3-There is direct threat to our American core values in the oppression of the NKorean people by the regime. The enemy of liberty is evident here. Even without their threats, how can we let the disgusting oppression of liberty stand? 4-There is economic impact to my life if NKorea and SKorea re-enter the hot war as my livelihood is impacted by business in SKorea. 5-This regime threatens to propagate weapons of mass destruction to other unfriendly regimes, fanatical organizations, and terrorists. Finally, there are other regimes in countries that I worry about, for example the Syrian regime, or the Venezuelan regime, or the Bolivian regime. But none of these is using rhetoric of destruction against the people of the United States of America. Is this not enough to worry about? Its my understanding that my opinions are adhered to by many in our country, even if the polls indicate a split or an outright indifference to the threat the dictatorial regime in NKorea brings to our world.