PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Monthly Archives: May 2012

Gaming a new Korean war

Over at Kotaku, Michael Peck suggests Even Our Best Video Games Can’t Predict What Kim Jong-Un Would Do To Win a New Korean War.

It is curious that there are far more  games on a Soviet invasion of West Germany that never happened than a Communist assault on South Korea that actually did. It is even more curious that there haven’t been more games on a Second Korean War, given how volatile the region is.

The Demilitarized Zone between the two nations is the most heavily armed border in the world. The two Koreas together are only about the size of Nebraska, but they have close to two million soldiers, 10,000 tanks, and enough firepower – even without North Korea’s nukes – to turn the peninsula into a wasteland.

The specter of war has hovered for 60 years, but the dogs of war are barking more loudly than ever, incited by hard times in the Hermit Kingdom. North Korea’s economy has collapsed, its people have been reduced to eating grass, and its latest rocket ended up in the Yellow Sea instead of outer space. So we have a desperate regime that, like the high school juvenile delinquent, believes that bluster and threats will terrify the world into meeting its demands.

At the same time, South Korea is taking a harder line against North Korean artillery barrages and attacks on South Korean warships, and it won’t take much in the way of malice or miscalculation to ignite a conflict. The First Korean War was a UN “police action” (as Alan Alda complains in “MASH”, “If this is a police action, where are the cops?”). The Second Korean War could be anything from a targeted strike against Pyongyang’s nuclear facilities, to all-out regime change by U.S. and South Korean armies, to a “what the hell, we’re going down, let’s throw the dice” invasion of South Korea by the North.

Can wargaming illuminate a Second Korean War? To some extent, yes.

The piece mentions Seoul’s vulnerability to North Koreas large arsenal of conventional artillery, although it doesn’t raise the question of what the DPRK might do with its few poorly-designed nuclear weapons (which, at the moment, are probably not small enough to fit on ballistic missiles) or how others might respond to their first use. Then again, Michael does stress that “One reason why wargames were invented was so that commanders wouldn’t be surprised by what happened on the real battlefield. But we can pretty sure that whatever happens in Korea, it won’t be what we expected.”

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Regarding boardgames, there are a handful that cover possible wars in the 1970s through to the 2000s, including Crisis Korea: 1995 and  Millennium Wars: Korea. GMT’s Next War: Korea, which has optional rules for an initial DPRK nuclear strike at the South Korean port of Busan, is slated for publication later this year.

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