Disclaimer: The author does not have the knowledge to speak authoritatively on the following subject. So he’ll just speak on the following subject.
North Korea is often used as a case study for the theory of nuclear deterrence. However, applying the nuclear deterrence theory to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is pretty much proof that many political scientists have no idea what they’re talking about. If they had done even the slightest bit of research, they would understand why South Koreans aren’t particularly terrified of North Korea’s nuclear tests: North Korea already possesses the capacity to annihilate one fourth of the South Korean population almost instantly. And they can do it without worrying about whether their attack will be thwarted by state of the art missile defense system or not (Good job, Aegis). So a new weapon of destruction and death isn’t really that surprising or shocking to the general population. In fact, I think they’ve gotten quite used to living under the shadow of instant annihilation.
Then what is this terrifying stealth weapon that the North Koreans possess? Remember back in the day when we used conventional weapons like heavy artillery? Oh wait, we still do. Yup, it’s conventional weapons. Basically, North Korea has lots and lots of huge cannons along the DMZ (which stands for DEATH MACHINE ZONE, I think) that are pointed directly south. Actually, maybe in the direction of Seoul, which is slightly to the west, but you get the point. If you don’t believe me, then maybe you’ll believe the account of a person who has been in North Korean and actually saw a cannon the size of a house pointed due south and covered by a camouflage tent so that it can’t be seen on satellite images unless intelligence agencies have really dedicated analysts. Actually, that person was me, so I guess I can’t really convince you. But it’s true. I will speak on my brief experience in North Korea at a later time. But the point is, North Korea doesn’t need nukes to scare the bejeezus out of South Koreans. Seoul really isn’t that far away from the border (which was probably a bad idea) so you just need some large artillery units to shell the hell out of a city of 10 million+ and a general area that holds half the South Korean population.
And if you’re thinking, “oh but with nukes they can target Americans, which they can’t with short-range cannons” then you are truly an idiot. Obviously you are unaware of the 30,000 American troops stationed in South Korea, the bulk of whom is stationed in and around Seoul. I really don’t think that they’d be able to survive any shelling of that sort. Maybe a missile attack, but have you ever tried to intercept an artillery shell (Hmm, I sense a defense contract opportunity), or thousands of artillery shells? If North Korea ever attacked Seoul, well, Pearl Harbor and 9/11 would seem like minor American losses in comparison. Even without nukes. And South Koreans know that. So they really don’t have any reason to think that North Korea will bother using nuclear weapons against them. Their guess? Maybe North Korea wants to nuke Japan.