North and South Korea are two sizable nations that (to greatly varying degrees) have governments and militaries that operate with a level of technological sophistication that has taken humanity thousands of years to build up to. Their relationship is insanely complicated and tense; even the slightest gestures of goodwill or aggression are symbols given great weight by decades of geopolitical and cultural history. And what that has all added up to at the moment is that North Korea and South Korea have each set up big speakers on their border to see, in essence, who can shout the loudest at the other.
Tensions have been on the rise along the countries’ heavily armed 155-mile border since Aug. 4, when two South Korean border guards were seriously wounded by land mines that the South said were planted by the North. North Korea has denied planting the mines.
In retaliation, South Korea last week began using loudspeakers along the border to broadcast propaganda messages into North Korea, a tactic dating from the Cold War that had not been used in 11 years. The North turned on propaganda loudspeakers of its own, and it threatened to attack South Korea’s.
This is the truly kind of thing that would appear in a book by Kurt Vonnegut, George Saunders, or Dr. Seuss. One only hopes, given that the speakers have already provoked the testy exchange of artillery and rocket fire but no reported injuries, that the situation will wind down before surreal tragicomedy turns to mere tragedy.