No Harm In A Little Perspective: Nuclear Weapons

A Vintage Threat

Black and white image of a stereotypical 1950s family in a nuclear bomb shelter

Nuclear weapons have a kitschy old school feel

Nuclear weapons have a kitschy old-school feel. The threat of nuclear Armageddon is what our parents grew up with, not us. It is not something we tend to think about from day to day. We did some research, though, and were surprised to find the likelihood of nuclear war today is higher than we might think.

The closest the world ever came to nuclear devastation was completely by accident. On September 26th 1983 Soviet Russia picked up signals that a US ballistic missile was heading their way. The poor sod in charge, Stanislav Petrov, had to make the call whether or not to retaliate with their own missiles. Refusing to be ‘that guy’ who started World War III, Petrov decided it was a false alarm and did nothing. Luckily he was right – and the world was spared millions of deaths. Neat. Close call though.

And now for something completely obvious: This would not have happened if nuclear weapons didn’t exist.

Well duh-doy. Donald Trump wouldn’t keep happening if he didn’t exist. Then again, the world’s nations haven’t signed a treaty promising to rid the planet of him, like they have with nuclear weapons.

Ever since 1970 with the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty or NPT, the whole world, including Britain, has been officially committed to global nuclear disarmament. If we all agree with the UN party line: getting rid of nuclear weapons makes the world a safer place.

Meanwhile, in Britain, senior members of every major political party insist that Britain should keep and update its own nuclear weapons in order to make Britain a safer place. Members of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet have even said they would resign if the new Labour leader did not support the renewal of Britain’s nuclear weapons programme, Trident. [What is Trident?] A Telegraph column stated recently that possessing nuclear weapons is what keeps European countries protected and free.

Hang on just a tick. How can eliminating nuclear weapons make the world safer while at the same time Britain needs nuclear weapons in order to be safe?

Deterrence Theory: Explained

The logic that solves this conundrum is called deterrence theory.

Deterrence theory is very simple: Take two enemy countries: Country X and Country Y. If Country X possesses nuclear weapons, they are capable of inflicting such enormous damage that Country Y wouldn’t dare attack them.

If both countries have nuclear weapons, their early-warning systems mean that if they are attacked, they will have time to retaliate with their own missile before they are hit. If Country Y was to launch a nuclear missile on country X, deterrence theory suggests that they can expect to have a missile launched right back at them.

False Alarm?

False Alarm?


The result is that no one dares do anything.

So – according to this theory – possessing nuclear weapons deters other countries from making aggressive moves. A recipe for everlasting peace?

Perhaps, except when false alarms very nearly lead to nuclear war like it did in 1983. Since we’re only human and liable to make mistakes from time to time, would it not still be safer for the world to get rid of all these weapons of mass destruction? Keep Out of Reach of Humans?


The problem with this: now that nuclear weapons exist, we can never un-exist them. They are out there now, like the bad smell of a cooking experiment gone wrong. And like bad smells, not everyone wants to own up to making them.

There are 15,000 nuclear bombs in the world. Here is a map to show you where those bombs are. Five of the eight countries who possess nuclear weapons have signed the non-proliferation treaty, recognising that any aggressive use of their nuclear weapons would be illegal under international law and stating that they will take concrete steps towards worldwide disarmament. These countries are Britain, China, France, Russia and the US.

There are three other countries who have openly tested and declared possessing atomic bombs who have not officially agreed to play nice with their bombs: these are India, North Korea and Pakistan.

Still from Team America of Kim Jong Il

North Korea have got Alec Baldwin. And also nuclear bombs.


Meanwhile, Israel is believed to have been developing nuclear weapons since the 1950s and there has been major diplomatic work in the last year to ensure Iran is not making nuclear weapons on the sly.

The key word here is uncertainty. Some reckon that nuclear states like Britain would be mad to get rid of their nuclear deterrents at a time like this. This is because no one can be 100% certain which other countries may or may not possess weapons of mass destruction, and how they intend to use them. Better safe than sorry?

But uncertainty can easily turn into scaremongering: rogue states like North Korea are not the number one threat the UK faces. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament points out that the UK government’s National Security Strategy sees international terrorism, cyber-attacks and climate change are greater threats than nuclear war. These problems cannot be solved with a nuclear deterrent. As the old saying goes, you can’t nuke a terrorist.

Bad for the world, Good for Britain?

What does this mean for the UK’s nuclear weapons programme, Trident? (Tell me again, what’s Trident?). The programme, funding and nuclear technology are outdated and due for renewal – and the House of Commons will vote next year on how, and if, this should be done.

Every major political party, except the Scottish National Party,  supports Trident renewal in principal. So Trident = good?

Not everyone thinks so. The No to Trident campaign argues that the £100 billion needed to renew the programme would be better spent on other methods of national defence, seeing as the threats Britain faces like terrorism and climate change cannot be tackled with nuclear weapons.

This £100 billion cost for renewing the Trident programme is disputed.

According to the Guardian, the Commons library estimates the cost of renewing the programme to be closer to £25 billion.

Whichever estimate convinces you, it’s a lot of monies.

A pricey safety net or necessary investment?

A pricey safety net or necessary investment?

Is Trident an expensive but necessary investment in UK security, or is it a very pricey safety net that we do not need?

The safety of the nation is not the only thing in question. Britain’s status in the world as a nuclear power is what guarantees it a place on the Security Council.

It’s not all or nothing. Britain does have the option of remaining a nuclear power, but reducing its stockpiles of nuclear weapons. The UK has in fact been gradually dismantling its own nuclear warheads from 225 to a goal of 180 by the mid 2020s. This may not seem like much, but it is similar to the agreed joint-reduction of nuclear warheads by the US and Russia that earned President Obama a Nobel Peace Prize.

Are these the concrete steps towards global nuclear disarmament the UK has signed up to under the non-proliferation treaty? Are they enough? Would renewing Trident negate these actions, or is it still a necessary part of Britain’s defence?  

Nuclear weapons explained: When nuclear weapons were invented, we opened a Pandora’s box that cannot be shut.

We now live in a world where we cannot be certain who does and does not possess weapons of mass destruction. Because of this, some would argue that it is better to be safe than sorry, and to use nuclear weapons as a deterrent: the most deadly defence mechanism ever. The counterargument is that nuclear weapons are not what we need to tackle the problems we actually face today, and that they are an unnecessary, expensive and potentially deadly safety net. It is difficult to face the ugly truth of how peace works now, and there are decisions and judgement calls we have to make that we wish would go away, but won’t.

Take Action as part of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons


The differences between South and North Korea explained

Where is North Korea?

North Korea is a country situated next to China.  Founded in 1948, it’s been ran as a totalitarian state ever since. This means the leaders of the country have total control over the citizens and society. Currently North Korea’s ruler is Kim Jong-Un. He’s the third member of the Kim dynasty which has ruled since the country formed.

North Korea is closed off from the outside world. Citizens require permission from the government to leave the country. Foreign tourists are allowed to visit, but it’s rare for foreign journalists to be issued visas. Because of this there’s not a lot that we know for sure about this mysterious country.

We teamed up with young expert Thomas König to find out more;


Why is it called North Korea?

Map of North Korea and South Korea next to China

North Korea explained: the two countries sit next to China

Right to the south of North Korea is a country called South Korea. These two countries used to be one single country called (you guessed it) Korea.

North Korea is also known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or DPRK. South Korea also goes by the Republic of Korea, or ROK.

Japan ruled Korea from 1910 up until World War II. During the conflict Russia declared war on Japan. In an agreement with the USA they occupied the north of Korea up to a geographic area called the 38th Parallel.

America then attacked Japanese forces in the south and eventually Japan surrendered.

However, Korea didn’t return to normal. Both Russia and the United States agreed to occupy Korea temporarily. This was to assist in the creation of a free and independent Korean government. Russia occupied the north of the country with the USA in the south. Doesn’t sound like a recipe for success.


Communism Vs. Democracy

North Korea Explained: U.S. Marines engaged in urban warfare during the battle for Seoul in late September 1950. The Marines are armed with an M1 rifle and an M1918 Browning ..

North Korea explained: soldiers fighting in the Korean War

Political disagreements between Russia and the USA delayed the formation of a Korean government.

Back then Russia favoured Communism. This political system means that all means of production are owned by the community rather than by individuals (in theory at least). Communist states are often run as single party states. One single political party runs the country.  Other  parties are either banned or only allowed minor participation in elections.

Just as it is today, America was ran as a Democracy. This system of government gives power to the people, who rule either directly or through freely elected representatives. Many political parties take part in elections – the more the merrier.

America and the West also favour a political system called Capitalism. Put simply: trade, industry and the means of production are privately owned and operated for profit.


North Korea and South Korea split by the DMZ  on a map

North Korea Explained: the demilitarized zone (DMZ) splits the two countries

These tensions between Russia and America meant that by 1948 there was still no Korean government for the entire country. Two separate governments formed in the north and south of Korea.

Unsurprisingly they took on the political ideas of their occupiers. North Korea followed Russia and adopted a Communist style system. The pro-US South Korea favoured a democratic approach. However it was 1987 before a multi-political party system was fully established. Guess these things take time.

Both opposing sides saw themselves as the legitimate government for the entire country. In 1950 North Korea invaded the South, sparking the three-year Korean War. Technically the two countries are still at war; a peace treaty was never signed. However, the 1953 Armistice Agreement between the countries meant that hostilities ceased.

Since then North and South Korea are both separated by a “De-militarised Zone” or DMZ. “De-militarised” doesn’t mean they’ve got rid of all the weapons there. The 4KM wide DMZ is the most heavily militarised border in the world. Crossing it is not permitted.


Potential for peace?

North Korean soldiers marching

North Korea’s nuclear and military ambitions worry the rest of the world

North Korea has isolated itself from the rest of the world. After the Korean War the North Korean leader Kim Il-sung promoted the philosophy of Juche. This means self-reliance. The West views North Korea with suspicion due to its policy of isolation and it’s unclear foreign policy.

Western countries also take issue with North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

In 2006 North Korea announced it had tested a nuclear bomb. This was despite having joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in the 1980s. Similar announcements followed in 2009 and 2013.

It’s thought North Korea doesn’t have the technology to launch the bomb as missile. That didn’t stop the rest of the world going “Oh, s%$t!” and hammering North Korea with lots of economic sanctions.


North Korea Explained: the demilitarized zone (DMZ) splits the two countries

Skirmishes at the DMZ border are becoming more regular

In the early 1990s South Korea seemed to be trying to move on from the conflict with its neighbour. South Korea sent aid packages across to the poorer North Korea. South Korea also called for the rest of the world to end economic sanctions put on North Korea.

In 2000 both North and South agreed to work towards a potential reunification in the future. Yet in 2008 a newly elected government took a tougher line. The North’s failure to cut back on nuclear activities was a problem. In 2010 a South Korean ship sunk; investigators believe a North Korean submarine was to blame.

The relationship between the two countries has disintegrated. Increasing tensions and skirmishes at the border have put both on high alert.


What is it like in North Korea?

North Korean leader Kim Il-sung promoted the philosophy of Juche. This means self-reliance.

North Korea’s leader Kim Il-Sung and his descendants are praised in the state run media

North Korea closes itself off from the rest of the world. So it’s difficult to give a balanced and accurate picture of what life there is like.

Few citizens leave the country, and most countries advise against going to North Korea. What little we know is based on the stories of the few who manage to escape the country and those who visit it.

Charity group Liberty in North Korea reports the hardships North Korean citizens face. Leaving the country or even visiting different regions requires a government visa.

Many citizens live in poverty and North Korea has suffered a food shortage since the 1990s. Floods in the mid-1990s led to famine across the country. Bad agricultural management means North Korea relies on aid from abroad to feed people. It’s estimated around 2 million people have died due to food shortages.

Yet these poor living conditions for many in the country are not reported. Propaganda praising the government is distributed by the media controlled by the state. International news is covered but stories must be approved by the government. Radios are specifically modified to pick up government channels. They can be adapted to pick up outside channels – but it’s illegal to own a tunable radio.

Instead of the internet North Koreans have an “intranet”. This has limited access to official North Korean websites. Phones can’t make international calls.

This propaganda video is an example of North Korea’s anti-West bias. Though cleverly edited to portray the West in a certain way you could argue that some of what it says is true.

North Korea is also accused of human rights abuses. Speaking out against the regime will get you into serious trouble. Criticise the government and you risk being “disappeared” or sent to a labour camp. Human Rights Watch reports that people are routinely arrested and tortured.


North Korea Explained: Kim Jong-un

Current leader Kim Jong-Un

“Common forms of torture include sleep deprivation, beatings with iron rods or sticks, kicking and slapping, and enforced sitting or standing for hours. Guards also sexually abuse female detainees.”

Liberty in North Korea also reports that North Koreans are forced to worship the Kim family which has ruled the country for over 60 years. “Propaganda starts in nursery school and a large proportion of the curriculum for all students—even at university—is dedicated to memorizing the ‘history’ of the Kim family. State media provides a constant stream of myths about the Kims and lauds the sacrifices they supposedly make for the people.”

The current leader Kim Jong-Un demands attention as well as adoration. News agencies reported how he had his security chief killed for falling asleep in a meeting. Next time your boss bawls you out think yourself lucky it’s not him.

Negative reports haven’t stopped some people wanting to travel to North Korea. 1,500 Westerners visit each year. Business Insider reports how simple it can be to travel to the country as a tourist. Don’t expect to explore unattended: North Korea appoints special tour guides for anyone entering the country.


Is North Korea actually so bad?


North Korean village huts

Positive angle: community is strong in the North Korean villages

Positive stories about life in North Korea are scarce. Ever wishing to play devil’s advocate we did find some. NK News interviewed a North Korean Jae-Young Kim and she had this to say:

“Although media and news only show negative aspects to life in North Korea, there are actually positive and good aspects about life in the DPRK. Of course there are differences between individuals, but compared to my current life in the South, life in North was mentally rich – even if it was materially insufficient.  The reason for this is because of the pure heart and affection of North Koreans. Here, in South Korea, there are lots of people with affection, but in North Korea, especially in rural areas, affection between neighbors is very pure and deep.”

Despite having some positive memories of North Korea Jae-Young Kim is one of many who wished to travel to South Korea.


Western brand shops in Seoul, South Korea

Life in South Korea; economically stronger

Jae-Young Kim mentions that although “lectures portray the South as evil and impoverished, some North Koreans see evidence to the contrary in the form of food, fertilizers and medicines that come from the South. As a result, many North Koreans know that the South is wealthy and feel envious.”

South Korea followed other Asian countries in using exports to boost its economy. It’s now one of the highly developed Asian “Tiger” economies which grew rapidly in the last century.

It’s easy to see North Korea as the repressive regime, and South Korea as civilised and progressive.

However South Korea is not all that innocent. Al Jazeera’s People & Power recently investigated and reported on the country now being titled as Suicide Nation. Suicide in South Korea has become the fourth most common cause of death and it is most prevalent in children and young adults aged between 10 and 30. The cause: an unavoidable pressure from a “hyper-competitive society”. Unfortunately it doesn’t stop there and particularly when it comes to spreading propaganda.Whilst partaking in a military exercise South Koreans blasted out indoctrinating pop music. In the past both countries have used loudspeakers along the DMZ to blast messages towards the opposite side. Real productive, guys.

Having a democratic government is no guarantee of sensible action. It’s questionable whether South Korea’s military exercises near the border were a good idea, or whether the country is taking progression is bit too far? Who’s to say which side is right or wrong?

As well as wishing to travel to the South it’s thought that many North Koreans wish the two countries to be reunited. A poll of 100 North Koreans stated that 95 wanted to reunite the two countries. Whether this study is representative of the rest of North Korea is unclear.

However reunification is definitely high on the agenda in the South. Latest polls suggest 80% of the Southern population are interested in reuniting with the North. What’s not clear is how this would work, and what the economic impact would be if South Korea joins up with its poorer neighbour.


North Korea Learnings; calling yourself democratic doesn’t mean you live in a democracy.

How responsible are the USA and Russia for the current situation between North and South Korea? Should the two be reunited or are they better apart?


The difference between sounding cool and being cool: Hacking explained.

What is a computer hacker?

Computer Hackers look for gaps and weaknesses in computer code (that’s the stuff which makes your laptop work) and break in. They can do this to cause harm, steal personal details like your banking PIN number or just simply to have fun. Some hackers work to improve computer security by exposing the flaws in the technology. Yes, you heard that right.

It’s tough being a Millennial. We were born just on the cusp of the computer revolution. Nowadays, kids in primary schools are being taught to code and hacking groups like Anonymous and the South Korea Hacker gangs are hitting the headlines.

In recent years a whole hacking culture has evolved. So, if you technically want to be a hacker, TECHNICALLY, what would that entail?

If it seems complex, well that’s because it is.

How to become a computer hacker in three not so easy steps:

200-11) Choose a TYPE of hacking. Yes there are different kinds.

Contrary to popular belief, hackers aren’t just criminals or geeks. There are many different types of hackers. There are “White Hats”, “Black Hats” and even “Grey Hats”. Hackers love hats.

Not really. The colour of hat just shows why you are hacking. For example White Hats hack to find weaknesses in order to improve them. Black Hats generally do it to cause trouble. And Grey Hats sit in the middle. They will look for websites or companies to hack for fun, but will sometimes offer to fix the problem. For a fee of course. Hackers gotta eat just like the rest of us.

You’ll start out as a “Noob” or newbie, and then work your way up. Work hard and you could become an Elite Hacker.

Or if that seems like a massive effort you could just become a “Script Kiddie”. They are hackers who use code written by other hackers. Takes all sorts I suppose.


2002) Choose a method of hacking

Now you’ve chosen the type of hacker you want to be, you need to find a way to access other people’s computers.

The most common hack is a Virus. If this gets into your computer it basically tries to screw everything. It attaches itself to a programme like Word or Excel. Every time you run that programme the virus will reproduce and spread through the computer. Viruses slow down the computer and eventually cause it to crash.

Another type is a “Trojan”. Just like a Trojan Horse, this pretends to be doing something else whilst accessing your data. Trojans are often hidden in downloads like games or music. When you try to play the game, the Trojan deletes everything on your computer.

If you want to find passwords you might choose to use a “Logger”. Hint: it’s nothing to do with lumberjacks. Loggers record what you type. Get it into someone’s computer and when they enter a password, you get a record of what they write.

The most common way of trying to get viruses and other programmes onto another computer is through email. So when you receive another email saying you’re owed $220,000 from “your good friend” it’s probably a good idea not to open it.

There are many other ways to hack into computers. “Brute Force” attacks go through password combinations and “Worms” can spread to different computers using shared connections like Wi-Fi.


200-23) Learn from the best and maybe try to stay away from the criminal hacking activity?

Hacker culture is massive. So if you want to be the best, you gotta learn from the best. If you don’t fancy trawling seedy internet chatrooms you can go on legal hacking courses. Big companies allow hackers to take part in a “penetration test”. Sounds kind of dirty but it just means they let you hack them to test their security.


Why are we talking about this?

We recently learnt about a hacking “nation state”. These are groups of hackers who work together to achieve the same goal. A group called “The Guardians of Peace” decided they had beef with film company Sony. You would have heard of this but why? Sony was about to release a film which was about two Americans killing the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

We don’t know why Guardians of Peace took a dislike to this. But whatever the reason they hacked Sony and released some controversial emails from Sony bosses. Some of whom have had to quit.

One man’s freedom of speech is another’s shame. 200-3

The suspicion fell on North Korea, but it’s not been proved they were involved. However a man who escaped from North Korea, yes we said escaped, has claimed they have an army of hackers waiting to do serious damage to anyone who crosses them. Should we believe it? Who knows. 

Guardians of Peace might see themselves as “hacktivists”. These are computer hackers who infiltrate computers or systems for a social or political reason.


What we learned today: Hacking appears to only be associated with criminal activity, we should broaden our horizons and if you’re curious dive in and save the online world!

Is hacking basically online mugging?  Answers below please.