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So, I'm writing a sci-fi novel that takes place roughly 200 years or so in the future. I'm currently creating a timeline to figure out what nations would be space-faring nations and which ones would be in bad shape. I know that I want the U.S. to break up into five different countries and I want China and Russia to be competing in the next space race. While I was figuring out what was going on with the rest of the world, specifically the countries on the Korean peninsula. I keep going back and forth in my head on whether or not I want to have North Korea just collapse and be taken over somewhat peacefully by South Korea or if I want it to be a bit more violent.

I have read a bunch of stuff that tells me if either side were to do anything that seemed threatening the other side would immediately wipe Pyongyang and Seoul off the face of the planet and hundreds of thousands of people would die. But, in every single one, the person always brings up how the U.S. Russia and China would all join the conflict and it would set off world war 3.

What I want to know is aside from massive amounts of casualties in North and South Korea theoretically how might this conflict as well as the rest of the world be affected if the U.S., Russia, and China were unable to join the conflict? I know that a space race wouldn't keep Russia and China from acting but let's just say for argument's sake that it does.

EDIT: rereading my question I realize I left out some information. That's what I get for writing it at 3am. The book will take place 200 years from now but I was planning on the Korean conflict being somewhere between 50-80 years from now. The US will be unavailable to help because at that point they've been going through economic and political upheaval which will lead to it falling and five separate nation's forming amidst the ruins. Both China and Russia are competing to be the first one to 'conqur' space though I know this would not prevent them from taking action if SK invaded NK. In my book I'll probably have it so China invades shortly after SK wins the conflict this will then cause China and Russia to start fighting one another in an actual war instead of the pseudo one they were having over space.

I was wanting to remove them from the equation because everything I have read has included their involvement and was merely curious as to how things might play out if they weren't involved. Specifically I was wondering which countries might support NK as I am unaware of any except Russia and China doing so at present. Does this clearify a few things?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by L.Dutch, Rekesoft, Pavel Janicek, SJuan76, user535733 Jun 25 '18 at 10:54

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ 200 years is a lot of time to extrapolate effective differences between the hermit kingdom and rest of the world. They're already said to be struggling to equip their military, there are possibilities that their economy would either have completely collapsed or normal service resumed in that time. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Jun 25 '18 at 7:33
  • $\begingroup$ Have you got any justification of why the U.S., Russia, and China were unable to join the conflict? Is it the same for other countries? (this tree powers are not the only nuclear/big army power, if England and France help South Korea, it can have quite big impact) $\endgroup$ – Kepotx Jun 25 '18 at 7:37
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    $\begingroup$ Comparing what is known about Best and Worst Korean armoured and air forces, I really don't see how Best Korea could stand a chance in conventional "one on one" conflict. Their gear is old. Coupled with lack of industrial capacity for modernisations, I don't expect them to fare well against more modern Worst Korean army. Frankly, IMO the only real issues are nuclear weapons and civilian deaths in the window between NK opening fire on Seoul with artillery and SK self propelled artillery silencing them with counter-battery fire. $\endgroup$ – M i ech Jun 25 '18 at 9:13
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    $\begingroup$ there is not one single element that could allow to predict global political and technological development in 200 years. This question is off topic for being strictly opinion-based $\endgroup$ – Valerio Pastore Jun 25 '18 at 10:26
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    $\begingroup$ @M i ech: And that's assuming that SK hasn't developed ab effective counter to NK's artillery, say something akin to an advanced version of Israel's Iron Dome system: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Dome $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jun 25 '18 at 18:31
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Whatever you want really

200 years is a very long time when it comes to economics and politics.

Climate change will have an effect

The effect of climate change only means you can pretty much just tell the story the way you want -- nobody's going to be able to tell you that it's unlikely to happen since nobody can give a good estimate in the first place. There are plenty of examples where climate change might be the reason for the downfall of local super powers; ancient Egypt for example.

New technology might change things

We can't predict how technology will change things before it's here -- any new technology will disrupt the balance of power: a local shield of some sort to make those artillery pieces that NK has pointed at Seoul ineffective, might be invented. Some wackjob might give a super serum to NK and make their soliders ignore cold, heat and pain, as well as letting them go without sleep for weeks and eat very little (Germany in WW2 did something like this, the USA has done this as well and I suspect pretty much every other government has).

The effect of climate change in combination with new technology might be a very interesting angle.

There are other powers to consider than USA, Russia and China

Japan might rise and decide to play a part in Korean politics. India might as well. Australia could potentially do so as well. The point really is that in 200 years, the political landscape is going to be very different from what it is today -- just consider how much the world has changed in the past couple of years, with USA imposing tolls on European and Chinese goods and the other parties returning the favour. Before WW2, Germany was a country with a broken economy that didn't really work -- enter a certain Austrian and that changed, pretty much, over night.

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Essentially, you have two questions:

  1. How would a war between the Koreas (only) play out?
  2. Will the Great Powers join in (and how)?

Neither can be answered without a fair amount of speculation, but I'll try and answer with a some (relatively) fact-based points:

  • South Korean military capabilities far exceed DPRK's. Therefore, a conventional war between the two will be short and relatively bloodless for the SK military and population.
  • Knowing the above, North Korea long focused on developing asymmetrical capabilities, that will allow it not to win the war, but to make it way to pricy for South Korea (and/or the US). That is everything from the nuclear arsenal to the hundreds of thousands of simple artillery pieces that are ready to hit Seoul.
  • Therefore, the war between the two would depend on South Korea's ability to destroy the threat before it can be used. That will include using it's superior military and technology (Air Force, guided missiles, cyber warfare, intelligence, special units etc) to destroy/disable NK's mass destruction weapons and artillery within the first hours of the war.
  • Presumably, SK won't start a war without this ability.

As for the great powers, none will ever start a direct full-scale war with another. At best, they will help the opposing Korean sides in a proxy war (as already happened in Vietnam, Korea etc). And even if such war starts it'll be somewhat underwhelming, as both countries will be all but destroyed within the day.

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  • $\begingroup$ Would you be able to say which countries would line up on each side? I am pretty sure most would be with SK unless they do something truly terrible like nuke NK without prompting but are there some, aside from Russia and China, who would help NK? $\endgroup$ – Meren Jun 25 '18 at 19:33

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