With the North’s sinking of the Cheonan and its attack on Yeonpyeong Island claiming the lives of 50 South Koreans, the two countries posted their lowest rankings ever in the Global Peace Index.
According to the 2011 edition of the GPI, South Korea was ranked 50th at 1.829 points, while the North ranked among the 10 lowest at 149th place, with 3.092 points.
Published by the Institute for Economics and Peace, the GPI showed that both countries’ ratings had plummeted since last year, especially for the North.
“Pyongyang’s relations with neighboring countries became even more strained in 2010 following the administration’s decision in March 2010 to sink a South Korean navel vessel, the Cheonan, and to fire missiles at Yeonpyeong in November,” said the report.
Since the GPI launched in 2007, the Korean Peninsula’s ratings have continuously fallen. The South was ranked 32nd in 2007 and 2008, while the North came in at 133rd in 2008.
In 2009, the South dropped to 33rd and plummeted again in 2010 to 43rd. North Korea was ranked 139th in 2010.
The North was also listed in the report as both one of the “top five fallers in the 2011 GPI” and one of the “10 countries least at peace.”
Pyongyang’s score was influenced by both its military expenditures and high crime rate.
“North Korea’s annual military expenditure was estimated in 2002 to amount to around $5 billion and it is thought to have increased to around 20 percent of GDP in 2009, by far the largest proportion of the 153 countries surveyed and more than twice the level of Saudi Arabia, the next largest at 9.4 percent,” it said.
“Sharp increases in the number of homicides and rises in violent crime and the likelihood of violent demonstrations from relatively low levels reflect unconfirmed reports of a dramatic escalation in violence and brutality at the hands of the regime, with public executions tripling last year, to at least 60.”
The report mentioned other offenses by the North, including the illicit use of Chinese cellphones and counterfeiting of U.S. dollars.
Also taken into consideration were defector accounts, describing a “new shoot-to-kill policy” for those illegally crossing into China.
The countries found to be the most at peace were Iceland, New Zealand and Denmark at first, second and third, respectively, with Japan right behind.
North Korea stood alongside Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq and Somalia at the bottom of the barrel.
The index considers conflicts, safety and security in society, militarization and also considers indicators like the potential for terrorist acts, the likelihood of violent demonstrations and crime.
By Robert Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org