Things are looking grim for dealing with North Korea after the current communist government collapses. Studies of North Koreans who have managed to get to South Korea (where they are eligible for many benefits), has found that many have starvation related illnesses (bad teeth and more likely to get infectious diseases). The refugees also suffer a form of culture shock and post-trauma shock. Nearly half of them are unable to get or hold a job in South Korea's market economy.
South Korea has decided to build an anti-missile system. It is buying a Green Pine radar from Israel (where it was part of the successful Arrow anti-missile system). South Korea is using the anti-missile version of the Patriot anti-aircraft system.
North Korea's media theater surrounding the possible launching a Taepodong-2 missile (either as a weapon that could reach Alaska, or a satellite launcher) is an old gambit, used many times before. All this is North Korea's way of telling the world; "give us more free food and other goodies." It often works, but this time South Korea and the other donors are saying it won't.
North Korea says war is inevitable if South Korea and the rest of the world does not show more respect (deliver more free food and fuel). The war threats have been coming from the north for over half a century, and don't have much impact anymore. A much more confident South Korea believes that it could handle any North Korean military moves, from skirmishes up to a major invasion attempt (which the south wants to avoid, because it would do major damage to the southern capital.)
North Korea has increased its armed forces by 20,000 (to 1.19 million) over the past few years. This is one way to deal with growing unemployment, and keeping angry young men under control. The army has added 300 rocket launchers, but have kept many older (decades old) launchers and rockets in service. North Korea has increased its Special Forces (light infantry for sneaking through South Korean front lines and cause trouble) 180,000 troops.
February 21, 2009: For the first time, the North Korean media mentioned Kim Jong Ils illness (a stroke nearly a year ago.) North Korea is awash with rumors of a change in government, the implication being that Kim Jong Il is either too weak to rule, or likely to die soon. One persistent rumor is that Kim Jong Il's youngest son, 26 year old Kim Jong Un, is the heir apparent. Kim Jong Un is too young to actually rule, and this would give a committee of senior officials to run things for a decade or so, until Kim Jong Un is ready. Or something like that, if the current North Korean government lasts that long. Economic and social conditions in the north continue to fall apart.
February 19, 2009: South Korea warned North Korea that launching a Taepodong-2 missile would violate UN resolutions and endanger aid programs. That's what happened the last time a Taepodong-2 was tested (the test failed).
February 18, 2009: South Korea believes that North Korea is operating secret, underground uranium based nuclear weapons program. The U.S. accused North Korea of this in 2002, and more evidence has shown up since then.
February 13, 2009: North Korea has been moving components of a Taepodong-2 ballistic missile to a launch site. The liquid fuel missile has to be assembled before it can be fired.