North Korea, the laughing stock of Twitter memes and unsuccessful missile launches for the past few years, has finally gotten the attention of Americans.  

A few weeks ago, on Sept. 3, 2017, North Korea successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb that was detected by seismic stations across the world. Research shows that a hydrogen bomb, like the one possessed by North Korea, can be tens to hundreds of times more powerful than the atomic bombs used to end World War II.  

For most millennials the atomic bomb and World War II are nothing but another tragic event in the pages of history, holding no relevance to their lives except a Nazi flag to hold alongside a Confederate flag in the next white supremacist rally. For myself it was hard to get away from the history and culture of nuclear warfare due to my hometown of Oak Ridge.

Oak Ridge is situated just outside of Knoxville, Tennessee and played a critical part in the war as scientists enriched Uranium-238 (U-238) into Uranium-235 (U-235), a key element in weaponizing the atomic bomb. The detonation of an atomic bomb with U-235 causes atoms to clash into each other and sets off a chain reaction of splitting atoms, hence the term: fission. In contrast, a hydrogen bomb is enriched with hydrogen and when weaponized and detonated, produces a reaction of atoms fusing together putting off exothermal heat, and this type of reaction is called fusion.

According to National Public Radio, this type of reaction is equivalent to 100,000 tons of TNT and tens of hundreds of times stronger than an atomic bomb. North Korea now possesses this type of warfare and the time for jokes is over. 

In the 1960s, before the United States put an Apollo mission on the moon or even into space, we were mocked by Russians for our many failed attempts to become a serious threat in the Space Race. After all, Russia had already put a man in space and orbited the planet. In the midst of the mockery and rising threat of nuclear war, we successfully became the first and only nation to land on the moon. Only out of our failed attempts and late comings, in comparison to the Russians, did the United States succeed.  

Similarly, with North Korea there are many failed attempts to launch a missile or construct a nuclear warhead. If the world continues to dismiss them as a serious threat, it will only be a matter of a few attempts before they successfully strike a nation with nuclear warfare, and by that point it will be too late.  

Not only is North Korea an imminent threat to global safety, but if a nuclear strike were to occur, heightened global tensions between world powers such as China, Japan, the U.S., Russia and all affiliated allies would potentially reach a breaking point under this immense amount of pressure, potentially starting another world war. Unlike previous world wars, this would be a world war started with a nuclear attack, and who could say there wouldn’t be another nuclear strike in retaliation?  

Although the recent activity in North Korea has the attention of world leaders, it does not mean the threat should be dismissed by global citizens as being handled of by our leaders just yet.  

As members of the same global network, it is important to stay educated and informed in domestic and international news, especially with a threat as serious as a hydrogen bomb in the possession of an unpredictable nation like North Korea. In addition to staying educated and informed, it is also crucial that we, as one race, take time to cultivate, nurture and grow relationships between our fellow Americans and our allies as well.

An understanding and genuinely united people is harder to dismantle than any surface-level tolerance of one another. In the coming weeks, months and years it will be more important than ever to take responsibility in the world around us as President Trump, elected officials and other world leaders make decisions that will effect our lives.