North Korea: the shadow that hangs over 2018

(5 January 2018) With the arrival a New Year, most people look forward to a fresh opportunity to realize their hopes and aspirations as they put the past behind them.   The forward passage of time is one of the sources of human resilience as the inherent optimism of our species is born anew. And yet, this year the specter of conflict with North Korea hangs over the world. 

The war of words between the two bellicose leaders of the US and North Korea that began last year has continued into 2018.  Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump have both boasted about the nuclear buttons while strategic analysts have put the odds of military action near 50%.  And with military action comes the very real risk that nuclear weapons could be used by both sides.  

Interestingly, in his New Year's speech North Korea's Kim Jong-un has extended an olive branch to South Korea over his country's participation in the Winter Olympics which will be held in Pyeongchang.  South Korea has welcomed the overture and the two sides are now in talks to facilitate the North Korean team to participate in February's games.   Moreover, the disused hotline between Seoul and Pyongyang has again been activated in order to encourage better communication.  Clearly, all is not lost and there are real grounds for hope that conflict can be avoided. 

And yet, the planetary alignments do not paint a supporting picture of reconciliation and peace.  Most of the horoscopes of the key players point to serious difficulties over the next few months.   I have previously discussed the afflictions in the charts of the USA and Donald Trump.  The Mars-Saturn conjunction in early April hits both of those charts very squarely and suggest a major development.  To be sure, the connection with military action and North Korea is less clear in those charts. 

Trump's Mercury (15 Gemini) is opposed by the Mars-Saturn and seems less conducive to military action and more to economic dislocation.  Similarly, the USA's Jupiter (15 Gemini) will receive those malefic aspects around the same time in March-April.  Since Jupiter is the chart ruler for the USA (sidereal Sagittarius rising), we can imagine that any resulting events could be significant to the country as a whole.

The Pyeongchang Winter Olympics: diplomatic opportunity or geopolitical risk?

But while the planetary alignments are tense in April, the situation may be complicated by the upcoming Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.  For the moment, the Olympics look like an opportunity to defuse the tension on the Korean peninsula as the South is open to allowing the North to participate.  But the horoscope for the Olympics looks difficult.  The games begin at 8 p.m. local time on 9 February and the chart has a difficult Moon-Mars conjunction in Scorpio in the 4th house suggesting an air of tension and conflict may mark the event.  Mars squares Neptune which hints at hidden or secret conflict including the possibility of espionage. 

Even more problematic is that by transit, Mars will conjoin the Moon about 5 days after the opening ceremonies and then exactly square Neptune about a week after that while the games are still going on. The Mercury-Ketu conjunction occurs on the 6th house cusp at 20 Capricorn and underscores the theme of confusion or chaotic communication.  It is possible that these planets could merely reflect controversies in the sporting arena itself (drug tests, contested results, etc) but overall the chart leaves something to be desired.

And it is worth noting that Kim Jong-un's chart looks tense during the Olympics.  Transiting Rahu (20 Capricorn) is aspecting his Ketu (21 Scorpio) and square his Saturn (20 Libra).  That nodal influence seems mostly unhelpful and disruptive of his goals and ambitions.  Transiting Mars will conjoin his Venus at the start of the games which can reflect social situations requiring higher energy.  But it may also indicate upset and anger.  This is more likely to be the case as the Olympics goes on as Mars will square his Moon in the following week and then conjoin his Ketu.  That Mars-Rahu-Ketu alignment is probably the most worrisome alignment at this time and will be closest on Feb 19-20.  The games are due to finish on the 25th. 

Even with these somewhat tense alignments, I would still not be surprised if the games came off without a hitch.  As in the case of all people with high public profile, it may be that the problems may be largely behind the scenes.  In any event, the more significant alignments appear to be focused in April.  Perhaps the Olympics set the stage for the tension to erupt again.  South Korea and the US have now agreed not to conduct any military exercises during the games but once they are done, they could return to a more confrontational stance.  In the South Korean horoscope, we can see that the Mars-Saturn conjunction at 15 Gemini on 3 April will oppose the natal Venus.  That isn't necessary an obvious pattern for military conflict but it nonetheless speaks to some kind of significant national problem. 

The exact station doesn't occur until April 17th and will form a 3rd house/60 degree aspect to Kim Jong-un's Moon.  This transit usually reflects setbacks or heavy burdens.  Events are more likely to go against North Korea in April due to the Sun-Uranus conjunction in early Aries which exactly opposes Kim's Mars at 4 Libra.   The involvement with Mars here raises the possibility of some kind of military event occurring in April. 

And while the planets look pretty bad in April, I don't think this will produce a resolution of the stand-off with North Korea.   It may reflect only a limited military action which does not involve nuclear weapons.  Another difficult pattern is upcoming in the late summer or early fall of 2018 so the geopolitical tension is likely to continue.

Weekly Market Forecast

Stocks have begun 2018 where they left off in 2017 as the Dow has hit a new record high above 25,000 this week.   The gains were not unexpected as I thought next week's big Jupiter alignment could well push most global markets higher in early January.  And as expected, we did see some brief declines on Jan 1-2 on the Mars-Rahu (North Node) square in Europe and India.

Next week's multi-planet alignment could provide more clues about the future direction of the markets.   The Mars-Jupiter conjunction occurs at 24 Libra on Sunday the 7th while the Sun-Venus-Pluto conjunction at 25 Libra hits on Tuesday the 9th.   These two conjunctions may prove to be significant since they will resonate with each other by virtue of falling at 24-25 degrees of their respective signs.  While these conjunctions are bullish, they could also represent a kind of high water mark for the markets.  The optimism reflected in this Jupiter alignment could peak here in early January and elevate the risk of declines as the planets begin to separate later this week and next week.

For more details and analysis on market trends for this week, this month and this year, please check out my weekly MVA Investor Newsletter.  The newsletter is published every Saturday and includes extended discussion of US and Indian stock markets, as well as gold, oil and major currencies.