SEOUL — Once again, the Korean Peninsula is experiencing one of its periodic bouts of extremism, this time marked by the suicide May 22 of former President Roh Moo Hyun, and North Korea's second test of a nuclear device.

Roh's suicide is a disaster for his family and a national shame, while North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's nuclear blast is something of a temper tantrum, but one that may have dire consequences for the two Koreas and the world.

The North Korean bomb, estimated at 4 kilotons, does not come anywhere near the magnitude of the atomic bombs of 15 to 21 kilotons that America dropped on Japan 64 years ago. Indeed, this vainglorious attempt by Kim reminds Koreans of the mother bullfrog in Aesop's Fables who puffed herself out to imitate an ox.