Evolution of theMolotov cocktail
The author is the head of the Innovation Lab at the JoongAng Ilbo.
Molotov cocktails are also called poor man’s grenades. Anyone can make one by putting fuel such as gasoline or alcohol in a glass bottle with wick. It is a weapon of the weak and a tool for riots. It was actually used as a was weapon.
In the winter of 1939, the “Winter War” broke out as the former Soviet Union invaded Finland. The Soviet forces had absolute dominance in power and attacked civilian areas, inflicting major casualties. When criticism intensified, Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov sarcastically said that breadbaskets were dropped for the starving Finns.
The Finnish Army fought back with these bottles of fire and called them “Molotov cocktails.” A state-run alcoholic beverage company produced 450,000 Molotov cocktails, and private companies also helped fight against Soviet tanks. Finnish forces’ guerilla resistance and Molotov cocktails were formidable. In three months, 126,800 Soviet soldiers died, and 2,260 tanks — one-third of the total — were destroyed. Finnish casualties were only 26,600. It was an overwhelming victory on Finland’s side. The Soviet Union hurriedly signed a peace treaty.
In the aftermath of Russia’s invasion, the Ukraine government is encouraging citizens to prepare Molotov cocktails. A former Ukrainian prime minister even recorded a video making Molotov cocktails and posted it on Facebook. The Ukrainian Molotov cocktail includes small pieces of Styrofoam. The recipe was created to make the flames better stick to the target.
Now, the Russian forces are armed with new tanks resistant to Molotov cocktail attacks, and Ukrainians are fighting back with slightly upgraded Molotov cocktails. The Molotov cocktails seem to symbolize the determination of the Ukrainian people to resist as the president leads in the defense of the capital.
In Korea, Molotov cocktails had been the weapon of democratic activists fighting against dictatorship. But they were eradicated after democratization. After the Act on the Punishment of the Use of Molotov Cocktails and Other Inflammable Weapons was enacted in 1989, it has been gradually strengthened. Using a Molotov cocktail was subject to imprisonment for up to three years in jail a fine of up to 3 million won ($2,500). But in 1991, the prison term was extended up to five years and the fine was raised up to 5 million won. In 2019, the upper limit of the fine was lifted to 50 million won. In Korea, the Molotov cocktail has become an illegal weapon and a “rich man’s grenade” that poor people cannot afford to throw.