What’s driving North Korea’s actions toward the South?

4 08 2020

By Deutsche Welle (2020/07/14) Leonid Petrov, a former chair of Korean Studies at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, says the North’s destruction of the liaison office is intended as a sign that “Pyongyang does not need Seoul any more in the context of this new Cold War.”

Whereas North Korea was frantically trying to build bridges with Seoul and the United States just three years ago, as international sanctions bit hard into its economy, President Trump has since fallen out spectacularly with China and Russia. That has given Pyongyang the opportunity to rebuild its own ties with Beijing and Moscow; both now see North Korea as a useful geo-political bargaining chip and are likely to continue their support for Kim’s regime.

“By blowing up the liaison office, the North is saying that there is no need to communicate with the South anymore. I suspect they may soon start testing weapons again, and even possibly nuclear warheads,” he added. “This new Cold War is actually very good news for Kim because his regime can now thrive.”

South Korea convened an emergency meeting of the National Security Council on Tuesday afternoon and troops were ordered to step up surveillance of the North and be prepared for further provocations in the tense border area. The Pentagon had previously stated that it was keeping a “robust” defensive posture on the peninsula and that US forces were ready to respond to any situation that might evolve.

Given that the North has now followed through on its threats to destroy the liaison office, its next move may very well be to send troops back into areas on the border that were demilitarized under the 2018 military agreement. It is possible that troops will return to Kaesong and the Mount Kumgang tourist zone, on the fareast coast, where military installations on both sides were destroyed two years ago.

The South Korean government has reiterated that it intends to stand by the terms of the agreement and has called on Pyongyang to do the same.

Isolated Kim Relies on Old North Korea Tensions Playbook

28 08 2015

One Korea_One enormous challenge (By Sam Kim and David Tweed, Bloomberg News, August 25, 2015) SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s military standoff against South Korea, with his threats to annihilate the government in Seoul, was not just about the loudspeakers blasting propaganda and K-pop tunes over the demilitarized zone.

Rather, the events that took tensions on the peninsula to their highest level since the aftermath of North Korea’s nuclear test in early 2013 reflected Kim’s efforts to control how ties between countries in North Asia are evolving.

The young dictator, who came to power in late 2011, is looking isolated. Kim’s nuclear ambitions and his unwillingness to take guidance from Beijing have irritated China and strained ties with Pyongyang’s traditional ally. South Korean President Park Geun-hye enjoys a rapport with President Xi Jinping and is inching toward improved ties with Japan.

Faced with a dilapidated economy and drought at home, and potentially pressured by senior officers in his military to show some mettle, Kim resorted to an old North Korean playbook — pick a fight to force concessions from South Korea on trade and aid. It’s also a warning to Park against taking North Korea lightly in her dealings with China, Japan and the United States, all of whom have urged Kim to abandon his nuclear weapons program.

“This is more than a loudspeaker issue,” said Zhang Baohui, director of the Center for Asian Pacific Studies at Lingnan University in Hong Kong. “In the end this could be Kim’s outreach strategy. Maybe they think the South hasn’t been responding enough, so provoked a crisis to get to this stage.”

The stakes are high for Kim. He has a series of upcoming anniversaries where he must prove he’s worthy of commanding North Korea’s 1.2 million troops. Economic woes facing his 24 million people are unlikely to ease soon, while North Korea’s increasingly porous border with China means ordinary people have greater access to electronics and news of life outside the reclusive country.

In the end, both leaders gave some ground after days of high-level talks among negotiators at a border village — and both can probably claim a victory. The regime in Pyongyang agreed to lift its “semi-state of war” and expressed regret over landmine blasts that maimed two South Korean soldiers, while Seoul said it’d stop the propaganda broadcasts.

Risks remain, and Kim faces the challenge of a more strident Park in the face of any further provocations.

“The question is will the dialog stick? That will be harder because there is going to be some kind of crisis that tests this in relative short order,” said John Delury, a political science professor at Yonsei University in Seoul, citing the potential for skirmishes on the maritime border or over the demarcation line.

Since Park’s government said last week it traded fire with North Korea across the demilitarized zone, her approval rating has risen. Even as the tensions roiled South Korea’s financial markets she said Monday she would not stop pressuring Kim.

“The broadcasts play to particular parts of her support base, particularly the Christian right and the nationalist right,” said Tessa Morris-Suzuki, a professor of Asian affairs at the Australian National University in Canberra, of the South Korean leader who passes the half-way mark of her five-year tenure on Tuesday.

On the same day Kim marks the day of “Songun,” a military-first philosophy chartered by his late father Kim Jong Il. In less than two months he’ll celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party as he seeks to promote himself as a shrewd politician and tough military tactician.

“This is a very important commemorative year for Kim Jong Un,” Lee Sung-yoon, a professor of Korean studies at Tufts University, said by email. “The young Kim has a compelling need to mark it with a bang, as he did in 2012 on the 100th anniversary of his grandfather’s birthday, when North Korea was miraculously to become a powerful and prosperous country.”

Kim can’t afford to look weak. Since taking power he’s conducted a series of purges to root out potential threats.

“His spate of high-level executions shows a high degree of frustration that his policies are not being implemented to his satisfaction,” Patrick Cronin, senior adviser for the Asia- Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, said in an email.

The country is suffering chronic food shortages. North Korea said earlier this year it had been in the worst drought in a hundred years and the United Nations said in June that was worsening food-security concerns in the country.

“They’re facing a poor harvest, so this could be a way to divert people’s attention to patriotism and jingoism that wouldn’t be necessary had there been plentiful crops,” said Leonid Petrov, a visiting fellow at the Australian National University in Canberra. “Kim knows he cannot offer much to his population other than superficial window dressing. He has to use the same methods his father and grandfather did.”

North Korea to return six detained South Korean citizens

24 10 2013

dmz-from-north-korea_1(BY CHAD O’CARROLL , NK News, OCTOBER 24, 2013) North Korea announced on Thursday that six South Koreans who had been detained for illegally entering North Korean territory would be soon be released via the DMZ Panmunjom truce village.

“The North sent an official notice that the six will be returned at the neutral truce village of Panmunjom Friday afternoon,” an anonymous Minister of Unification official was quoted as saying Thursday by South Korea’s Yonhap News.

Mysteriously, the unification ministry source said that four of the six detainees had been previously mentioned by North Korean state media in February 2010, suggesting that at least part of the group may have been in North Korea for several years.

“A relevant institution of the DPRK recently detained four south Koreans who illegally entered it. They are now under investigation by the institution,” a short Korea Central News Agency bulletin said on February 26, 2010.


One expert told NK News that the news could be Pyongyang’s way of indicating a desire to warm inter-Korean relations, which despite improving in summer have been cooling of late.

“North Korea’s decision to release 6 detained South Koreans is another test for ROK President Park Geun-Hye’s “trustpolitik”. Now it will be up to Seoul whether to reciprocate, using this initiative as opportunity for reopening dialogue, trade and reconciliation” Leonid Petrov, a researcher at Australia National University, told NK News.

“49 North Korean spies have been caught in South Korea in the last decade, 4 of them just this year. Park Geun-Hye could pardon and deport them to the North as a symbolic sign of trust-building aimed at improving inter-Korean relations,” Petrov added, also pointing out that, “South Korea claims that about 500 of ROK citizens – most of them fishermen – are being held by North Korea: If Kim Jong-Un is serious about mending bridges with the South, he should let those people go or, at least, permit communication with them.”

South Korea’s National Security Law makes it illegal for South Korean nationals to make unauthorized contact with North Korea or enter North Korean territory. Normally, North Korean law also forbids South Koreans from entering DPRK territory.

In July 2012 68 year old South Korean national Ro Su-hui was arrested after walking from North to South Korea at Panmunjom. He was sentenced to four years imprisonment for illegally entering North Korea and ”benefiting the enemy”.

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Северная Корея охладела к Южной

26 11 2008

Сотрудничество двух стран сворачивается по инициативе Пхеньяна
КНДР вчера напомнила Сеулу, что с 1 декабря закроет железнодорожное сообщение с Южной Кореей и вышлет южнокорейских граждан из технопарка в Кэсоне. Одновременно стало известно, что в КНДР началась принудительная конфискация автомобилей японского производства. По мнению наблюдателей, эти шаги свидетельствуют об усилении в руководстве Северной Кореи консерваторов, мечтающих о возвращении страны в эпоху жесткого противостояния с Западом. Закрыть границу с Южной Кореей и выслать из КНДР южнокорейских специалистов, работающих в технопарке в районе города Кэсон, Пхеньян пригрозил еще 12 ноября. Тогда поводом для этих мер стало нежелание или неспособность южнокорейских властей убедить общественные организации прекратить засылку в КНДР воздушными шарами пропагандистских листовок с критикой северокорейского режима и сводками об ухудшающемся здоровье его лидера — Ким Чен Ира.

На прошлой неделе у Пхеньяна появился новый повод для недовольства властями Южной Кореи. Ее президент Ли Мен Бак во время пребывания в Вашингтоне на саммите "двадцатки" заявил, что конечной целью его политики является объединение двух Корей под эгидой демократического правительства. 22 ноября находившийся в Пекине северокорейский представитель комитета по мирному объединению родины назвал заявления южнокорейского лидера "преступными действиями, направленными против объединения, загоняющими в тупик отношения между КНДР и Республикой Корея". Он заявил, что КНДР не намерена впредь обсуждать с Сеулом вопросы взаимных отношений и объединения, а будет принимать решительные ответные меры.

Какие именно, стало ясно из заявления главы делегации Севера на межкорейских военных переговорах с Югом, распространенного вчера северокорейским агентством ЦТАК. Пхеньян подтвердил намерение с 1 января закрыть железнодорожное сообщение с Югом. Кроме того, он пригрозил провести "избирательные высылки" южнокорейских граждан с территории КНДР. Это коснется в первую очередь 1,5 тыс. южных корейцев, работающих в технопарке у города Кэсон, где действуют около 80 промышленных предприятий с южнокорейским капиталом. Они обеспечивают Северной Корее 32 тыс. рабочих мест и приносят ей ежегодно десятки миллионов долларов. Эксперты считают, что именно поэтому ни о каком закрытии кэсонских предприятий речи не идет. Но высылка южнокорейских специалистов, которых заменят северяне, может свести на нет южнокорейское влияние на работу технопарка.

Вчера же из Пхеньяна поступили еще два сообщения, свидетельствующие о готовности властей КНДР к обострению отношений с Западом. МИД Северной Кореи гневно отверг появившуюся на днях резолюцию ООН, осуждающую Пхеньян за нарушение прав человека. Кроме того, стало известно, что власти КНДР с 20 ноября приступили к конфискации легковых автомобилей и микроавтобусов японского производства, составляющих в КНДР основную часть (80%) парка частных и служебных машин. Причина этого шага не объясняется, но, скорее всего, это стало результатом резкого обострения отношений с Японией, руководство которой на днях выступило за ужесточение санкций в отношении КНДР, включая введение полного запрета экспорта и поездок в эту страну, в наказание за нежелание Пхеньяна решить проблему похищенных северокорейскими спецслужбами японских граждан.

Тем временем, по данным экспертов, в Северной Корее наблюдается сворачивание рыночных реформ, начатых в 2002 году. В 2007 году из продажи были изъяты любые носители электронной информации. В конце 2007 года шурин Ким Чен Ира – Чан Сон Тхэк, назначенный на специально созданный для него пост первого вице-директора Трудовой партии Кореи по надзору за силами госбезопасности, милиции и судами, занялся разгоном "спекулянтов" и "контрабандистов" в приграничных с Китаем районах. Подобные действия продолжались и в течение первой половины 2008 года, что дало основание полагать, что в руководстве КНДР победили консервативные силы.

И хотя северокорейские консерваторы столкнулись с несколькими проявлениями массового неповиновения, в том числе мартовской демонстрацией рыночных торговцев в Чхонджине и самоубийством целой семьи в Онджине в июне, они сумели взять ситуацию под контроль, предотвратив дальнейшее распространение недовольства. Таким образом, по мнению аналитиков, в условиях прогрессирующей болезни Ким Чен Ира КНДР стремительно возвращается к временам военного коммунизма.

Газета «Коммерсантъ»   № 214(4031) от 25.11.2008
Леонид Петров, Андрей Иванов