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[Pyongyang 25 Hours] The Korean War: The Unended War

June 6, 2011

Read in Korean

The following opinion column is part of the series Pyongyang 25 Hours and appears in the June 2011 issue of NK Vision magazine. Translated by NKnet volunteer Ryan Hamilton.

Jang Sung Moo was born in North Korea in South Pyongan Province in the city of Pyongsung. He worked at the 9.19 Factory as a material manager, and then in 2003 he defected and arrived in South Korea the same year. He currently serves as deputy director at Radio Free Chosun.


The Korean War, in which Kim Il Sung brought on tragic fratricidal infighting, is still a scar on the hearts of the North and South Korean people. Nevertheless, the Kim Jong Il regime is looking for a chance to provoke South Korea, just like they have done in the past. Kim Jong Il continues to hold on to his position of power and use it consistently. While performing a normal patrol last spring, the Cheonan was sunk by a North Korean submarine that crept like a sneaky cat, deep under the ocean and attacked and killed 46 young men. Then as late Fall came around, North Korea unexpectedly and indiscriminately shelled Yeonpyeong Island, a civilian village living peacefully. Yeonpyeong Island was completely devastated. But even that was not enough, and recently North Korea made a racket day after day by habitually threatening war, saying they would strike Gyeonggi Province and turn Seoul into a sea of fire. North Korea’s extreme military threats have created an intimidating atmosphere that feels like war could arise.

Looking at this, it begs the question of why North Korea is being so active and making such a habit of threatening the South. They cannot win a war with the South — they themselves and even little children can see this fact clearly. So are they confined to just making more extreme threats and continuing to provoke the South? The answer is simpler than we expect. As everyone knows, the North Korean regime is driven to achieve a third generation succession of power to Kim Jong Un. In order to protect the authoritative powers passed down from father to son, starting with Kim Il Sung, then Kim Jong Il, and now Kim Jong Un, successful succession of that power depends on how Kim Jong Un’s greatness is presented to the people. And it is safe to say that his perceived greatness is riding on how the food problem will be answered for the people who have been hunger stricken for decades in the North. So, the biggest problem (for Kim Jong Un’s succession) is going to be the resolution of the food (shortage).

“Provoke” and “Talk,” the Two-Way Tease

Again last year there was flooding, droughts and other natural disasters that caused rice farms and other farms to produce almost no grain at all. Rice yields in South Korea were low, too — only 80% of what is normally produced in an average year. So then North Korea must have had to farm bare land and was in a terrible situation? Nope, the result was a government mobilization of all overseas diplomats to solve the problem, even designating quotas that those diplomats had to fulfill. Filling quotas became the focal point of all North Korean embassies. Later, even the chairman of the Supreme People’s Assembly, Choi Tae Bok, went to what could be called the heart of “Western Imperialism,” England. He put aside his pride and practically begged for food aid. North Korea has shown the world a pathetic image of itself, and as such, there is nothing more that can shame them. If North Korea receives food aid, then they can argue that that is the result of the outside world’s fear of its nuclear weapons or Kim Jong Il’s grand strategy. North Korea will just present the food to their people and make some rhetorical noise. North Korea will use any means to secure food rations, even if those rations are only for the year 2012 [the year that North Korea has declared it will become a strong and prosperous nation – ed.]. They do not care what they have to do.

War Must Be Threatened So South Korean Cowards Will Give Aid

At this point, when it comes to aid, instead of just begging for it, North Korea thinks it advantageous to threaten with one hand, while on the other hand feigning an interest in peace and trying to woo the South. In 2012, when Kim Jong Un ascends to power, if there are hundreds of thousands of North Korean citizens still starving like there are now, and that crisis reaches a critical point, it could be a serious threat to the stability of Kim Jong Un’s political position. This is exactly the reason why Kim Jong Il’s regime is plotting attacks against the South and at the same time continuing to ask for talks and lobbing for “peace.” Of course, North Korea balances its threatening rhetoric and offers of “peace” based on the current state of affairs, and they will continue to offer peace in disguise and issue intimidating statements until securing next year’s food rations. Right now, they will take anything they can get their hands on from South Korea or the international community. If it’s rice, it’s rice. If it’s corn, it’s corn. But, they will be on the lookout for opportunities and vigilantly awaiting an opening to use military force.

The North Korean regime has extremely overstated the damage to South Korea caused by their military actions. North Korea uses these overstatements as public relations material, and advertises Kim Jong Un’s greatness, saying, “Look at this. We have a powerful weapon that nobody in the world can obtain.” It is sad, but many people in the North believe statements like these, by and large. Because of this, it doesn’t matter if Kim Jong Il’s government begs for something, it has become commonplace for the people to think of their government in grandiose terms. In the difficult circumstances of today, strategically, it kills two birds with one stone to be able to take food from your enemies, and in the meantime use those same enemies to promote Kim Jong Un’s greatness. The probable effects of this strategy should be comforting, but North Korea keeps asking for more (food) and, at times, without hesitation and brazenly saying, “We don’t like corn, so give us rice.”

The Kim Dae Jung and Roh Moo Hyun governments have reliably played the role of A.T.M. to North Korea for the last 10 years. In the beginning of the Kim Dae Jung administration when the Sunshine Policy was presented, the North’s reaction was one of confusion. The policy looked to North Korea to be a trick designed to neutralize their revolutionary ideas, and the North picked a fight over this policy. But, once the South started blindly giving (aid) to the North, the North Korean government, while dubious of the South’s intentions, realized the aid was a “gift from god” and quickly snatched it up.

Kim Jong Il, Leader of a Terrorist Nation

Even while the Sunshine Policy was helping the North, Kim Jong Il’s regime waited for opportune times and, one incident at a time, provoked the South with military force. A perfect example of this was the Yeonpyeong Naval Battles during Kim Dae Jung’s and Roh Moo Hyun’s days in office. Kim Jong Il thinks that if the cowards in the South are occasionally given a taste of war such as with these naval battles, then they will continually present the South Korean people with false peace for fear of more war. Still, so-called progressive civic groups and partisan political groups are requesting that, “Our government’s North Korean policy is to bring about war, and if we don’t want to go to war, then quickly resume aid to the North.” These groups cannot wait to be deceived by the North and give everything away to them. They are so antsy to utilize the North Korean government and start their wonderful businesses using all the profits from this genius Sunshine Policy. What a joke! When I lived in North Korea, I thought they would have to be stupid to do such pathetic things. I just could not understand.

From Kim Jong Il’s perspective, how can the North not look down on the South when it comes to the Sunshine Policy? The South said that it will treat the North nicely and warmly and send whatever the North needs before they even ask for it under the Sunshine Policy. For 10 years this policy was in place, so this habit of dependence cannot be broken overnight. But, Lee Myung Bak’s government came into office and immediately stopped playing the role of A.T.M. So an angry North Korea sunk the Cheonan and attacked Yeonpyeong Island, making it seem like war was imminent. The South Korean people’s fears were then used to attempt to influence the current Lee Myung Bak administration. The North stubbornly demanded that, if the South wanted to keep the peace like the previous administrations did over the last 10 years, then fertilizer, food and cash must be given as it once was.

Frankly, if American troops, which are a pain in the neck to Kim Jong Il’s regime, were not stationed in the South the Korean War or some other similar fraternal infighting might have started up again. North Korea has failed economically and their people are starving, but Kim Jong Il is not concerned with that. He is no different from a terrorist nation’s leader in that he knows how to use weapons of mass destruction, including missiles and nukes, brilliantly for political objectives in an asymmetrical strategy; therefore, peace will not come easily. Kim Jong Il, and after him, Kim Jong Un, will try to fool people into thinking the North has won the war. I just want to warn the people of South Korea: we must not forget that the Korean War continues, this is the lesson for the month of June.

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