Monday, January 26, 2009

Rumour mills flourish in Seoul

Seoul is a buzz with rumour about Kim Jong il's heir apparent. Yonhap news agency has let the cat out of the bag: the new little king is Kim Jun on, the Dear Leader's youngest son. Endless are the scurrying mice who are trying to trace the rumour. Rumour mills are working overtime in these dire economic times. Think tanks have taken on new life, with endless commentary of a tale told by a nameless idiot. More sensible minds think that the rumour is baseless at best or the floating of a balloon of disinformation by South Korea's intelligence. The rumour has given new life to endless speculation; it has taken attention away from the necessary, but arduous task of negotiations with Pyongyang on its nuclear programme. Some analysts simply think that the rumour is a distraction. And it probably is.
Even if the rumour of an heir apparent to Kim Jong il has the ring of truth, Mr. Kim remains firmly and completely in charge. He has reappeared after months of absence. His government has signalled that it ready to engage with the US to resolve long, outstanding matters; it has signed significant contracts with an Egyptian telecommunications company and France's LaFarge group, to jump start infrastructure projects which will put North Korea's economy on a more modern footing.
On the other hand, relations with South Korea are at a dead point, thanks to the agressive policies of its president Lee Myung bak who has no trouble copying former US president George Bush's erratic and failed policy towards Pyongyang during his first administration. Mr. Lee's policies will meet the same lack of success. The current bleak economic climate in South Korea would predicate a more conciliatory opening to the north, you would think.
Even if the rumour has the ring of truth. What do we know of Kim Jong un? Indications point to a western education; fluency in the ways of the west and European languages; a good grasp of the capitalistic, global system. Though he may lack years of experience, everything will point to the fact that he or any of his brothers or uncles in law, is no pushover.
It is useless to weigh on the side of the future; solutions are there in the present to conclude a deal with North Korea. An overall solution lies in the reconvening of a Geneva Conference to end the Korean war once and for all; by that decision alone, all sorts of formulae can obtain to deal with current problems on a bi or multilateral level.
The rumour as we say, takes our mind off the work at hand. It is time to put away the toys of speculation, and have the will to end the more than half century of delay in coming to terms with North Korea.

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