Thursday, February 23, 2012

South Korea's naval drills along the NLL and Kim Jung eun

If South Korea's president Lee Myung-bak thinks that the new DPRK leader Kim Jong-eun will provocatively respond to the ROK five live-fire drills Pyeongyang island a along the Northern Line Limit 10 kilometers from North Korea's territorial waters, he is harboring an illusion. North Korea will only respond to South Korean military manuevers only when they violate North Korea's territory.

The current military exercises are a link in a long chain of saber rattling drills, usually with the US, to rattle the North Korean leadership. Usually, Pyongyang bombastically protests and then warns that North Korea will retaliate if provoked. And in the end of November 2010, South Korean shells fell in North Korean waters, and Kim Jong-il's defense forces riposted immediately: their target was Pyeongyang island that serves as a forward military base, but is often characterized as a peaceful fishing village.

North Korea's rapid response raised fears of the reopening of the quiescent Korean War, frozen in place by the 1953 Armistice Agreement which South Korea never signed. Although Lee wished to return fire, the Obama administration stayed his hand. South Korea in live-fire joint military posturimuchng along the NLL to give North Korea much cotton to thread since Pyongyang has resisted US terms to denuclearize a divided Korean peninsula. (The US and DPRK will meet on February 23.)

North Korea's new leader, Kim Jong-eun, 28, is a blank page for not only South Korea and the US but for the global community in general. With his father's death on December 19 last, he has assumed the full trappings of head of state, completing a seamless transition of power in North Korea. Little is known about him. Google him, and you will see endless photographs of the "Young General," but little of substance.

Two months in office, he has displayed a talent for silence, which confuse North Korean watchers. His reflective stance simply underscores what former US ambassador to South Korea as "US intelligence's greatest failure"; for our knowledge of what is going on in the DPRK remains skimpy and unrewarding.

And yet, "Rodong Shinmum," at the end of January quoted him as saying: "Even whne I work night after night, once I have brought joy to [our people], the weariness vanishes and a new strength through my whole body. This is what revolutionaries should live for."

His words may sound odd to our ears, but are an expression of filial piety and loyalty which underpin the idea of virtue North Koreans value. They signal that he will remain ture to his responsibilities to his people and nation, in the same way his grandfather Kim Il Sung and father Kim Jong-il did. In a way, his work ethic is ironically mirrors the long hours of an investment banker keeps.

By keeping his own counsel and his silence, he will continue to flummox the outside world; these "virtues" will enhance his aura, as well as projecting him, in spite of his youth, as the unifying symbol of communal culture, political continuity, and improving the commonweal of the North Korean people.

US and South Korea sanctions and boycotts have failed. Unless these two countries and their allies began talking to Kim Jong-eun, he and his country will feed the gossipy press in the west and elsewhere, floating rumors which have no substantive basis.

A good start would be ending the 64-year-old Korean War with a peace treaty.

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