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Kim Jong-un Wants to be Enemies With Seoul

In the year 2000, then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and South Korean President Kim Dae-jung signed a joint declaration initiating a “Sunshine Policy” of openness between the North and the South. His successor, Roh Moo-hyun, followed suit.

However, according to Sean King, Senior Vice President of consultancy firm Park Strategies, “the next two [conservative] presidents reversed course—pulling back on dialog with, and aid for, Pyongyang, while also tightening sanctions over the North’s sinking of the South’s Cheonan naval corvette in 2010 and its weapons programs.”

South Korea’s current president, Moon Jae-in, is more liberal and wants to resume dialogue with the North. But “the North’s much less interested in the South than it was then,” King said. “Pyongyang needs Seoul less these days, as it’s well past its famine and has a much stronger economy by earning hard currency the world over through licit and illicit means.”

“[North Korea] sees the South as an illegitimate colonial puppet and itself as Korea’s only true government for the entire peninsula,” King added.

King said North Korea is deliberately ignoring Seoul because it’s only interested in talks directly with the United States. However, “we, of course, tell Pyongyang that it must go through U.S. ally Seoul to get to us. But newly emboldened with nukes, Pyongyang now thinks it can go straight to Washington.”

Although the current South Korean president wants to open up dialogue with the North, that dialogue comes with conditions. The biggest of these is that the South wants North Korea to drop its nuclear program. North Korea dismissed the request as “nonsense.”

Kim isn’t willing to stop his nuclear program because he sees it as a bargaining chip in negotiations with Washington. His regime is also much less stable than his father’s, so he has something to prove to his peers as well as his enemies. Furthermore, allowing freedom of movement between the North and South could turn out to be of great harm to North Korea as people “vote with their feet” once they see how much better life is in the South than it is in the North.

 

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