[Letters] Time for Seoul to switch North Korea policy

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[Letters] Time for Seoul to switch North Korea policy

In time for the centennial celebration of Kim Il Sung’s birth on April 15, Pyongyang is likely to hold the Party leadership conference and install Kim Jong-un as the General Secretary. North Korea is under the party-state system with the Military First policy, and has been under the interim leadership of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party headed by Vice Chairman Kim Jong-un. North Korea would switch to a normal socialist state led by the Workers’ Party.

In the Kim Jong-un era, Pyongyang is likely to pursue a strategy to distinguish itself from former regimes by prioritizing economy through technological development. However, just as Kim Jong-un’s public inspection of the nuclear unit has shown, he will never give up the nuclear program - as seen in its latest plan to shoot another long-range rocket into orbit - which is publicized as the biggest accomplishment of Kim Jong-il.

By continuing to develop the missiles, Pyongyang aims to complete its nuclear capacity to deter the United States and be recognized as a nuclear power. At the same time, it will pursue normalization of relations with the United States while pressuring it to withdraw its forces from Korea and advocate peaceful reunification without intervention of external powers.

In order to prevent the system from crumbling in the post-cold war era following the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Eastern European communist bloc, Kim Jong-il had to rule the country under emergency. He acted to surmount struggles such as the Arduous March and bestow an economically solid country to his son, Kim Jong-un. He had thought that introducing Chinese-style reform and opening would not pose a threat to the system any more.

Once Kim Jong-un receives full authority, he is likely to promote more drastic polices to salvage the economy and will augment military strength at the same time in order to prevent dissatisfaction and defection of the North Korea residents. The focus on the economy has been supported by Pyongyang’s natural resources development, boost on light industry and construction and efforts to expand economic cooperation with China. These signs may be the background for Seoul to switch its North Korean policy to one of reconciliation and cooperation.

by Jung Gyung-young, a professor of military studies at Seokyeong University

* Letters and commentaries for publication should be addressed “Letters to the Editor.” E-mailed letters should be sent to eopinion@joongang.co.kr.
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