Pyongyang regime won’t last forever, says Obama

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Pyongyang regime won’t last forever, says Obama

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U.S. President Barack Obama talks about North Korea and its potential collapse during an interview with YouTube star Hank Green at the White House Thursday. [Screen capture from YouTube]

Defining North Korea as “the most isolated, the most sanctioned, the most cut-off nation on Earth,” U.S. President Barack Obama said Thursday that the regime will eventually collapse with the spread of information into the country with the help of the Internet.

Obama’s strong-worded remark made during an interview Thursday at the White House with three young YouTube personalities hinted at Washington’s desire for regime change in North Korea and its desire to hasten it through the Internet.

“It’s very hard to sustain that kind of brutal authoritarian regime in this modern world,” he said. “Information ends up seeping in over time and bringing about change. That’s something that we are constantly looking for ways to accelerate.”

But Obama, with two years left in office, brushed aside the military option to affect change inside the North, citing its one-million-strong army and the fear of a war on the peninsula.

“Our capacity to affect change in North Korea is somewhat limited because you’ve got a one-million-person army, and they have nuclear technologies and missiles ... The answer’s not going to be a military solution,” said Obama. He added that South Korea would be “severely affected” if war breaks out on the peninsula, where the United States has some 30,000 soldiers stationed.

Obama did not mention North Korea policy in his State of the Union address two days earlier. He did say that his government would make every effort to protect the country’s online networks, a clear reference to the hacking of Sony Pictures last year, which Obama and the FBI blamed squarely on Pyongyang.

Obama’s remarks last Thursday raised speculation that Washington may increase its financial assistance to civic groups in the South that have sent anti-North leaflets across the border in helium-filled balloons, examples of the offline penetration of information. Park Sang-hak, the defector-turned-activist who has led the campaign over the last 10 years, has warned that he would send copies of the movie “The Interview” on thumb drives in balloons if the North does not come to the negotiation table to thaw inter-Korean relations.

The Hollywood satirical comedy, with a plot about the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, angered Pyongyang last year, prompting it to threaten attacks on movie theaters that screen it. It did not carry out those threats.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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