Politics of parade
On October 19, North Korea celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Workers’ Party with a military parade at Kim Il Sung Square. After the 25-minute speech by first secretary Kim Jong-un, I spoke with a number of people. First, I met with a North Korean defector who analyzes North Korean affairs. The source, who asked to remain anonymous, said that he was astonished by the speech that contained the word “people” 97 times. He said he’d never heard this expression when he was in the North.
What is Kim Jong-un’s intention? The source has frequent contact with his family in the North and is knowledgeable in the current situation, and considers it “a part of propaganda.” When North Korea declared a quasi state of war after the landmine and shelling incident in August, the authorities had the residents hide in underground tunnels.
After the August 25 agreement, Pyongyang claimed it had pressured the South to remove the loudspeakers and prevented a war without firing a single shot. Residents who were frightened by the event expected a gift for the occasion, so authorities offered flattery instead as they didn’t have the financial means to give out generous gifts.
Another North Korea intelligence specialist recommended paying attention to the air show. The airplane that displayed number 70 and the party flag of a sickle, hammer and brush was an AN-2 propeller plane. It was developed in the Soviet Union 68 years ago in 1947, almost as old as the Workers’ Party. It can be used for sneak attacks by carrying 8 to 12 light infantrymen for guerilla warfare.
According to another source, Pyongyang practiced the air show with AN-2 and other aircrafts since August 25, but jets were not found. While the armed forces get priority in provisions, they don’t seem to have the capacity to operate radar, not to mention aircraft fuel for the practices. So Kim Jong-un has to repeatedly shout out “people.”
A Chinese scholar studying North Korea pointed out that the politics and economics of the parade should be distinguished. The military parade mobilized more than 20,000 soldiers, proof that Kim Jong-un has politically dominated the party, government and military and maintains stable rule. However, the “people” remark presents the issues Kim Jong-un is faced with. In order to maintain power, he has to attain economic growth for stability and secure military strength to maintain security. This is the justification for his parallel pursuit of nuclear arms and economy.
Kim did not mention “nuclear program” in the speech, but that doesn’t mean the nuclear issue has been resolved. However, it also means few countries will invest in North Korea as long as it threatens the world with nuclear weapons.
Moreover, there are no signs of a resolution of nuclear tension. Chinese diplomats say the United States lacks energy, China lacks motivation, Korea lacks competency and North Korea lacks trust. However, he said that problems arise from a common misunderstanding that North Korean’s problem is only about the nuclear program. Many fail to notice that Kim Jong-un has to focus on the economy as much as nuclear weapons in order to maintain power. So, North Korean nuclear issues may be a problem for the United States, but South Korea should think differently. South Korea needs to reach out to North Korea, a partner for peace, stability and reunification of the Korean Peninsula. It is reasonable to discuss nuclear issues once the economic situation improves.
To address urgent economic issues, Kim Jong-un has to ask Korea for help, other than China. There are many win-win opportunities, such as the Kaesong Industrial Complex expansion, a second industrial complex project and investment in infrastructure such as railways.
President Park Geun-hye is visiting the United States. She needs to discuss strategies to induce North Korea’s changes based on politics and economics for peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 15, Page 32
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Chae In-taek