Kim must look to the future

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Kim must look to the future

We have mixed feelings after watching the closure of the 7th congress of the North Korean Workers’ Party in Pyongyang. Nothing has changed in the North except its declaration as a country with nuclear weapons. We wonder if the reclusive state has any willingness to join the international community as a mature member.

Most of the editorial in the state mouthpiece Rodong Shinmun on the morning of May 6, when the party congress convened, overlapped with its editorial 36 years back. The assessment of what the North has achieved — read by Kim Jong-un now crowned with the new title of chairman of Workers’ Party — was also a duplication of what his grandfather Kim Il Sung said in the 6th congress.

Granted that the party reaffirmed its platforms firmly based on the tenets of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong-un, did the current leader really have to reiterate a necessity for the country to embark on a “grand strife against aggressions — and interventions in domestic affairs — by imperialistic and domineering forces” even after borrowing the terms Kim Il Sung used to criticize the Soviet Union’s hegemony? Nearly three decades after the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the third-generation heir attempts to bring back the specter of world revolution.

If Kim clings to such unfathomably anachronistic world view quite reminiscent of the Cold War era, how can we deal with him from now on? There could be practical reasons for the 32-year-old leader with a history of studying in Switzerland to find it hard to embrace change. If he opts for a path toward reforms, it could immediately lead to a denial of the justification for his third-generation power succession.
But Kim must realize that seeking the public good for his people will only augment the feeble legitimacy of his power. In an era characterized by disappearance of ideologies, only economic development can win the people’s hearts. Nevertheless, the North is compulsively pouring all available resources to advancing nuclear weapons even when no country on earth threatens its regime.

Instead of using its precious resources to further develop nuclear arms, North Korea must invest in rejuvenating the economy Kim Jong-un described as “being in a poor state” in his address at the congress. If Kim only scraps his nuclear dreams, many countries, including South Korea, will heartily extend their hands. Kim must look to the future rather than adhering to the futile pursuit of nuclear weapons. He must aim for a brighter future in which his people praises a great leader for making them live in a better country — instead of galloping toward an uncertain future.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 11, Page 30
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