A line that's too hardIn the Supreme People’s Assembly on Wednesday, North Korea crowned its leader Kim Jong-un as head of the newly-established State Affairs Commission. The decision testifies to the finalization of a power structure for Kim’s rule through the “supreme policy guidance body” to govern the country. Following his promotion in May to the post of the chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party, the coronation will help Kim consolidate his one-man rule over the party as well as the new governing body.
The State Affairs Commission is an expanded organ of the National Defense Commission — so far the North’s most powerful state organ.
Members of the new commission are Hwang Pyong-so, director of the General Political Bureau of the People’s Army; Choe Ryong-hae, a vice chairman of the Workers’ Party Central Committee; and Pak Pong-ju, Cabinet Prime Minister. The launch of the commission representing the military, the party and the cabinet represents Chairman Kim’s intention to directly control not only the country’s military affairs but also its policies toward South Korea and foreign countries — all buoyed by the confidence the North gained after a series of nuclear and missile tests over the past few years.
In particular, the appointments of Ri Su-yong, the vice chairman of the party and former foreign minister, and Ri Yong-ho, a former vice foreign minister and a seasoned diplomat well known to foreigners, in the 8-membered commission’s foreign relations division are an apparent attempt to reinforce the North’s diplomatic offensives in its dealing with the international community by making the North’s new status as a nuclear power a fait accompli.
What also attracts our attention is the elevation of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland — in the past, simply an outside organization of the United Front Department of Central Committee of the Workers’ Party — to an official state apparatus. North Korea attached significance to the elevation by reporting it as a top story on Thursday’s edition of Rodong Sinmun. In the article, the North said it is aimed at pushing forward a sacred struggle to open a bright future of unification and prosperity.
The statement reflects the North’s stern will to buttress its peace and dialogue offensive toward the South in the spirit of “great ethnic harmony.” That raises a question about whether it is really appropriate for the government to stick to its hard-line “No denuclearization, no dialogue”
position even if Pyongyang came up with the peace offensive as part of its appeasement strategy. Our government needs to develop refined logic instead of a blind rejection. At the same time, the government needs to take a more strategic approach by separating the nuclear issues from inter-Korean exchanges.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jul. 1, Page 30