Silence of Pyongyang

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Silence of Pyongyang

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On Dec. 18, the North Korean media remained quiet about South Korea. It was a day after the eighth protest rally in central Seoul demanding Park Geun-hye’s resignation. They clearly changed from a week before, offering major coverage on the protests and demands for impeachment. The state organ Rodong Sinmun’s stance changed noticeably. It focused on the fifth anniversary of former leader Kim Jong-il’s death. It might have been a special day as Pyongyang has been working to idolize the late leader.

But the North Korean media’s coverage of the protests and impeachment drastically decreased after the impeachment motion against Park passed on Dec. 9. Ever since the Choi Soon-sil scandal emerged, they focused on impeachment and protests, but after the vote, articles on them nearly disappeared.

A government official surmised that when it comes to events related to Kim Jong-il and Kim Il Sung, North Korea holds events not for a day but for more than a week. So authorities may be focusing on the fifth-year anniversary event with propaganda on the accomplishments of Kim Jong-il and his son Kim Jong-un.

We have to wait and see. North Korea had been harshly denouncing Park, and now that Park’s impeachment bill has passed, the regime has certainly achieved what it had hoped for. Pyongyang might be waiting for the Constitutional Court’s final decision. Or maybe Kim Jong-un has done a double take, concerned that the North Korean people might learn from the power of candlelights.

North Koreans have been coerced into being faithful to their leader and following the orders of authorities unconditionally. To them, the candles in Gwanghwamun could be a learning tool. After all, North Korea completely blocked news on the democratization wave that started in Tunisia in late 2010 and spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

At this juncture, some may view North Korea’s refrain from criticism as a problem. The movements of Kim Jong-un since last month suggest that we should be especially cautious. Kim Jong-un visited the West Sea and East Sea and encouraged tightened military readiness with gunfire, a Yeonpyeong Island attack plan and an aeronautics contest. On the day after the impeachment vote, Kim personally watched a Blue House strike drill.

South Korea and the United States have bolstered their surveillance and security posture and are closely watching North Korea’s movements. Since the sinking of the Cheonan warship on March 26, 2010, during a joint military exercise between South Korea and the United States, North Korea’s provocations could happen anytime, anywhere.

Pyongyang may have already finished a provocation plan. Barking dogs seldom bite. North Korea is good at surprise attacks when others are quiet and asleep. As impeachment is in progress, South Korea must never let itself be open to attack.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 19, Page 33


*The author is a political news reporter for the JoongAng Ilbo.

JEONG YONG-SOO

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