Return to our sensesIn an alarming turn, tension between South and North Korea is rapidly rising after Pyongyang threatened to dispatch propaganda leaflets to South Korea and began installing loudspeakers along the tense border. The tension is partly fueled by a group of North Korean defectors’ dispatching of leaflets to North Korea. Whether the act of sending leaflets to the North belongs in the realm of freedom of speech might need a national conversation. But dispatching them and immediately publicizing it is a slightly different issue because it can provoke North Korea in ways that are hard to predict. That makes the sending of the leaflets a brazen opposition to rapprochement between Seoul and Pyongyang.
It was also found that North Korea started reinstalling over 40 propaganda speakers along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which it dismantled after the 2018 Panmunjom Declaration between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. North Korea warned that it had prepared 12 million propaganda leaflets and more than 3,000 balloons in reaction to leaflets sent from South Korea.
If North Korea kicks off psychological warfare, South Korea cannot just sit on its hands. Seoul will be forced to resume broadcasting through its own loudspeakers on the DMZ.
After tensions rose, Seoul and Washington are preparing for additional provocations from North Korea, as seen in the flights of the Global Hawk, an unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, and Beechcraft RC-12 Guardrail, a special U.S. aerial surveillance plane. North Korea could carry out an ICBM or SLBM launch sooner or later. The Ministry of National Defense detected signs of North Korea preparing for such a launch over the last two months. That means an end to the Moon Jae-in administration’s persistent endeavor to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula through a vigorous rapprochement.
Despite different approaches on how to deal with North Korea and various urgent issues, most specifically denuclearization, one can hardly dispute the need to avert an armed clash between the two countries. No one wants to relive the 1950-53 Korean War.
Recent developments on the peninsula are ringing alarm bells. Last Saturday, the North Korean Embassy in Moscow issued a statement warning Washington of the “end of the United States” as North Korea possesses nuclear weapons. We hope that is pure bluster. If inter-Korean sentiments worsen, no one knows what will happen. An overly sensitive reaction to one thing or another could lead to catastrophe. Both sides must return to their senses before it is too late.