It’s all up to Kim Jong-unNorth Korean leader Kim Jong-un allegedly said, “I don’t want to let my children live under the weight of nuclear weapons.” On Friday, Andrew Kim, the former head of the CIA’s Korea Mission Center, detailed what he heard from the North Korean leader during his trip to Pyongyang last April with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. According to the former CIA official, Kim Jong-un made the remarks after saying, “I am also a father and a husband.”
No parent would turn a blind eye to the future of their children. Kim, the supreme leader of North Korea and chairman of the paramount State Affairs Commission, is no exception. His remarks are more powerful than any promises he has made in regard to the denuclearization of the recalcitrant state. As he allegedly admitted, North Koreans, including his children, must live under the constant fear of a U.S. invasion unless he gives up his nuclear program.
North Korea had to make unbearable sacrifices in return for its relentless push for nuclear development, as countless people died of severe hunger and starvation. The fact that the average height of North Koreans is up to 7.9 centimeters (3 inches) shorter than their Southern counterparts is surely related to the sacrifices they have had to endure in exchange for their leader’s unceasing nuclear ambition.
Yet the road to prosperity will open to the impoverished nation if Kim makes a very wise and bold decision this time around. The international community, including South Korea and the United States, is ready to help out as long as Pyongyang takes sincere steps toward denuclearization. In fact, on Thursday the White House announced a willingness to consider plans to help draw foreign investment to the cash-starved nation, modernize its outdated infrastructure and augment its food security along with many other incentives.
If Pyongyang really takes that path, Seoul will certainly roll up its sleeves to develop North Korea’s lethargic economy. If North Korea is genuinely committed to denuclearization, the Moon Jae-in administration will immediately resume operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex and Mount Kumgang tours, as well as accelerate inter-Korean exchanges.
When that happens, it would be in line with U.S. President Donald Trump’s hopes on Twitter that “North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Jong-un, will become a great Economic Powerhouse.”
Whether Kim will bring prosperity to North Korean children or leave fear and poverty is totally up to the decisions he makes in Vietnam.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 25, Page 30
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