Balloons to Attack?

(Lee Jae-won/Reuters)

Within the past couple of months, there seems to be a new feeling of openness towards the international community in North Korea:

  •   In July, North Korean state-run television showed footage of unapproved costumed versions of Tigger, Minnie Mouse and other Disney characters prancing in front of the new leader, Kim Jong-Un.
  •  Back in early September, North Korea and Japan held their first talks for the first time in four years.
  •  With the recent boom of popularity of “Gangnam style” by Psy, the North Korean government drew imagery from this highly successful pop video to poke fun at a South Korean presidential candidate.
  • North Korea and China signed agreements to push forward their joint development of economic zones.
  • North Korea opens its first foreign-funded university in 2010.

Whether this openness can be measured through instances of Western influence on the media or through a relative diplomatic détente with several other countries, the relations specifically between North and South Korea remains strained and tense, if not more heightened than ever. North Korea has demonstrated that they are not afraid to launch an attack on South Korea in response to any military threat. In the past, this response occurred whenever the South Korean army and US had joint-military exercises or South Korean military drills were deemed too close to the North-South Korea borders on land or sea.

As South Korea remains politically sensitive right now due to its upcoming presidential elections in December, relations with North Korea remain uncertain. Current President Lee Myung-bak maintained a reciprocal policy, which links Seoul’s aid to the denuclearization of the North. He recognized that his liberal predecessors’ unconditional aid to Pyongyang was diverted only to strengthen its military and to aggravate starvation.

North and South Korea have consistently threatened each other militarily, causing an escalation of belligerent commentaries. On October 19th, North Korea violently threatened to attack South Korea if activists proceeded with its anti-North Korea propaganda campaign. These activists, mostly led by North Korean defectors, aim to send propaganda balloons/leaflets to North Korea on within a few days. Activists have done this before, but the responses from North Korea were not as violent in the past.

The successor of Lee Myung-bak will have the job to reduce the tensions between the North and South before their diplomatic relations can be restored.  In order to achieve unification, South Korean administrations must have some consistency in its North Korean policies. As of now, we can see North Korea becoming a little bit more involved with the international community, but still unwilling to patch things up with South Korea. Hopefully, as North Korea gets more involved, it’ll soon become less aggressively involved with South Korea.


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