Assessment of the situation in North Korea in the first half of 2017 And prospect with our response in the latter half

  1. Evaluation of North Korean situation in the first half of this year

 

  1. Internal Situation

1) Nuclear and Missile Development

0 During the first half of this year, North Korea did not conduct a nuclear test but conducted 8 missile tests.

In particular, after Moon Jae-in government, North Korea tested and launched Mars 12 and Polaris 2, which threatened Alaska in the States and then on May 29, carried out a ballistic missile test, which conducted almost within an interval of a week.

This is clear evidence that North Korea’s nuclear and missile outposts are considerably speeding up.

0 North Korea did not conduct the nuclear test in the first half of the year; but after on April 25, after the report of US Carl Vinson aircraft carrier heading toward the Korean Peninsula, North Korea publicly protested her will by conducting a large fire exercise in Wonsan, that she would strike metropolitan area of South Korea with long-range guns on the truce line, in case where the North Korean nuclear and missile bases were preemptively attacked.

After fire exercise with the long-range guns, growing assertion of the need for made by CNN and American media that if the United States were to preemptively attack North Korea, he would have to calculate an ‘acceptable risk’, such kind of calculations worked well to some level.Especially, if we look at four main strategies by Trump administration spoken on May 25 by Joseph Yun, the State Department’s special representative for North Korea Policy- not recognizing North Korea as a nuclear state, imposing every possible sanction and pressure, not seeking a regime change and resolving the problem with conversation in the end- it shows ‘preemptive strike theory’ is getting weaker and ‘guaranteeing North Korean regime, freeze of conversation’ is gradually arising within the States.0 For the first half of the year, Kim Jong-un utilized achievements on missiles, etc. for internal unity and continued to exert pressure on South Korea and the United States by ordering missile tests and mass production. In short, looking at Kim Jong-un’s behavior, we know he already secured nuclear weapons to attack against the South and now is in hurry of actual deploy of the nuclear weapons in the early stage for the attack against the United States. 2) Politics0 In the first half of this year, as turning of Kim Il Sung’s 105th birthday, Kim Jong-un has strengthened its internal unity through parade and crowd demonstration, the 13th session 5th meeting of the Supreme People’s Congress, and by restoring the Foreign Relations Committee at the Supreme People’s Assembly he prepared a new framework to break through the diplomatic sanctions against North Korea and strengthen parliamentary diplomacy. It is judged that North Korea’s revival of the Supreme People’s Assembly Foreign Relations Committee in April is affected by the influence of Ri Su-yong, who was previously a foreign minister and became the Deputy Chairman.The fact that Ri Su-yong, who likes busy overseas visit, handing over his foreign minister position to Ri Yong-ho is not different from resigning from the diplomatic front line; but it seems Kim Jong-un, considering special relation with Ri Su-yong, took side with his assertion of going overseas when North Korea is in a difficult situation either at home or abroad.  0 On this occasion of the 105th anniversary of Kim Il-sung’s birthday Kim Jong-un’s re-releasing Kim Wong-hong, who was the national security officer, is judged to be a measure to quash the continuous, uneasy rumors of purge and execution of cadreman and to consolidate the internal bond.

However, also in the first half of this year, Kim Jong-un did not present any special policy that could improve the reality of North Korea.

The 13th Session of the 5th conference of the Supreme People’s Assembly ended helplessly without any policy proposals.

Kim Jong-un, who spoke boldly that ‘people will never have to tighten their belt again’ at the 100th the Day of the Sun event in 2012, might have felt his face was burning with embarrassment and did not even give an official speech this time.

In fact, it is because, for Kim Jong-un, except for the nuclear weapons and missiles, there are not so many policy outcomes to actually present.

3) Economy

0 Kim Jong-un emphasized in this year’s New Year’s speech that “the power, metal-chemical industry, and power industry should be at the forefront in the struggle for achieving the five-year economic goal.” However, the financial outcomes of North Korea during the first half of this year are nothing special other than the completion of the construction of Ryomyong Street.

0 Kim Jong-un, in his new year message, he emphasized, “We should concentrate our efforts on implementing the five-year strategy for national economic development… the electric-power, metallurgical and chemical industries should take the lead in the efforts to hit the targets of the economic strategy.”

However, during the first half this year, there is no economic profit significant other than construction of Ryomyong Street.

Even if we look at the level of the local guidance of Kim Jong-un, there is no electricity, metal, or chemical industry, and there are only factories for daily necessities or small factories for the production of food, such as pigs and mushrooms, consumer goods. 0 It is estimated that there has been a significant decrease in the foreign trade of North Korea during the first half of this year due to the fact that China set the upper limit on coal imports.On the other hand, as the market economy activities of the residents became more active, the ratio of the non-official economic sector of the North Korean economy seems to grow much larger. In the end, as Kim Jong-un focuses on the construction of a building exhibition idol, such as the construction of Ryomyong Street, to show he is breaking through the sanctions against North Korea, the construction of the infrastructure that needed to invest in becoming fragile and the imbalance of the economy seems to become more serious.  4) Society 0 The residents of North Korea, who were tormented by the “70-day battle” for preparation of the Seventh Party Congress, the “200-day battle” after the Seventh Party Congress, and restoration of flood-damaged areas in North Hamgyong Province etc. in the last year, were forced tense schedule and a life to prepare the military parade, crowd demonstration, completion of Ryomyong Street, etc. as welcoming Kim Il Sung’s 105th birth anniversary. In particular, as the tax burden of the residents increased for the completion of Ryomyong Street, resident’s complaints and fatigues have accumulated even more. Kim Jong-un’s setting up the party leadership team, examining the state security department and demoting of Kim Won-hong, seem like he was conscious of the resident’s dissatisfaction. A foreign tourist, who lately visited North Korea, photographed the verandah of the apartment of 30th floor or more on the Mirae Scientists Street (Future Scientist Street) with the telephoto lens and revealed the surprising fact that there are no residents living on the 30th floor or above.Even though Pyongyang City, where it cannot supply electricity except for two or three hours a day due to a shortage, constructed Mirae Scientists Street but residents do not live in there due to inconvenience; the construction of apartment with the 70th floor is truly a gap of the gap.

 

  1. External relations
  • In the first half of this year, the characteristics of North Korean diplomacy would be concentrating on setting up foreign environments to acquire the favorable position in the upcoming talks, taking Trump administration’s intensifying sanctions against North Korea and military threats and Korean presidential election, etc. into consideration.

 

Kim Jong-un, in his new year’s message, he clarified his position by saying “For as long as the nuclear threat and extortion from the US and its followers persist, and they do not put an end to their supposedly annual military exercises on our doorstep, we will continue strengthening our nuclear weapon-centered self-defense capabilities and preemptive strike capabilities”; and continued to develop nuclear weapons and missiles.

On the other hand, in May, he addressed the negotiations for “1.5 track” in Oslo to sound out the possibility of conversation with the United States under the framework of “nuclear freeze v. removal of sanctions.”

 

In the end, it can be seen that Kim Jong-un, during the past first half of the year, has focused on preliminary preparations on further strengthening the position of the nuclear power to prepare for an upcoming talk and converting future talks into nuclear disarmament talks.

2) In the first half of this year, the largest isolated phase was created due to the unexpected “Kim Jong-nam assassination incident”, but resolving the crisis with “Brinkmanship” and “Hostage Diplomacy” is the typical example that North Korea’s traditional “Brinkmanship” and “Madman Strategy” is working well.

3) In the first half of this year, North Korea failed to develop a foreign diplomacy through Ri Yong-ho, the Foreign Minister, or Ri Su-yong, the vice chairman of the worker’s party, and the relations with China have also severely deteriorated. North Korea and China’s official media to have the most intensive condemnation in the history is the evidence that North Korea currently has considerable discontentment toward China.  In particular, there has not been a precedent when North Korea conducted Kim Il Sung’s 105th birth anniversary ceremony without the participation of the Chinese delegation, which shows the cross-section of North Korea’s shrinking diplomacy; the fact that Wu Dawei, China’s Representative for North Korean Nuclear Affairs, could not visit North Korea during the first half of the year means that the DPRK is  preventing its conversation with China in the first half of the year. 4) During the first half of the year, the greatest achievement among the diplomacy against China that we can focus attention is German government’s banning North Korean Embassy in its own country from government office building lease business.  For North Korea, which has been supplementing many sectors of its diplomatic budget, Europeans nations’ putting brakes on North Korean lease business would be a big blow.

  1. Sector against South

During the first half of this year, in the direction of observing the results of the presidential election in the Republic of Korea, North Korea did not take any measures to resume conversation and it seems the “all stop” situation has continued.

North Korea continued to launch a preemptive nuclear strike and threaten to consume Seoul in a flaming inferno during the first half of the year and intensified its pressure to transform Korean sentiment into a conversation phase.

In particular, the fact that the Kim Jong-un conducted three missile tests even after the launch of Moon Jae-in government is a strategy for Moon Jae-in government not to make “priority of denuclearization” as a precondition for resuming conversation in the South-North dialogue.

 

  1. Sectoral Characteristics of the Situation

1) Domestic Policy

In the first half of the year, the characteristic of Kim Jong-un’s domestic policy is that he put efforts to give prominence to the image of politics of loving people through the guidance of local people in the construction of Ryomyong Street, food factory and agriculture and stockbreeding field.

  • Foreign policy

In foreign relations, the relationship with China deteriorated, and there was no high-level diplomatic interaction between China and North Korea, except for the visit of vice-Foreign Minister Ri Gil-song, and in particular, it is a very exceptional incident that North Korean and Chinese mass media engaged in condemnation. And having not many diplomatic tours by high-level officials shows current shrunk North Korean diplomacy.

 

  • Policy toward the South

In the past, North Korea has combined the anti-south pressure attack, South-South conflict inducement, and counterfeit peace offensive for improvement of the public image, but it is noteworthy that there have been not many counterfeit peace offensives during the first half of this year.

  1. Prospect of North Korea in the Second Half
  2. Domestic Situation

1) Nuclear and Missile Policy

North Korea’s domestic and foreign environment

0 During the last year since the fourth nuclear test in 2016, North Korea has faced unprecedented sanctions.

Kim Jong-un also knows that North Korea will not be able to endure a long time if the North Korean sanction phase continues.

However, due to the characteristics of the North Korean regime, even if there is investment from outside and improvement in domestic and foreign environment, North Korea cannot catch up Korean economy and cannot recover economic and military gap between South and North.

0 North Korea knows that there is no permanent peaceful coexistence of the Korean Peninsula and sees the only way to preserve everlasting peaceful coexistence is to possess nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile that would guarantee permanent peaceful coexistence.

0 Looking at the trend of the prefectural population decline, by 2030, North Korea will have difficulty in guaranteeing one million armed forces.At last, Kim Jung-un thinks he will die if he abandons nuclear weapons and missiles.Even if the United States and Korea promise to ensure the regime of North Korea, she will not believe it.0 Until the end of 2017, Kim Jong-un is going to speed up the actual launch of nuclear weapons by any means.0 Even after the launch of Democratic Party regime, the reason for continuing missile provocation is because North Korea thinks Moon Jae-in government’s policy toward North Korea is not fundamentally different from that of the previous conservative government’s policy.0 At present, the greatest interest of North Korea Kim Jong-un regime is, as the only means of stabilizing the regime, to obtain the status of the nuclear power through dialogue and negotiation by taking advantage from the inauguration of the new government, and to ease the sanctions against North Korea. 0 North Korea will continue to push ahead South-North interaction and cooperation, conversation with new Korean government in the upcoming days based on the principle of “uriminjokkiri (among our people, or our nation ourselves)”; and for the nuclear issue, North Korea will likely come up with strategy of negotiating and reaching agreement with the United States in the sense of the same nuclear power. 0 North Korea, based on such a strategy, has the potential to seek alienation between Korean- American relations by taking the opportunity of the launch of a new government and moreover, there is a possibility of seeking alienation between Korean-American relations by utilizing the change in Korean-Chinese relations. 0 If the situation does not go along with her intention, in accordance with the strategy of “Theory of non-working sanctions”, there is a possibility that North Korea will conduct its 6th nuclear test or ICBM firing test to put more pressure on new Korean government. 0 North Korea is hoping Moon Jae-in government to take the “crisis management strategy” in response to “madmen strategy”; and, in a situation where strengthened sanctions against North Korea has not been effective, North Korea would support to assert to the States that to solve the problem by dialogue and negotiation.0 In this case, there would be a situation in which potential divergence of opinion between Korean-American arises and in the end, it is calculated as putting into rupture on North Korea sanctions and the Trump regime’s hard-line policy against North Korea. 0 However, despite the persistent demands of the Kim Jong-un, the actual deployment of the ICBM in North Korea technically is expected to be unaccomplished during this year.In the end, as it approaches the end of 2017, North Korea should make a strategic decision whether to continue its nuclear and missile launch by 2018 or to turn back to a dialogue phase starting from 2018. In fact, North Korea has put everything into nuclear and missile development and there was meaningful progress but it should be regarded that nuclear development is considerably going slow.

 

2) Politics

0 North Korea will further strengthen its control over its residents through idolization and fearful governance for internal unity in the second half of the year. A year in North Korea is connected with revolutionary holidays, and by using these holidays, North Korea annoys its residents and making them be undistracted by any.

In the second half of the North Korean political calendar, it is thought that the pinnacle would be “International Festival in Praise to the Great Persons of Mt. Paektu”, which will be progressed upon 8.15 (Korean National Liberation Day). North Korea is having an extraordinary event in August because it is the best time to invite pro-North Korea diplomatic guests for August is the vacation time.

In the second half of the year, Kim Jong-un is expected to further strengthen internal loyalty competition while strengthening control over internal executives with the goal of removing corruption, authority and bureaucracy.

  • Economy

In the second half of the year, it is expected to concentrate on leading economic sector and solving energy issue as presented in the seventh Party Congress and this year’s New Year’s Day speech, the whole Party would devote its energy to the construction of the Dancheon power plants.

As a means to control the residents, North Korea has always demanded the nationwide construction, and in the latter half of the year, it seems she would devote its energy to the construction of the Dancheon power plants.

And it is also expected that the export of coal and minerals will be increased through smuggling at all costs to show off “theory of sanctions against North Korea uselessness”, while the increase of human resources and the expansion of tourism resources will be promoted. In particular, it is expected that tourism on border area will be promoted even more. 0 In order to stabilize the lives of residents, unofficial economic activities through the local/black market (Jangmadang) will continue to be tolerated. B. Outside 1)      While observing Trump administration’s policies against North Korea, North Korea would continue the quest for seeking to have conversation within the framework of Nuclear Freeze v. Appeasement of sanctions against North Korea If the United States proposes a conversation within the framework of nuclear freeze v. appeasement of sanctions, North Korea will initiate negotiations to conclude a peace treaty and propose a replacement plan that includes removal of sanctioning North Korea as well as starting aid; regarding the denuclearization debate, she would lay aside denuclearization issue by asserting to discuss after forming trust through appeasement of the sanctions and conclusion of the peace treaty.

0 In other words, before munitions industry department presents a guarantee of complete nuclear weapons deployments to Kim Jong-un, there would be no agreement reached between North Korea and the United States.

After all, while North Korea would have a conversation with the United States, she would incline to mere perfunctory aspects to buy time and discuss the content of the agreement only after the nuclear deployment is complete.

0 The North Korean Worker’s Party has proposed a “red line” in which she already participates the conference center of the ministry of foreign affairs as the status of nuclear power, and the conference needs to be strictly about nuclear disarmament talks.

2) In the second half of the year, North Korea’s most troubled relationship with the outside world will be with China. North Korea needs to have good relations with China for the survival of the regime but in order to alleviate China’s pressure, she would propose to China for suspension of Korean-American joint military exercises with THAAD deployment and appeasement of sanctions against North Korea.

In the end, if China cannot satisfy North Korea’s demands, North Korea would continue to thrust China to appease the sanctions.

3) North Korea will revitalize its cooperation with Russia in order to weaken China’s influence on interfering North Korea, and here, joint use of Rason port and expansion of sending labor forces to Russia would become an important sector.

4) At the same time, in order for North Korea not to show the isolated situation of North Korea, they would continue their diplomatic relations with the traditionally allied countries and seek to appease the cooperating on sanctions against North Korea through the diplomatic tour by high-level officials.

  1. South-North relations

1) Before the nuclear combat arrangement, since North Korea will continue the nuclear weapon heightening policy, the tense situation between South-North relation will continue. However, since the Democrat government was established, she would be careful with local provocation like the last time.  2) In the second half of the year, as making noise about ending the confrontational policies and implementing the 6.15 proclamation, North Korea would also strengthen counterfeit peace offensive and urge cooperation between South and North Korea with aid to North Korea in the spirit of  “uriminjokkiri (among our people, or our nation ourselves.)”In the words, North Korea’s position would be to assert that the nuclear issue and improvement of inter-Korean relations are a different matter and to be “naturally acknowledged as nuclear power” in a way that promotes inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation. 3. Our response In the second half of the year, relationship with North Korea for the next five years depends on what kind of North Korean policy the new government uses.

  1. The new government must clarify the fact that the emergence of Democrat government does not necessarily give an advantage for North Korea.

The fact that candidate Moon Jae-in has been elected as a president is not because “South Korean people have made their stern judgment on Park Geun-hye government’s anti-North Korean policy” as North Korea asserted and that the current domestic sentiment in Korea does not unconditionally support previous Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun governments “Sunshine Policy.”

Indeed, in this presidential election, many voters did not much consider Candidate Moon’s North Korea policy and Moon Jae-in did not even present the clear “Roadmap” regarding the North Korea policy.

What we need to watch out is this presidential election result could give confidence to Kim Jong-un in North Korea for his nuclear initiative and may open a possibility of taking the position that is more aggressive.

Kim Jong-un regime in North Korea will never give up nuclear weapons.

Even if the new government reaches an agreement with North Korea for suspension of nuclear and missile tests, that agreement will break down in someday and in such case, Moon Jae-in government may face a major difficulty in the political situation and products in domestic politics could be diluted by the failure of North Korea policy.

Therefore, we should clearly define the principles from the beginning and along with “principles and strategies”, we must move forward step by step rather than a rapid movement of inter-Korean relations. Being hasty is highly prohibited.

  1. We should open interaction and cooperation with North Korea’s civilian level but must maintain international cooperation on sanctioning North Korea until North Korea returns to nuclear negotiations.

After Moon Jae-in government took over, the world is on the alert for whether South Korea and the United States’ policy against North Korea could correspond or not.

  • The new government must clearly indicate that the emergence of a Moon Jae-in government is not a weakening of the Korea-US alliance, but rather a strengthening of the alliance.

0 If there is conflict made due to the difference in opinion on the THAAD deployment problem, the United States, as President Trump has mentioned, would request Korea to expand the share expenses related to THAAD deployment and management, and Korea would weigh again the advantages and disadvantages of economic burden with security benefits associated with THAAD deployment.

In this way, the issue of THAAD deployment could not result into strengthening but to weakening of Korean and US alliance, by any possibility, North Korea might misjudge the current situation and could make to engage in reckless provocation.

The new government is expected to harmonize Trump’s “maximum pressure and involvement” with the new government’s “engagement policy”, and “carrot and stick” policy through clear labor division between the United States and Korea, should make more effective policy against North Korea and take the initiative in North Korea policy.

The United States has made it clear that he is considering military options, and strongly pressured North Korea through China that blocked North Korea from launching its sixth nuclear test or intercontinental ballistic missile test in April.  0 The new government, which has the will to actively negotiate with North Korea, must immediately share labor work with the United States.If the new government first destroys current situation in which it needs to maintain international cooperation against North Korea, it would be difficult to promote the denuclearization of North Korea in the future; and South Korea may lose the initiative in North Korea policy and in the process of denuclearization. We should note that the voice called “Korea Passing” is often echoing. 0 We should carefully re-examine whether to bring up the wartime control, etc. which the discussion has been just started.  2)  Renegotiating the deal with Japan over Japanese military sexual slaves should not be the opportunity to weaken the sanctions against North Korea or create a new diplomatic conflict between Korea and Japan. However, at this point is the time to gather power for sanctions against North Korea. C. Conflicts with China over the THAAD deployment issue must be resolved. China would penetrate into a gap in case disagreement arises between Moon Jae-in government and Trump administration for defense burden sharing or THAAD cost sharing.In addition, by emphasizing, “Running parallel with conversation and sanctions” in the policy of North Korea, China would lessen the burden to put pressure on North Korea; and on the other hand, China would try to revert the center of solving the North Korean nuclear issue to China again.It is uncommon that China has said to North Korea, “it is sufficient to negotiate with the United States with the nuclear assets that are already attained.”

0 The new government ought to make a thorough connection to the withdrawal of THAAD with progress on denuclearization of North Korea on the grounds that it is difficult to undo THAAD issue because it was already agreed with the United States in previous administration; and problem is directly linked to the security of the USFK in Korea and if the denuclearization of North Korea is realized, the issue would automatically withdraw.

We must pay attention to the fact that China has weakened its resistance of THAAD as the United States’ pressure increased after the launch of Trump administration.

0 The Parliamentary agreement on the placement of THAAD on Korean peninsula should also be directed toward irreversible THAAD development process.

We must ensure that we would not utilize THAAD operation or further the Korea-US Alliance to make “regional alliance” aiming at China.

The new government must demonstrate a leading and independent attitude to say what we have to say and we must make it clear that it is against morals of international diplomacy for China to face Korean security issues with economic problems and it violates international law and tariffs, trade-related provisions.

  1. We should not hurry the resumption of Kaesong Industrial Complex but deal as a matter of principle.

0 Looking Kaesong Industrial Complex from a common-sense standpoint, in a sense of two countries in hostile relationships pursuing joint interests at the border, it should have resolved hostile relations and contribute to peacebuilding and we have to seriously examine whether the operation of the Kaesong Industrial Complex contributed to constructing the peace regime of Korean Peninsula.

0 We must re-examine from the human rights point of view, whether the existing wage payment system to the workers was bad practices.

Regarding the problem of the reopening of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, we must thoroughly adhere to the principle.
The operation of the Kaesong Industrial Complex does not directly contradict the UN Security Sanctions Proposal but entire world including the United States, has tightened its funding resources against North Korea; and in a situation where there is no important change in North Korea’s attitude, unconditionally restarting the Kaesong Industrial Complex will be a heavy burden to the Moon Jae-in government.

It is necessary to declare that there needs to be a policy of returning to the denuclearization of North Korea in order to declare re-operation of Kaesong Industrial Complex.

In North Korea, this is expressed as “word for word pledge”.

What we have to watch out for is we should not let declaring the freeze of nuclear and missile tests happen in place of resumption of Kaesong Industrial Complex.In this case, it becomes “word for action” pledge.

If Moon Jae-in government pushes resumption of Kaesong Industrial Complex from the beginning of his term, this could come into conflict with the United States’ concept of “maximum pressure and engagement” and become different opinion that is important between Korea-US. The new government must first clearly state that North Korea should show a meaningful attitude toward denuclearization and peacebuilding of the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea is trying to change the pre-existing framework of “denuclearization first, conversation later” to “conversation first, denuclearization later”The new government should not be entangled in here.The resumption of the Kaesong Industrial Complex without principle would hurt the United States’ diplomatic recommendations to suspend the commercial exchanges with North Korea on a global scale.We should not acknowledge the current North Korea nuclear address and not be involved in North Korea ‘s strategy of approaching to be the nuclear power “quietly, naturally, and rightfully”.We must not appease sanctions or resume Kaesong industrial complex as an immediate exchange of declaration of suspending nuclear testing, not obtaining a declaration on denuclearization recovery.What we have to watch out at this point is, the assertion that goes around saying, “If North Korea accepts a nuclear freeze, then the international community must additionally take measures to mitigate the sanctions against North Korea.”In the end, this assertion is nothing but giving the position of a nuclear power by accepting North Korea’s current nuclear address. E. Rather than making efforts to resume Kaesong Industrial Complex or Mt. Geumgang tourism, it is necessary to prioritize private sector and cultural exchanges that North Korea will respond to. We could try a private level exchange, such as the reunion of separated families at Thanksgiving, participation of North Korean team at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, joint discovery and management of historic sites, aid of forestry in North Korea, religious groups, exchange of arts groups with disabilities, etc.