This week’s ‘Latest from North Korea’ analyzes content from ‘Rodong Sinmun’, the Workers’ Party of Korea’s official newspaper and ‘Uriminzokkiri‘, the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea’s official website, from Monday, December 3rd to Sunday, December 9th.
Based on the analysis of North Korean media, it seems no decision has been made on whether or not Kim Jong Un will visit Seoul.
Thus, it seems unlikely that Kim Jong Un will visit Seoul within the coming week.
My argument is based on the following reasoning.
First, if Kim Jong Un’s visit to South Korea was decided internally, Kim Jong Un should have visited Xi Jinping this week to notify China, and to establish strategies for his visit to South Korea.
The only report of Kim Jong Un’s public activity this week was the inspection of the Wonsan Shoes Factory, reported Rodong Sinmun article on December 3rd.
Kim Jong Un was not present at the state funeral although it was for Kim Chol Man, a member of the ‘glorious anti-Japanese armed struggle’ on Wednesday in Pyongyang.
Kim’s absence at the function made me wonder if he was visiting China. However, after seeing Ri Yong Ho, North Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs, met Xi Jinping in China following his visit to Vietnam and Syria, it seemed clearer that Kim Jong Un was not visiting China.
It is customary for the leaders of China and North Korea to meet and exchange their views before significant political events that affect the Korean peninsula, such as the normalization of diplomatic relations between China and South Korea, and the June 15th North–South Joint Declaration occur.
Case in point: Kim Jong Un visited Xi Jinping in March to discuss the upcoming summit and strategies they needed to agree upon, before the inter-Korean Summit took place in April 2018.
Accordingly, if Kim Jong Un had decided to come to Seoul, he should have met Xi Jinping first to notify him about his visit to Seoul. However, since Kim has not visited Xi, it seems that Kim has not made his mind up yet.
Second, if Kim Jong Un’s reciprocal visit to Seoul has been decided in North Korea, all ministries and departments would put all their effort and time into preparing for the visit. However, Ri Yong Ho, Minister of Foreign Affairs, went to Mongolia after his visit to China, while Kim Yong Nam has not returned from his visit to Cuba yet.
This clearly shows that related ministries and departments of North Korea are not preparing for Kim Jong Un’s visit to South Korea.
Third, Uriminzokkiri went silent this week, without making any reports about the welcoming atmosphere towards Kim Jong Un in South Korea.
This is unusual, since up to last week, Uriminzokkiri had continuously reported on the activities of various welcoming committees and leftists who welcome Kim Jong Un’s visit, while this week it suddenly stopped reporting on issues related to the possible visit.
If the United Front Department of North Korea which is responsible for interactions with South Korea, had decided to prepare for Kim Jong Un’s visit to Seoul, it would have for propaganda purposes, selectively reported on pro-North Korean activists in Seoul who welcome Kim Jong Un.
Despite Kim Jong Un’s visit to South Korea being a hot topic of debate in Seoul, Uriminzokkiri only continuously publishes articles arguing that South Korea should implement the Panmunjom Declaration and Pyongyang Joint Declaration of September 2018.
North Korea would be requesting the South Korean government guarantees for high levels of security and strong regulation against anti-Kim Jong Un protesters that might hinder the deification of Kim Jong Un in any shape or form.
However, I am sure that the South Korean government would have made it clear that while it can guarantee the necessary level of security, it is not possible to completely ensure that no anti-Kim Jong Un protests would happen in Seoul.
It would be difficult for North Korea to accept the comparatively “lax” level of security in South Korea because even in North Korea where Kim Jong Un’s safety is guaranteed, they have multiple layers of security surrounding Kim.
Considering the circumstances in North Korea at the moment, it might be difficult for Kim Jong Un to visit Seoul within this year.
In my opinion, if Kim Jong Un comes to Seoul to experience the liberal democratic system and visits the National Cemetery to pay a silent tribute, his visit could contribute in healing the deep rift between the North and South that has lasted for decades and bring-forth a new era of reconciliation and cooperation for the Korean peninsula.
If Kim Jong Un visits Seoul, he would not visit by himself.
Let’s show Kim Jong Un and hundreds of his personnel, including the ‘third floor secretariat’, the power of South Korea and its liberal democracy!