An Update on North Korea – Part 2

The question of how to bring about change in the aggressive course chosen by the North Korean leadership has become more complicated by recent events. First, there is the relatively minor but telling incident of the recent assassination of Kim Jong-Nam, the older half-brother of Kim Jong-Un, in a Malaysian airport. Although the investigation is on-going, it seems reasonable to assume the Kim regime is behind the poisoning. This is bad news for several reasons. Firstly, it shows the cruelty of Kim Jong-Un, who although he has killed family members before, seems to have had no ‘good’ reason to kill this half-brother. Unlike his uncle, this half-brother was no threat to his power, had no interest in the job of dictator and had not even been in North Korea for many years. The family secrets he knew had already been published in a book years ago, but as he had never met Kim Jong-Un, there was not much to write about him anyway.

Thus, it seems that apart from unreasonable paranoia, there could only be one motive for the murder, which is revanche. However, the risks associated with and the resources needed for a high-profile assassination like this are very considerable. Through this incident, the world has seen something of the depth of hatred, or possibly paranoia of Kim Jong-Un. Unfortunately, it has also become clear that Kim’s regime is capable of ordering and executing highly coordinated operations on foreign soil, involving multiple agents and forged identity documents. None of this is good news for those who hope that North Korea is mostly bluffing and can’t really do much or that Kim Jong-Un can be brought to reason or pacified by usual diplomacy.

However, there are other, bigger complicating factors. There is the collapse of South Korean leadership in recent months, the impeachment of president Park, months of mass protests and a lack of a uniting vision for dealing with North Korea. All of this coinciding with the unexpected election of president Trump has meant that South Korea is in a very bad position now to make far reaching decisions.

The new Trump administration itself has very little experience with sensitivities in this region and needs to build up knowledge and understanding as well as strengthen diplomatic relationships with Japan, South Korea, China and Russia. Although Trump had made some very worrying comments during his campaign, so far it seems he intends to stand by the allies, South Korea and Japan. In intending to install the THAAD missile shield, the US is helping its allies to protect themselves against the newer missiles North Korea has developed.

However, China and Russia are deeply unhappy about this, suspecting it could be used against them. China has already taken counter measures against South Korea, which affect the South economically. Some also suggest that the recent expulsion of South Korean missionaries from China was in response to the plans to install this defense system. Although it seems common sense for South Korea to go through with these plans, many South Koreans worry more about their economy than about their security. China is the primary economic partner, and people have lived with the North Korean threat for so long they have grown indifferent. This has resulted in opposition against the THAAD system.

More than ever does South Korea need wise and visionary leaders, who will have both restraint and courage. Will those leaders emerge from the many Christian churches in South Korea? Will the church stand firm in praying for peace, for justice, for freedom and for the healing of their land? And will we stand with them? For only with God is nothing impossible.

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