Kim Jong-un is always cryptic, but seems to be moving toward a better future for the people of North Korea. Kim Jong-Il, father of the young new leader of the North Korean people, chose to address that nation only once in 17 years, and then only for brief seconds. His son, who took the reins December 24, 2011, just over a year ago, has favored an alternate course.
On January first, a few short days ago, the educated "descendent of a deity," addressed the North Korean people, reaffirming his passion for military and technological equality with world powers, and promising a radical turnabout in the North Korean economy and better standards of living for the impoverished citizens of the North. He drew an analogy between a successful December 12th long range missile test, and a scientific and technological revolution to build a more prosperous nation. He said:
"The industrial revolution in the new century is, in essence, a scientific and technological revolution, and breaking through the cutting edge is a shortcut to the building of an economic giant… Let us bring about a radical turn in the building of an economic giant with the same spirit and mettle as were displayed in conquering space."
He spoke in support of improved relations with South Korea. Kim spoke of wanting to "remove confrontation on this divided peninsula,” and called on "anti-reunification forces in South Korea to cease their hostility toward the North.” He asked for improved understanding and friendship between the occupants of the peninsula, and for implementation of reforms signed two years ago by both parties, calling for economic cooperation and in particular, a "cooperation zone" in the Yellow Sea. This cooperation has been difficult until recently; Seoul leader Lee Myung-bak, now out of power, took a hard line on issues regarding the North.
But South Korea’s first woman president, conservative Park Geun-hye, took over the presidency on Wednesday, December 19, and is open to humanitarian exchanges and some economic projects, if Pyongyang will disassemble its nuclear weapons program.Not unexpectedly, American observers have declared Kim Jong-un's words as rhetoric, and a scheme to receive aid from world agencies. They have taken that position for years and are slow to change.
Jong-un's new receptivity to cooperation may be an opportunity for the next secretary of state to display some acumen. Outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was able to learn diplomacy and negotiation while in office. President Obama has praised the likely new secretary of state, John Kerry, for his having earned the respect and confidence of leaders around the world. Kerry served "with valor" in the Vietnam War, and having traveled to Pakistan, was actively involved in the killing of terrorist Osama bin Laden. "John's played a central role in every major foreign policy debate for nearly 30 years." Obama said. We recall a Fox News interview in October of 2006 in which the then presidential candidate spoke with interviewer Chris Wallace (recall that North Korea was dominated at that time by Kim Jong-Il.)
WALLACE: Let's talk about North Korea.