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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 52 (April 30, 2009)

All Headlines 11:19 April 30, 2009


How to Deal with North Korea's Missile Launch

By Yoo Ho-yeol (Professor, Korea University, South Korea)

On April 5 at 11:30 a.m., North Korea disregarded warnings from the international community and launched a long-range missile. North Korea tried to avoid criticism and sanctions from the international community by declaring the launch was aimed at putting a peaceful satellite into space. However, the UN Security Council condemned North Korea and tightened sanctions against the socialist country. Although the international community has confirmed the rocket launch was unsuccessful, North Korea continues to argue that its satellite is orbiting the earth and strongly protests UN sanctions.

North Korea now faces a crisis in deciding its future direction and policies. After suffering from a stroke in the summer of 2008, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has put considerable effort into preparing for his successor to ensure the security of his regime. The supposed satellite launch is an attempt to build solidarity, increase loyalty and mobilize support among the North Korean people in preparation for the establishment of the Kangsong Taeguk, or strong, prosperous and powerful nation, by 2012.

On April 9, at the 12th session the Supreme People's Assembly, Kim Jong-il's brother-in-law and head of the administrative department of the Worker's Party, Jang Song-thaek, was appointed to the National Defense Commission. The commission was also given significantly more authority than before, a signal of which groups will be in power during the succession and what roles they will take under the coming government.

Ever since Lee Myung-bak became South Korea's president, Pyongyang has cut off all communication channels with Seoul, taking every opportunity to hurl provocative statements toward its neighbor to the South. In January 2009, North Korea declared all past political and military accords with South Korea "dead," intensifying tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea has stepped up its provocative remarks toward the Lee administration to the tune of about 90 times a month since the beginning of 2009. Their harsh policies toward the Kaesong Industrial Complex, the last symbol of inter-Korean cooperation, as well as the drawn-out detention of a Kaesong worker who is being investigated on crimes of criticizing the regime and encouraging a female North Korean worker to defect are all signs of North Korea's discontent towards South Korea. By straining inter-Korean relations, North Korea seeks to regain authority on the peninsula.

In order to maintain peace and security in the region surrounding the Korean Peninsula during this period of transition, the international community must send a consistent message toward North Korea warning it not to act provocatively and provide a collaborative response to North Korea's actions.

South Korea, Japan and the U.S. must strengthen their ties and elicit cooperation from China and Russia. Only when these nations come together will we be able to bring North Korea to the six-party talks to resolve its problems through peaceful means.

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