Andrei Lankov, professor at Seoul’s Kookmin University and one of the world’s foremost North Korea experts (he blogs in Russian), has some chilling words about what the new year might bring for Korean relations. As quoted in The Globe and Mail:
“The North Koreans will want to test [Ms. Park], maybe an overland intrusion, an artillery attack, shooting down an airliner – God knows what – and if she overreacts it could lead to a chain of escalations,” said Andrei Lankov, an expert on North Korea at Kookmin University in Seoul. “We’ll see newspaper headlines like ‘Korea on the brink of war’ with big pictures of smoke rising and soldiers rushing to the front line.”
Prof. Lankov feels that some kind of North Korean provocation is almost a certainty in the first few months of 2013. What’s unknown is what Ms. Park will do about it when the time comes.
Ms. Park is Park Geun-hye, South Korea’s first female president, elected last Wednesday. Her father, Park Chung-hee, was a “Cold War strongman,” according to Time, and her mother, Yuk Young-soo, was killed by North Korean agents. (Five years later, her father was also assassinated in the infamous 10.26 incident.)
“The question is who will control her [North Korea] policy,” he added. “She’s likely to rely on experts, and a lot of the people in her camp are crazy hardline ideologues.”
There is a China connection, of course. As Oh Sung-il, a defector living in Seoul, put it:
“The system is not changing, but the young people are changing,” he said.
Could that bring about change inside North Korea? “If China changes [its policy towards North Korea], these young people will be powerful within five years,” he added. “If China doesn’t change, it will take much longer.”
Remember when North Korea successfully launched a three-stage rocket into space earlier this month, and the happiness they tried to tell us the accomplishment engendered? Scientific advancements are most apparent in the military, and it’s not hard to imagine that North Korea’s leaders believe an armed conflict is just the thing to lift their people’s spirits.
For the sake of the rest of us, we hope their neighbors to the south don’t feel the same way.
Plot set for conflict in tale of two Koreas (The Globe and Mail)