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South Korea Looks Warily North; “Strange Natural Phenomena” Reported (video)

South Korea Looks Warily North; “Strange Natural Phenomena” Reported (video)
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The death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il caught not only the US but also South Korea unaware. At lunchtime on Monday, South Koreans found themselves watching the same live broadcast news from North Korea’s state media: Ri Chun-hee, North Korea’s star newsreader, dressed in a black gown and weeping, announced the death of the “Dear Leader.”

After learning of Kim Jong-il’s death, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak summoned his cabinet for an emergency meeting and the Unification Ministry created a new commission to track developments up in the north. But the general message, says Jason Strother in Foreign Policy, has been to “stay calm, the situation is under control, go about your normal lives.”

Indifference About Reunification Among Younger South Koreans

Many South Koreans, especially those from the younger generations, have indeed been doing so. Strother quotes 29-year-old piano instructor Choi Young Joo’s response after hearing the news on the radio:

“I thought ‘oh wow, he’s dead,’ not a big difference than before. I sent my friends a group chat message about it. They just asked me ‘what are we going to do for dinner?’”

Strother cites Andrei Lankov, a North Korea analyst at Kookmin University in Seoul, regarding the younger Korean generation’s lack of interest in reunification. To 20-somethings engrossed in their studies or searching for a job, Lankov says that “North Korea is increasingly seen as a distant country, an irrelevant place, a poor dictatorship whose population happens to speak the same language.” He also notes that, should reunification occur, South Korea would bear most of the costs. Merging the two country’s economies — North Korea’s has been called “medieval” — could require as much as $203 billion.

In contrast to the indifference that Strother notes in younger South Koreans are the views of 22,000 North Korean defectors, some of whom have responded to the news of Kim Jong-il’s death with disbelief. Kim Hung-kwang of North Korean Intellectual Solidarity, whose members are “former North Korean elites,” says that North Korea can now either become more engaged with the international community, or become even more militarized. Intellectual Solidarity sends DVDs, USB sticks and other information about the outside world to North Korea, in the hope that doing so might foment an uprising eventually. Another group of defectors, North Korean People’s Liberation Front, is made up of former soldiers from North Korea’s million-man army and believes that “the only way to end the regime in Pyongyang is to take out its leadership.”

South Korean Military Put On a State of Alert

The “apathy” of younger South Koreans has posed a challenge for the Unification Ministry. The two countries are technically at war and, since 1948, have been divided at the 38th parallel. After the Korean War ended in 1953, both sides agreed to move their troops back and create a 2.5-mile-wide buffer zone known as the demilitarized zone (DMZ). But some 2 million troops patrol both sides of the border; the US has 28,000 troops stationed in South Korea. In March 2010, a North Korean warship was reported to have sunk a South Korean submarine.

South Korea has put its military on a state of alert following the announcement of Kim Jong-il’s death. 

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Photo of Panmunjeom at the DMZ by LuMag00, who comments: "Grey building in background is N. Korea. Blue building is UN. S. Korean guard outside and concrete barriers showing the dividing line in between the buildings."

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1:37AM PST on Jan 4, 2012

A snowstorm hit as Mr Kim died and ice on the volcanic Chon lake near his reported birthplace at Mount Paektu cracked, it said.

Following the storm’s sudden end at dawn on Tuesday, a message carved in rock – “Mount Paektu, holy mountain of revolution. Kim Jong-il” – glowed brightly, it said. It remained there until sunset.

On the same say, a Manchurian crane also apparently adopted a posture of grief at a statue of the late leader’s father in the northern city of Hamhung.

“Even the crane seemed to mourn the demise of Kim Jong-il, born of Heaven, after flying down there at dead of cold night, unable to forget him,” KCNA reported officials as saying.

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There is something interesting going on here.

4:11PM PST on Dec 24, 2011

Another nutjob bites the dust.

2:08AM PST on Dec 24, 2011

Those who spread the conspiracy theories regarding the sunk warship conveniently ignore the NK issuance of a propaganda poster showing a ship identical to the Cheonan, being struck by an NK torpedo and intelligence reports that Kim Jong-eun helped orchestrate the incident as part of his succession. The theories that this somehow helped the ruling party are belied by the massive failure of his party in the subsequent elections, and that it somehow helped the US by the strong upsurge in mistrust of the US military and the uptick of Cheju activism.

6:50PM PST on Dec 23, 2011

We will have to wait to see how Kim Jong-un plans to rule North Korea. To be honest, these dictators seem to be able to pick out sons who are most likely to follow in their footsteps!

8:12AM PST on Dec 23, 2011

I seem to remember that investigators allegedly found a well marked piece of a North Korean torpedo. Which by some miracle survived the explosion, unscathed.

8:06AM PST on Dec 23, 2011

So, I just got use to saying Kim Jong Ill,
I now have to get use to saying Kim Jong Dead.

So, if Geo Bush died, would he become Geo Bushwacked. Just thinking

.What a crazy world, Kim Baby a tribute to you.

Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes, The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or villify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, I see genius. Because the ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do. ~Jack Kerouac

6:34AM PST on Dec 23, 2011

The sub/warship incident conveniently happened when the US was renegotiating its new lease for its base in Korea. Gulf of Tonkin all over again.

4:47PM PST on Dec 22, 2011

I think that the article got the last point backwards: it was a N Korean sub that sank a S Korean warship.

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