Aidan Foster-Carter‘s Asia Times article makes the point that the extreme rhetoric used by the North Korean government against the South has the effect of shutting down possibilities for inter-Korean concord and cooperation. What incentive does the South have to cooperate with such a North? And how would the North, absent involvement with the South, avoid envelopment by China?
Fortunately, North Korea as yet lacks any such capacity, so this all had a staged and cartoonish character. That did not make it any less unsettling. Though little remarked, there may be a parallel here with last spring’s vicious and highly personalized propaganda campaign against South Korea’s then President Lee Myung-bak, including vile cartoons of him as a rat being bloodily done to death in a variety of ways. We covered this here in detail at the time.
These cartoons can no longer be found on KCNA, but Jeffrey Lewis has usefully preserved some for posterity. One comment there is worth quoting for its wider resonance: “How do you negotiate with a government that presents propaganda posters showing your president’s gory dismemberment?”
This year’s campaign lacked the cartoons’ visual nastiness and personal animus, but was no less extreme in its language. Quoting this in extenso would be tedious. Any reader – except in South Korea; will President Park end this needless ban? – has only to turn to KCNA.kp, which helpfully files its main diatribes under the telling sidebar “DPRK in All-Out Action Against Enemies,” and scroll back over the past two months. Of late they have toned this down, but only slightly.
As recently as May 10, party daily Rodong Sinmun could still write: “The DPRK remains steadfast in its attitude to meet any challenge of the hostile forces for aggression through an all-out action based on nuclear deterrent of justice, bring earlier the day of the final victory in the great war for national reunification (emphasis added) and guarantee the prosperity of a reunified country and the independent dignity of the nation for all ages.”
Leaving aside the bizarre idea of nuclear “all-out action” as a way to “guarantee prosperity” – guarantee poverty, more like – taken literally what can this mean except that North Korea would welcome a “unification” achieved by the nuclear defeat (as if!) of South Korea, with all the catastrophic material and human loss of innocent lives that would entail? Or if they don’t really mean it, why do they say it? To adapt the question above, how can you talk usefully to a regime which purports to gleefully contemplate nuking you into submission?