North Korea: To Talk or To Provoke?
By Duyeon Kim
September 15, 2013
At the end of August the U.S. and South Korea conducted their joint military exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian (August 19-30), a drill Pyongyang views as a rehearsal for war. North Korea was notably restrained during the entire episode.
Before the drills began, some North Korea watchers were concerned Pyongyang might use them to return to confrontational behavior, despite an August 14 deal with Seoul to normalize operations at the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex. This agreement had given many experts hope that inter-Korean talks would be the springboard to eventual talks with the U.S. and continued dialogue. Pyongyang continued the charm offensive when it agreed to cross-border family reunions on September 25, although this gesture was likely aimed at restarting tours to Mount Kumkang, a guaranteed source of much-needed hard currency for the North.
Byeongjinnoseon and North Korea’s Charm Offensive
These events raise the question of why North Korea is pursuing a charm offensive at this time? No one can be certain, but one potential answer is North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s byeongjinnoseon (“parallel route”), or strategic line, introduced last March with the aim of simultaneously pursuing nuclear and economic development.
While it appears Kim Jong-un is trying to put his stamp on the strategic line, it is in fact not a new concept.
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