Holiday Tidings, Korean-Style
Absent of joy and happiness, the coming of the New Year brought tidings from North Korea to South Korea that spoke imprecisely of peace or impending battle, as the North welcomed the year’s arrival with promises of disarmament, warnings of war, and threats of a nuclear holocaust. The Associated Press reported that, while North Korea’s annual New Year’s message called for the two countries to free themselves of nuclear weapons, the message also came with additional statements that spoke directly to the North Korean army’s readiness for “prompt, merciless and annihilatory action” against all enemies. North Korea has already conducted two unauthorized nuclear tests since 2006, which have escalated tensions and destabilized any talks of treaties.
Officials in neighboring countries have been analyzing the North’s holiday message for any significant policy clues, as the statements come in the wake of North Korea’s November 23 “retaliatory” artillery attack on the small island of Pyeongyeong. The bombings, which left four South Koreans dead, two of them civilians, also significantly raised tensions between the two countries, and left a lingering pall of fear fueled mostly by real possibilities of war. The deaths were the first in a civilian area since the Korean War ended in 1953. However, in the joint editorial, which was handled by the official Korean Central News Agency, the North contradicted the potential for war, and stated that any confrontations between the two countries should be resolved in an effort to help improve relations.
The South Korean Unification Ministry, which handles relations with North Korea, had no comment other than to claim that its officials were also analyzing the North’s message in an effort to determine if there were any implied threats or other clues within the communication. The actual message was delivered via state television, which is monitored by South Korea, by a North Korean anchorwoman dressed in traditional Korean garb. During the delivery, the North was also quoted as stating, “If a war breaks out on this land, it will bring nothing but a nuclear holocaust.”
In spite of the North’s feeble messages of some brand of separate peace, the Hawaiian Star Advertiser reported that Pyongyang has claimed that North Korea would continue to organize its military for war, and would put definitive focus on refining its spirit through “prompt, merciless and annihilatory action. The entire army should conduct intense combat training in an atmosphere of actual battle as required by the tense situation so as to reliably prepare all the officers and men." The North also said its military, “will not in the least pardon those who impair our absolute dignity and socialist system even a bit and violate our airspace, territory and waters even an inch, but discharge at any cost the historic mission it has assumed on behalf of the country and the nation with matchless arms." Whatever that may mean, the country continues to credit Kim Jong Il with North Korea’s current strength and success.Continued on the next page