Americans and South Koreans Have Conflicting Ideologies and That Could Be Dangerous

After months of making threats against its neighbor and the U.S., the North Korean regime of Kim Jong-un reopened a border hotline with the South and claimed it was willing to negotiate with its neighbor ahead of the latter's hosting of the Olympics. The Trump administration, however, seems wary, probably because, as analysts have speculated, the North may be trying to create distance between America and South Korea. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump continues to tweet insultingly and grotesquely about the North Korean dictator, and some former American officials have stated that war between America and North Korea is more likely than many people believe.To discuss this state of affairs, I emailed recently with B.R. Myers, a professor in the international studies department of Dongseo University in Busan, South Korea, and an analyst of North Korean ideology and propaganda. (He is the author of Han Sorya and North Korean Literature, The Cleanest Race, and North Korea's Juche Myth.) Does anything about Trump's behavior, or tweeting, or approach to North Korea make you think that the North Korean regime will alter its behavior or posture in response?Pyongyang has been listening to American bluster for exactly half a century now, since the USS Pueblo was taken with impunity in 1968. Not once in Kim Jong-un's lifetime has the U.S. done anything to North Korea beyond imposing sanctions the Chinese have undermined. The very phrase to tweet a threat is unserious; the medium is the message in a very bad way. Besides, whenever Trump says something tough, his own officials and generals promptly relativize it, and the U.S. media acts as if he were the whole cause of the nuclear crisis. The impression the North Koreans get is of a weak, unpopular leader, a divided administration, and an America completely ignorant of their drive to unify the peninsula. Trump's rhetoric has also encouraged sympathy with Pyongyang in South Korea, where people balk at harsh criticism of their ethnic brethren. There were some very grumpy faces in South Korea's National Assembly when Trump spoke out there against the Kim regime's human rights abuses. Having said all that, I think his unpredictability probably makes the North Koreans nervous; they might well have engaged in more dangerous provocations had he not been elected.  Continue reading...

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