Small Wars Journal

06/22/2021 News & Commentary – Korea

Tue, 06/22/2021 - 9:54am

News & commentary by Dave Maxwell. Edited and published by Daniel Riggs

1. Kim Yo Jong Releases Press Statement

2.  North Korea rejects US attempts to resume talks

3. Joint military exercise must be properly scaled to meet threats: Pentagon spokesman

4.  Notice on the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to North Korea

5. Moon to meet US envoy on North Korea at Cheong Wa Dae

6. S. Korea, U.S. agree to consider ending 'working group' forum on N. Korea policy

7. N.Korea's Borders Still Tightly Closed

8. North Korea is planning its largest military parade to date for Kim Il Sung's birthday next year

9.  Kim sister’s cryptically says US missed the point

10. North Korea's Kim Jong Un asks officials to strengthen military might: Report

11. A Battle Joined: North Korean Totalitarianism Versus South Korean K-Pop

12. China and North Korea show united front as US offers talks

13. How North Korea perfected counterfeiting $100 bills

14. Grain-Short North Korea Forces Housewives to ‘Volunteer’ for Farm Work

15. Inflation and Money Confusion Accompanies Kim Jong Un’s “Tense Food” Remarks

16. Documents on South's naval vessels hacked

17. Moon says S. Korea to keep expanding role on key global issues

18. Unification minister calls for active, agile efforts to bring N. Korea back to dialogue

19. South Korea nuclear secrets exposed via VPN vulnerability

20. EXPLAINED: Food Shortage Is Nothing New For North Korea, But Even Kim Jong-Un Is Worried By Current Crisis

21. A Revival of North Korean Communism?


1. Kim Yo Jong Releases Press Statement

KCNA · June 22, 2021

There must be some deep meaning behind this:  dreams, comfort, and disappointment.


2. North Korea rejects US attempts to resume talks

The Korea Times · by Nam Hyun Woo · June 22, 2021

Kim Yo Jong's statement leaves a lot of room for interpretation and of course Kim Jong-un might make a statement that seems to contradict it.  I would not get too excited about this.

On the other hand, it is so obvious what the regime is trying to do.  It is trying to provide rationale and justification for the appeasers to argue the US and international community must provide concessions, primarily some sort of sanctions relief in order for the regime to agree to talks. This would be a huge mistake because one, while the regime might come to the table it will not negotiate in good faith because, two, it will assess its political warfare strategy as successful and it will continue to execute it which means playing Kim's long con. We must see the regime for what it is and not be duped by Kim Yo Jong and those in the ROK and US who counsel appeasement by cancelling exercises or lifting sanctions.


3.  Joint military exercise must be properly scaled to meet threats: Pentagon spokesman · by 오석민 · June 22, 2021

The Press Secretary is leaving room for various training scenarios but he is providing the military position that we must train to be ready to meet the threats.  The ROK MND statement is pointing toward scaling back or cancelling the August exercise.  Doing so would be a huge mistake not only for readiness, OPCON transition, and deterrence, but would also big a win for the regime on multiple levels (weakening the combined military, driving a wedge in the alliance, getting concessions, and successful execution of its political warfare strategy and blackmail diplomacy.)

Excerpts: “The Defense Department spokesman said he had no changes in military training to announce, only noting the U.S. "constantly" reviews and assesses its military training programs "given the strategic environment" of the Korean Peninsula.

In Seoul, South Korea's defense ministry said that close consultations are under way to fix the timing, scale and other details of an annual summertime combined exercise that the two countries have held usually in August.

"South Korea and the U.S. will make a decision on the exercise after taking into consideration all related factors, such as the COVID-19 situation, the maintenance of a combat readiness posture, the transfer of the wartime operational control, and supporting diplomacy for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," ministry spokesperson Boo Seung-chan told a regular briefing on Tuesday.


4. Notice on the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to North Korea

Office of the President · June 22, 2021

The administration is going to hold the line on north Korea. This reinforces the US positions developed over time - implementation of UN Security council resolutions, nuclear and missile programs, murder of 46 South Korean sailors, human rights and repressive activities of the north, global illicit activities, and proliferation.

This single statement outlines all that is wrong with Kim Jong-un and the Kim family regime.  For those who advocate lifting sanctions, which behaviors outlined below do you wish to condone?  Please justify conditioning such behavior while hoping the regime will come to the negotiating table.

For those who think sanctions do not work, consider this tweet.


Paul Massaro


Jun 20

Don’t focus too much on academic arguments on whether sanctions “work” or not—sanctions block bad actors from accessing our shores and financial system and provide a measure of justice to those denied it. That means they work


5. Moon to meet US envoy on North Korea at Cheong Wa Dae

The Korea Times · June 22, 2021

Oh, to be a fly on the wall.


6.S. Korea, U.S. agree to consider ending 'working group' forum on N. Korea policy · by 송상호 · June 22, 2021

This is disappointing and demonstrates a real lack of maturity of South Korean political leaders. I specifically call out the political leaders because the ROK professional diplomats and national security experts know the importance of and value the working group and more importantly of coordinating alliance strategy. .But political propaganda from progressives and would-be north Korean appeasers tainted this working group from the beginning.  And yes I am definitely calling out the propaganda of the politicos - they play right into the hands of the Kim family regime..  Hopefully a new working group can be established with new and better "branding" so that alliance strategy can be properly coordinated.

I wrote the following in 2004:

Beyond the Nuclear Crisis: A Strategy for the Korean Peninsula

Key Points:

 ·      Ensure that an effective defensive capability remains in place until the “Korea Question” is resolved

·      Method for developing a combined strategy

(1) Consultations at the political and military level between the ROKG and USG. 

(2) Increased high level contacts. 

(3) Establishment of a combined planning group (Korea Strategy Group (KSG)) with permanent NSC level members that meet on a rotating basis in Washington and Seoul.

Repair the alliance: This will take a concerted effort by the President and senior US leadership.  Must come to agreement on the divergent ROK and US policies (sunshine policy versus regime change).  They are not mutually exclusive if you do not use the Iraq/Afghanistan models for regime change. 

Proposed mutually acceptable strategic end state: A stable, secure, peaceful, economically vibrant, non-nuclear peninsula, reunified under a liberal constitutional form of government determined by the Korean people.


            This end state implies regime change.  But it must come from within.  Most importantly while the US desires regime change it has not prepared for it.  Fundamental to the strategy is that near term crises must be managed (and exploited for possible opportunities) while it prepares the foundation for a post Kim Family Regime era.


Reunification is the only acceptable long term outcome that can ensure stability on the Peninsula. The goal is noble and right but the path to get there is literally and figuratively a minefield and it will take a concerted and coordinated effort by the alliance to get there. Therefore a structure is required for the development and management of the strategy for navigating the minefields.  Both nations at the National Security Council level should establish a Korea Strategy Division (KSD) to develop, refine and adjust their country’s strategies as well as manage their respective nations’ actions within the strategic framework.  Together these Divisions will form the Korea Strategy Group (KSG).  This will have permanently assigned members from each KSD co-chaired by each nation’s senior member and will meet on a quarterly basis rotating between both capitals.  Most important is that the members will have direct communications capability to maintain close coordination in all areas.  

The KSG will be chartered to manage and ensure synchronization of all elements of national power in the pursuit of the established end state.  Together they will manage strategic level Peninsula crises and seek opportunities for implementing elements of the strategy. Each KSD will serve as the focal point for their respective nation in which to ensure synchronization of all actions by its elements of national power.  One of the subtle purposes of the KSG is to bring together ROK and US national security professionals in a disciplined process that will allow transparency and prevent misunderstanding between the allies.  The process of developing and managing the strategy will cause issues to be thoroughly staffed and coordinated and the increased contact will create an environment more conducive to cooperation and understanding.

ROK and US individual policies are not intended to be identical.  In fact, it is probably better that they are different as the differences may be able to be exploited to create opportunities with the North.  At times the combination of hard line and engagement (“good cop, bad cop”) may be the right way to create opportunities.”  The most important thing is for the actions to be synchronized. 


7. N.Korea's Borders Still Tightly Closed · June 22, 2021

The Korean people in the north continue to suffer at the hands of KimJong-un's deliberate policy decisions.


8. North Korea is planning its largest military parade to date for Kim Il Sung's birthday next year · by Jeong Tae Joo · June 22, 2021

It takes a long time to plan a good parade :-) 

I wonder what they intend to show us at this one?

So they are going to spend the next year focusing on a parade.

I am reminded of Murphy's Laws: No combat ready unit has ever passed inspection (a parade). No inspection (parade) ready unit has ever passed combat.

Go ahead Kim Jong-un, expend time and precious human resources on preparing for a parade.


9. Kim sister’s cryptically says US missed the point · by AT Contributor · June 22, 2021

Cryptically is right.


10. North Korea's Kim Jong Un asks officials to strengthen military might: Report · by Hindustan Times, New Delhi · June 21, 2021

Some circular reporting here.


11.  A Battle Joined: North Korean Totalitarianism Versus South Korean K-Pop

The National Interest · by Doug Bandow · June 20, 2021

I can find some agreement with Mr. Bandow here especially in that we both believe we need to execute a sophisticated, comprehensive, and professional information and influence activities or psychological operations campaign.   The alliance has the superior message.

I wrote about the use of K-Dramas here in 2016: "NORTH KOREA NUCLEAR THREAT: Can South Korean-made TV dramas prepare the North for reunification?" 


12. China and North Korea show united front as US offers talks

SCMP · Sarah Zheng · June 21, 2021

They remain "closer than lips and teeth." 


13. How North Korea perfected counterfeiting $100 bills

Boing Boing · June 21, 2021

A six minute video at the link.

I recall a briefing from some Secret Service officials who said with more than a little tongue in cheek they could tell if a bill was a north Korean counterfeit if it had no flaws and looked better than an actual US $100 bill.  The north is damn good at counterfeiting.


14. Grain-Short North Korea Forces Housewives to ‘Volunteer’ for Farm Work  · by Albert Hong

Excerpts: “Mobilization of housewives, however, is likely a violation of human rights, according to Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director of the Washington-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK).

“In North Korea, especially after the Arduous March, housewives have made great efforts and sacrifices for the survival of their families,” Scarlatoiu told RFA, using a translation of the Korean term to refer to the 1994-1998 North Korean famine which killed millions.

“Now that even these housewives are said to be forcibly mobilized so strictly like this, I think North Korean women are being subjected to human rights violations very seriously,” said Scarlatoiu.

Forcing citizens to “volunteer” as labor for government projects is very common in North Korea.


15. Inflation and Money Confusion Accompanies Kim Jong Un’s “Tense Food” Remarks

38 North · by William Brown · June 21, 2021

One of our nation's very few experts on the north Korean economy.  He probably understands the north Korean economy better than the economists of the Kim family regime.

An important conclusion here: Kim is not without tools to fight monetary instability but so far has been reluctant to use them, likely perceiving them as weakening his hold on the state. For example, he could maneuver to reduce sanctions, encourage non-sanctioned exports and relieve budget pressures by selling some state property to domestic or foreign buyers, and, most importantly, opening-up wage reforms to improve the country’s abysmal productivity. At some point, even now, inflation may look to him to be a bigger enemy to stability—a term he used in his speech last week—than the United States.


16.  Documents on South's naval vessels hacked · by Park Yong-Han and Michael Lee · June 21, 2021

north Korean cyber espionage using the all purpose sword.


17. Moon says S. Korea to keep expanding role on key global issues · by 이치동 · June 22, 2021

And the ROK/US alliance and the QUAD and the G7 can help him do this.


18. Unification minister calls for active, agile efforts to bring N. Korea back to dialogue · by 고병준 · June 22, 2021

Unfortunately the words of the Unification Minister are code for appeasement  - active and agile means cancel exercises and lift sanctions.


19.  South Korea nuclear secrets exposed via VPN vulnerability · by Mayank Sharma · June 21, 2021


20.  EXPLAINED: Food Shortage Is Nothing New For North Korea, But Even Kim Jong-Un Is Worried By Current Crisis · June 21, 2021

How did this happen?  Kim Jong-un's poor policy decisions.


21. A Revival of North Korean Communism? · by ISOZAKI Atsuhito · June 22, 2021

Kim Il-sung "borrowed" from communism to develop his ruling ideology. and develop his "guerrilla dynasty."  

I think Adrian Buzo'sanaylysis still holds true:

“In the course of this struggle against factional opponents, for the first time Kim began to emphasize nationalism as a means of rallying the population to the enormous sacrifices needed for post-war recovery.  This was a nationalism that first took shape in the environment of the anti-Japanese guerrilla movement and developed into a creed through the destruction of both the non-Communist nationalist forces and much of the leftist intellectual tradition of the domestic Communists.  Kim’s nationalism did not draw inspiration from Korean history, nor did it dwell on past cultural achievements, for the serious study of history and traditional culture soon effectively ceased in the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea].  Rather, DPRK nationalism drew inspiration from the Spartan outlook of the former Manchurian guerrillas.  It was a harsh nationalism that dwelt on past wrongs and promises of retribution for “national traitors” and their foreign backers.  DPRK nationalism stressed the “purity” of all things Korean against the “contamination” of foreign ideas, and inculcated in the population a sense of fear and animosity toward the outside world.  Above all, DPRK nationalism stressed that the guerrilla ethos was not only the supreme, but also the only legitimate basis on which to reconstitute a reunified Korea. (emphasis added).”

But I think Kim Jong-un will continue to follow Kimilsungism.

Excerpts:The “theory of a socio-political organism (in North Korea)” that Kim Jong-il advocated in the 1980s has also made a comeback. People are given life by their parents, but the life of the revolutionary, or political life, is bestowed by the leader. The former is limited while the latter is more important, as the leader can grant eternal life. It thus goes with saying that the logic is that you owe your loyalty to your leader, before even to your biological parents. Meanwhile, starting this year, Kim Jong-un has started calling himself “Suryeong” (Supreme Leader), just as Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il did.

There have also been calls to revive the spirit of the “Chollima Movement,” which Kim Il-sung advocated in 1956. This is a movement for increased production that is likened to a legendary horse (Chollima) that can run a thousand miles in a day, a symbol of the North Korean economy outperforming South Korea’s. Recently, Korean Central Television even broadcast a special program on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the building of the Chollima Statute.

It will be worth watching to see if these concepts take hold going forward. (One might recall here that the Kim Jong-il administration declaring that it would “open the gate to a thriving nation in 2012” and then make no further reference to this as that year approached.)

One likely aim of the Kim Jong-un administration’s revival of so many slogans from decades past is to restore the glory of the Kim Il-sung era, when North Korea did in fact for a time outstrip South Korean in economic development.

But at the same time, it underscores the regime’s inability to come up with anything new, forcing it to revive old policy.

What does that mean for North Korea and U.S. relations? Pyongyang recognizes that economic sanctions are here to stay, and so it is trying to go it alone. As it does so, it will wait patiently for the day Washington is prepared to make concessions.




"When I grew up, in Taiwan, the Korean War was seen as a good war, where America protected Asia. It was sort of an extension of World War II. And it was, of course, the peak of the Cold War. People in Taiwan were generally proAmerican. The Korean War made Japan. And then the Vietnam War made Taiwan. There is some truth to that."

- Ang Lee


"South Korea first allowed women into the military in 1950 during the Korean War. Back then, female soldiers mainly held administrative and support positions. Women began to take on combat roles in the 1990s when the three military academies, exclusive to men, began accepting women."

- Kim Young-ha


"A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

- John Stuart Mill

Categories: News