North Korea is one of the top persecutors of Christians and a most secretive society in the world. Since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been out of sight for over a month, rumors circulates over his health and grip on power in the country. On October 4th, a top-level delegation from North Korea paid a surprise visit to South Korea and the two sides have resumed talks. Please continue to pray for the open of North Korea and God’s protection of underground believers in this country.
10/08/2014 AUSTRALIA (ANS) — As was noted in RLPB 260 (14 May 2014), peace on the Korean Peninsula would facilitate improvements in living standards for North Koreans who are increasingly aware of the discrepancies between life in the North and life in the South. Back in May, when the two Koreas were trading insults and hurling belligerent rhetoric at each other, the North was escalating its crackdown on citizens found in possession of banned mobile phones and illicit materials such as magazines and DVDs from South Korea.
The regime is aware that the situation is unsustainable because the trend towards openness is unstoppable. Hoping to relieve pressure from the inside, the regime is striving to improve conditions and perceptions. In the meantime, to avoid precipitating its own destruction, the regime is escalating repressive measures to ensure there is restraint on citizen anger. As noted in RLPB 248 (18 Feb 2014) this is a delicate situation that requires wise, strategic handling.
On Saturday 4 October a top-level delegation from North Korea paid South Korea a surprise visit, giving just 24 hours’ notice. The 11-member delegation was led by none other than Kim Jong-Un’s deputy, Hwang Pyong So. Appearing in full military uniform, Hwang is the director of the Korean People’s Army and vice-chairman of the National Defense Commission which is led by Kim. Accompanying him were Kim Yang Gon, the secretary of the central committee of the Korean Workers’ Party and head of the United Front Department (which deals with issues pertaining to South Korea, including unification) and another Kim confidante, Choe Ryong Hae. They were accompanied by security agents from Kim’s own ‘Escort Command’; dressed in dark suits with the mandatory dark sunglasses and earpieces, they were an impressive sight.
The North Korean leaders came under the auspices of attending the closing ceremony of the Asian Games in Incheon, where the North won 36 medals, including 11 gold. However, they also had an amicable lunch with their South Korean counterparts, including South Korea’s unification minister, Ryoo Kihl-jae, President Park’s national security advisor, Kim Kwan-jin, and South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won.
North Korea expert Andrei Lankov of Kookmin University, Seoul, remarked, ‘It’s a big deal, it’s really a big deal, because it’s completely unprecedented. … Within my memory … there was never ever such a high-level visit. Never! Essentially it provided a direct line to Kim Jong Un.’ Another North Korea expert Mr John Delury, of Yonsei University in Seoul, agreed, saying, ‘If you are [President] Park Geun Hye, and you want a credible channel to the leadership in Pyongyang, then this is your dream team.’
Whilst North Korean television screened footage of the North Korean delegation attending the Asian Games it reported nothing about the talks. I t seems the North may have been creating propaganda for domestic consumption while seeking to initiate talks on having President Park’s May 24 Measures lifted. [The May 24 Measures are onerous sanctions imposed on North Korea in May 2010 after a North Korean submarine torpedoed and sank a South Korean ship, killing 46 South Korean sailors.]
The regime is getting desperate, with the North clearly keen to end its isolation. On 27 September North Korean foreign minister, Ri Su Yong, addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the first time a North Korean official had visited a UN meeting in 15 years. He told the Assembly that reducing tensions on the Korean Peninsula is ‘more precious’ to Pyongyang ‘than at any time’ as the North tries to boost its economy. ‘The tense situation of the Korean Peninsula does not help us,’ he said. ‘On the contrary, it presents a serious obstacle in our effort for economic development and improved people’s living standards.’ The North is seeking reunification of the Korean peninsula through a ‘confederation formula whereby two systems co-exist in a country’. After South Korea’s President Park criticized North Korea’s human rights record, the regime responded by asserting that before peace could be achieved it would be ‘necessary to decisively eliminate such hordes of traitors as Park’.