Making sense of North Korea’s threats

By Brian Doherty

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The Cold War is alive and well! Our Supreme Leader is leading the path to success! Nuclear destruction of the United States is just around the corner! It’s time to turn our attention to our true enemies, raise our weapon, and fight to free this glorious nation from the capitalist pigs!

This has been the nature of rhetoric coming from the newly instated dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-un. As this relatively unknown 20-something struggles to demonstrate relevance and justify his power over the hermit-nation of North Korea, our increasingly intertwined and globalized world struggles to interpret the true motives of the country’s government.

Though the United States, South Korea and all involved parties are on high-alert due to these threats, it is necessary to question whether this is just another empty threat out of the North or the possible reappearance of the Korean War. The North’s leadership, the Kim dynasty, has a long history of threatening stability in the region in order to gain economic aid, lessen sanctions and receive food supplies. Unlike the threats appearing under the new leader, there was much more certainty when dealing with the threats of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

Officials are now struggling to understand the threats made by the young leader and whether or not these words are a call for help or a legitimate declaration of war. An apparent struggle for power occurred within the North’s government structure following the death of Kim Jong-Il in late 2011, ending in the eventual installment of his son as Supreme Leader. The structure of power within the Kim family’s dynasty relies heavily upon the regimes last remaining functioning structure: the military.

To remain relevant and prove his ability to lead, it appears that Kim is using the military and its potential nuclear capabilities to escalate tensions with the United States and distract his challengers in the North from the true issues facing the state. With reports of the young leader’s inexperience, those who served his father for decades are likely to view the situation in the North as a possible opportunity for takeover.

According the  The Telegraph in the United Kingdom, South Korean intelligence officials have reported an attempted assassination on Kim Jong-Un in the streets of Pyongyang. This oddly parallels the stepping down or, as the North Korean state media reported, the stepping down due to medical reasons of military chief Ri Yong-Ho last year.

Because the North remains in such a secretive and propaganda-powered state, the intelligence organizations tasked with listening in on this region of the world might be virtually unaware of a majority of events within. What does this mean for our current problem in the North?

It means that once again the North has diverted the attention of the international community and its citizens from the dire humanitarian crisis and struggle to remain relevant toward threats of impending war and destruction.

It appears that as long as Kim remains relevant and strong in the eyes of the military, he will remain in a position of power. Perhaps the best way to handle the young leader is to view him as the bully he is, realizing that his threats of violence against the United States and South Korea are in fact cries for help.

Brian Doherty is a Collegian contributor. He can be reached at [email protected].