See More on Facebook

Diplomacy, Opinion

A new Kim?

North Korean leader manifests differences from predecessors, but world must remain wary.


Written by

Updated: June 14, 2018

The denuclearization agreement signed by US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un — despite criticisms that it lacks details and a timeline — has many implications besides the start of work to remove nukes from the hands of a young dictator who once threatened a nuclear strike on the world’s most powerful country.

Most of all, the historic accord that calls for the formation of relations between the two countries and establishment of a “lasting and stable” peace regime also means the work to dismantle the last legacy of the Cold War has started.

Three major players — Trump, Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who brokered the Singapore summit — are all credited for the mega shift of the situation that once stoked fears of war over the North Korean nuclear crisis.

One thing that went wrong is Trump’s bombshell statement that the US will be stopping South Korea-US joint military exercises, citing its provocativeness and the “tremendous expense” spent by the US military. That is further evidence that Trump is prioritizing his notorious “America First” policy even when working with a close ally on such a crucial security issue.

On his part, it has yet to be seen whether Kim will fulfill his commitment to denuclearization, but there have been signs he may follow a diverging path from his predecessors. Indeed, the Swiss-educated Kim is different from his grandfather and father in many respects, not least in the way he interacts with the outside world.

Of course, Kim’s primary concern is securing security assurance for his dynastic regime and international recognition of his country as a normal state. He wants to be seen — as Trump said — as a smart, talented leader, not the young, ruthless dictator of the world’s most isolated country.

The Singapore summit was a good stage for his such endeavors. Whatever Kim said and did — including his talk, lunch and walk with the leader of the world’s most powerful country — put Kim into the global spotlight.

Such a scene would have been unimaginable for his grandfather and the North’s founding president Kim Il-sung and father Kim Jong-il. Secrecy and seclusion were the norm during the senior Kims’ days: They rarely traveled beyond their communist allies of the former Soviet Union and China.

Kim’s accommodation of openness is clear in the economy. Since taking power in 2011 after the death of his father, Kim has adopted elements of a market economy, including incentives and special economic zones. One of his top priorities is to develop the North Korean economy, whose gross domestic product remained at $31 billion in 2016, ranking No. 113 in the world, compared to the South’s $1.54 trillion, for No. 11 in the world.

It was against this backdrop that during his recent visit to China he expressed his desire to learn the reform and openness policy of China, which was initiated by Deng Xiaoping 40 years ago. While touring landmark sites in Singapore on the eve of the meeting with Trump, he also said his country wanted to learn about the social and economic development of the city-state.

So is the Kim who the world saw in Singapore different from his grandfather and father who built up a totalitarian state? Has he changed from a man who once stoked fears of a nuclear war, ordered the brutal executions of senior officials, including a close relative, and the assassination of his half brother?

Kim said in talks with Trump that he could come to Singapore “by overcoming wrong prejudices and practices that had been covering our eyes and ears” and that “the world will see a great change.”

The world will get to know whether he is sincere about his commitment to change through follow-up denuclearization talks. The changes, of course, should include real improvements in inter-Korean relations and the North’s human rights conditions.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


The Korea Herald
About the Author: The Korea Herald is the nation’s largest English-language daily and the country’s sole member of the Asia News Network.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Diplomacy, Opinion

Report of NK’s ‘undisclosed’ missile bases not new, S. Korea says

South Korea’s presidential office on Tuesday played down a new report on North Korea’s “undisclosed” missile sites. South Korea’s government said that it’s going too far to call the North’s continued activity a “great deception” given that it has no specific agreement to dismantle or disclose the facilities mentioned in the report issued by Beyond Parallel, a group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The group said it has located 13 out of an estimated 20 missile operating bases undeclared by the secretive communist regime. “The dispersed deployment of these bases and distinctive tactics employed by ballistic missile units are combined with decades of extensive camouflage, concealment and deception practices to maximize the survival of its missile units from pre-emptive strikes and during wartime operations,” the report


By The Korea Herald
November 13, 2018

Diplomacy, Opinion

‘Forced repatriation’ to pose security risk

International crisis warns that forced repatriation of Rohingya refugees could pose serious security risks. The International Crisis Group has warned of serious security risks of “forced repatriation” of the Rohingya, just as Myanmar and Bangladesh prepare for the November 15 return of the refugees sheltered in Bangladesh. In a statement, the Brussels-based global advocacy body said Rohingyas strongly opposed the repatriation move and would do whatever they can to resist it. “This [forced repatriation] will increase tension in the camps and could lead to confrontations between refugees and Bangladesh security forces and greatly complicate humanitarian operations. “A botched repatriation attempt could potentially set back peace and development efforts by years,” said the statement released yesterday. It comes two weeks after Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to begin the repatriation


By Daily Star
November 13, 2018

Diplomacy, Opinion

Suu Kyi stripped of Amnesty honour

The Amnesty International has stripped Aung San Suu Kyi of its highest honour, the latest of several honours taken away from her since last year’s brutal military crackdown on the Rohingyas. This is the eighth honour that the former Nobel peace prizewinner has been stripped of over the past year, with Amnesty following the example of Canada, US Holocaust Museum, UK’s Edinburgh, Oxford, Glasgow and Newcastle and Canada’s Carleton Universities which also revoked Suu Kyi’s honorary degrees and awards. The long-celebrated Nobel Laureate was given Amnesty’s most prestigious honour, the Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2009 marking the 20th anniversary of her arrest and 20 years since it declared her a prisoner of conscience. The AI yesterday announced withdrawal of its highest honour fr


By Daily Star
November 13, 2018

Diplomacy, Opinion

Kim Jong-un’s Seoul visit unlikely this year: experts

Stalled talks between Pyongyang and Washington likely cause for deceleration of diplomacy. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s visit to Seoul appears to be less likely to take place this year without more progress in stalled denuclearization talks between Pyongyang and Washington, experts said Sunday. South Korea’s Moon Jae-in administration is pushing to hold the fourth inter-Korean summit between Moon and Kim in Seoul within the year, in the hope of facilitating a breakthrough in the deadlocked US-North Korea talks. One of the unexpected achievements from the third summit, which was held in September in Pyongyang, was the North Korean leader’s promise to visit Seoul within the year. President Moon said at his speech at the National Assembly earlier this month that Kim’s visit to Seoul will take place in the near future. Unification Minister Cho Myong-gyon said Friday at a parliamentary se


By Cod Satrusayang
November 12, 2018

Diplomacy, Opinion

US calls on China to remove missiles from Spratly Islands

For the first time, the United States called on China to remove missiles it deployed on three fortified outposts it built in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. The United States called on China to withdraw its missile systems from disputed features in the Spratly Islands, and reaffirmed that all countries should avoid addressing disputes through coercion or intimidation,” the Department of State released in a statement on Saturday (Philippine time) after the high-level US-China diplomatic and security dialogue in Washington. Both US and China committed to supporting peace and stability in the South China Sea, the peaceful resolution of disputes, and freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea in accordance with international law during the dialogue, it added.


By Philippine Daily Inquirer
November 12, 2018

Diplomacy, Opinion

Xi, Kissinger expound ties’ importance

President Xi Jinping met with former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Thursday. President Xi Jinping called for coordinated efforts with the United States to promote healthy development of Sino-US ties. Xi made the remark on Thursday while meeting with former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. The president’s comment comes ahead of his planned meeting with US President Donald Trump at the upcoming G20 Summit in Argentina. China and the US should exercise proper judgment toward each other’s strategic intentions, Xi said, adding that there are rising negative voices in the US toward China of late, which should be taken note of. China would like to properly improve bilateral ties through friendly coordination on the basis of equality and mutual benefit, along with the spirit of mutual


By China Daily
November 9, 2018