Sung-Yoon Lee

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Kim Jong Un's sister stands alongside the North Korean leader at the Vostochny Сosmodrome in the Amur region, Russia, on September 13, 2023. Kremlin

When North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sat down to sign the guestbook at a space center last week as part of his momentous meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a young woman casually leaned over his shoulder to read the message.

Among the assortment of mostly male officials stiffly clustered around the world leaders, she immediately stood out. The woman was Kim Yo Jong — younger sister of the North Korean leader and one of the country’s most important political advisors.

Since stepping into the international spotlight in 2018 with a history-making visit to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea — the first member of her family since the end of the Korean War to set foot in the South — she has become a key mouthpiece of the regime.…  Seguir leyendo »

North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, is young and belligerent. His sister, Kim Yo-jong, is younger and more belligerent still. Credit Pool photo by Jorge Silva

Kim Yo-jong, the only sister of North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, is now setting the tone of the country’s foreign policy. And if he is young and belligerent, she is younger and more belligerent still.

Early this month, after human rights activists in South Korea used balloons to send anti-North propaganda leaflets across the border, Kim Yo-jong called them “human scum” and “mongrel dogs.”

She faulted President Moon Jae-in of South Korea for failing to stop them and upbraided him for “putting his neck” into the “noose of pro-United States flunkeyism.”

She warned of “action” in reprisal, apparently threatening to destroy the Inter-Korean Liaison Office set up in 2018 to facilitate communication between the North and the South.…  Seguir leyendo »

The North Korean government wants to talk. On Saturday morning, displaying its signature defiance and smokescreen strategy, it fired off its eastern coast what the South Korean military called short-range “projectiles.” The drill was its first rocket launch to be detected since November 2017, when it fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (I.C.B.M.) capable of striking the United States.

A brief period of measured hope had followed the meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, in Singapore last June. But Saturday’s provocation leaves no doubt that, once again, the government in Pyongyang is gradually, and very deliberately, escalating tensions to build up its leverage with the United States — this time with a view to resetting the terms of stalled negotiations.…  Seguir leyendo »

President Kim Jong-un of North Korea, center, before a nuclear test at an undisclosed location, according to North Korea’s state-run news agency. Credit Korean Central News Agency

After Sunday’s nuclear test, the most powerful yet, and two successful intercontinental missile tests in July, North Korea can credibly threaten to nuke a major United States city and kill millions of Americans. To date, the Trump administration, frustrated by its misplaced hopes of Chinese cooperation to restrain Pyongyang, has been reduced to empty bluster, while others, including a senior official in the previous administration, are resigned to living with a nuclear-armed regime on the Korean Peninsula.

But a nuclear North Korea is unlike a nuclear China or Russia. During the Cold War, neither Beijing nor Moscow faced an existential threat in the form of an alternate Chinese or Russian state.…  Seguir leyendo »

Why Do We Appease North Korea

With its first successful test on Sunday of an intermediate-range ballistic missile, North Korea stands on the verge of becoming a complete and verifiable nuclear power that poses a direct threat to the United States. This latest act of defiance came just days after the swearing-in of Moon Jae-in as president of South Korea and hours before China’s celebration of a $1 trillion international infrastructure project called “One Belt, One Road.”

Pyongyang’s countless provocations since the Korean War have never set off a meaningful punitive response. Even in egregious cases like assassination attempts against South Korean leaders or the shooting down of an American reconnaissance plane in international airspace in 1969, the United States and its allies have answered with restraint.…  Seguir leyendo »

North Korea is not known as a model for international diplomacy. Last weekend, the regime in Pyongyang released two American prisoners, but then the North Korean leadership has always offered an occasional conciliatory gesture like a prisoner release to accompany its aggressive and intransigent policies. Earlier this year, for example, Pyongyang’s state media called President Park Geun-hye of South Korea a “vile prostitute serving the U.S.” and President Obama a “wicked black monkey.” And just last week, the regime threatened to “fully demonstrate its nuclear force ... in the decisive battle to bury the U.S. imperialists,” for criticizing its human rights record.…  Seguir leyendo »

The danger of North Korea is no joke

In the past weeks, North Korean state media have called the female President of South Korea a "dirty political harlot" and an "old prostitute"; the gay chairman of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on North Korea "a disgusting old lecher with 40-odd-year-long career of homosexuality"; and, in a loathsome screed, referred to U.S. President Barack Obama as a "monkeyish human monstrosity."

Still, North Korea's exceptionally vile words pale in comparison to its criminal actions.

In North Korea, racism isn't just talk. That U.N. Commission of Inquiry's report summarizes testimony from North Korean refugee women and former border guards who say that the regime forcibly aborts or murders the babies of refugee women sent back to North Korea by China, on the presumption that the babies' fathers were Chinese, to maintain the myth of state-mandated "racial purity."…  Seguir leyendo »

The United Nations Commission of Inquiry’s report on North Korea, released last month, contains so many tragic findings that it is difficult to grasp the scale of the crimes described. But the world owes it to the North Korean victims, both living and dead, to focus on a figure buried in paragraph 664 of the commission’s report: $645,800,000.

That is what the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, is said to have squandered in 2012 on “luxury goods,” including cosmetics, handbags, leather products, watches, electronics, cars and top-shelf alcohol. In that same year, Mr. Kim also spent $1.3 billion on his ballistic missile programs.…  Seguir leyendo »

Calls for action have followed a United Nations report that the North Korean regime is culpable for “unspeakable atrocities” and crimes against humanity, including the starvation and murder of millions of people over the past 20 years. China has already said it would block a referral to the International Criminal Court . But the world still has a way to pressure Pyongyang to modify its behavior.

Many believe that U.S. sanctions against North Korea are maxed out. In fact, U.S. sanctions are relatively weak. There are no travel sanctions against North Korea (as with Cuba) nor any against human rights violators (as with Sudan, Iran and Belarus).…  Seguir leyendo »

Late last month, Chinese and North Korean leaders found themselves showered with an unexpected gift from Japan: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine, where 14 “Class A” war criminals — the category reserved for political and military leaders prosecuted in 1946 for starting and waging war — and over 1,000 individuals convicted of lesser war crimes are commemorated. Mr. Abe’s homage to Japan’s war dead, in the court of world public opinion, smacks of denial of his nation’s wartime aggression — and has been widely condemned.

This impression only strengthens China’s hand in current disputes with Japan — and therefore also in its strategic competition with the United States.…  Seguir leyendo »

The deliberate policies of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his late father, Kim Jong Il, may have killed millions of North Koreans, either by starving them to death or sending them to die in a system of political prisoner concentration camps unlike any since the regimes of Hitler and Stalin.

For years, the world has been so fixated on the North's nuclear weapons that it has lost sight of reports of such systematic crimes. Yet they are the very reason we should care that North Korea could develop an effective nuclear arsenal. Indeed one of the very sites of this alleged brutality — Camp 16 -- lies right next to North Korea's nuclear test site.…  Seguir leyendo »

North Korea’s nuclear test last Tuesday has the makings of an epochal event — unless Washington and Seoul shape up and deal Kim Jong Un’s regime a substantial, although nonmilitary, blow.

Pyongyang’s blast, two months after its first successful intercontinental ballistic missile test in five tries since 1998, and the regime’s demonstrated progress in long-range missile technology are propelling the totalitarian nation toward bona fide nuclear capability. With that comes the capability to provoke its neighbors with impunity and to extort funds, fuel, political legitimacy and even concessions in U.S. and South Korean military forces and readiness. Another nuclear test, especially of a uranium bomb, would mark a turning point.…  Seguir leyendo »

Park Geun-hye, who was elected yesterday to be South Korea’s first female president, will also become the first elected female leader anywhere in the Confucian civilization, which consists of China, Japan, North and South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Vietnam, and makes up nearly a quarter of the world’s population.

Yet the mark she puts on history will not be determined by her gender, or even by the domestic policies she campaigned on. It will depend on how successfully she can address the greatest moral challenge to the Korean nation: alleviating the tremendous suffering of fellow Koreans in North Korea, who are perhaps the most systematically oppressed people in the world today.…  Seguir leyendo »

Spectacular failure though it was, North Korea’s latest rocket launching calls for punitive measures from America and its allies. Bad engineering is no reason for complacency; the benchmark for American policy must be North Korea’s intent. And for decades, that government has been determined to develop nuclear-tipped long-range missiles that would give it leverage over the United States on a host of issues.

It’s predictable that the misfire has triggered over-analysis and scapegoating, with calls for calm and tales of an internal power struggle between “hawks” and “doves” in the new Kim Jong-un government. Others say America and South Korea should re-engage the government in Pyongyang.…  Seguir leyendo »

July is typically the time of year when North Korea makes peace overtures toward the United States. This is when it tries to rekindle expectations, reset deadlines and heal the previous year's wounds. Last week, Pyongyang's chief nuclear negotiator arrived in New York for talks with Stephen Bosworth, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, calling for "reconciliation." As if on cue, one day later, the Korean Central News Agency — the Kim Jong Il regime's official news agency — called for a "peace agreement" with the U.S.

Just one year earlier, in July 2010, North Korea stated that it would "make consistent efforts for the conclusion of a peace treaty and the denuclearization through the six-party talks conducted on equal footing."…  Seguir leyendo »