The response to North Korea's recent nuclear actions has been growing more aggressive. The North Korean vessel Kangnam was forced to return to its own waters after being shadowed by the U.S. military, and a freeze of North Korean bank accounts in Malaysia is imminent. Despite such measures, however, Kim Jong-il's regime continues to act in a provocative manner. In fact, North Korea openly says it is prepared for any measures taken against it, in effect laughing in the face of the international community.
North Korea says the measures currently being employed by the UN and the U.S. are not working. In 2005, the U.S. attempted to pressure North Korea through sanctions against Banco Delta Asia, but was fooled in 2007 into lifting them without anything being resolved. The North is now prepared to respond to similar sanctions, so applying them would do little. Even a naval blockade has had little effect on the country.
Sun Tzu's "Art of War" says you can win every battle if you know your enemy and yourself. North Korea is focused on agitating from within its adversaries' borders, for instance by precisely targeted cyber attacks, but the South does not know where Kim Jong-il's regime is weak. I do not believe the measures adopted by the international community hit the mark. What Kim Jong-il fears most may be internal forces, not South Korea, the U.S., and Japan. Growing dissatisfaction among North Koreans is Kim's greatest concern.
Since the mid 1990s, when famine and a mass exodus jeopardized Kim Jong-il's control over the country, the regime has viewed its border with China as a second battlefront, stationing 300,000 soldiers there. Previously, since it was the with an ally, North Korea had been maintaining only guard posts there, but now the area is riddled with wire entanglements designed to snare people. The DMZ has been perfectly silent for many years, but at the Chinese border there is the sound of gunfire every day. Defectors are being shot, and soldiers are carefully monitored for corruption. Preventing defection, the last resort of the desperate, is critical to the North Korean regime's survival.
Also, North Korea has taken every measure to prevent people from watching South Korean videos and television shows. At the borders, devices have been set up to detect cell phone communication with the outside world. Anyone found in possession of any device such as a radio capable of receiving communication from outside the country is considered a political criminal. North Korea's biggest weaknesses are defections and influx of information. In taking action to create pressure on North Korea, the international community, including the U.S., South Korea, and Japan, should focus on stopping the return of defectors to North Korea, not on economic sanctions or naval blockades. The number of North Korean defectors coming into South Korea exceeds 300 per month, but those who are forced back each month number in the thousands.
It is inhumane for China to send back North Korean defectors, and the practice deserves attention from the international community. But the issue goes unmentioned in discussion of how to deal with North Korea. It is commonly assumed that a request for China to stop deporting defectors would be ignored anyway.
So far, nobody in our government has urged such a request to China. To be effective against North Korea, the international community needs to concentrate on stopping the Chinese from forcefully sending back North Koreans and our Defense Ministry should resume the aggressive use of psychological warfare, which at North Korea's request has been suspended during the past two administrations
By Kang Chol-hwan from the Chosun Ilbo's News Desk