N.Korean Foreign Policy Stuck in the Past

      November 15, 2013 09:51

      North Korean leader Kim Jong-un seems not yet ready to meet any foreign leaders although he has been in office two years, pundits say. In foreign affairs, he is still keeping his late father Kim Jong-il's old staff and paranoid style.

      "The foreigners Kim Jong-un meets frequently are people like Chinese Ambassador to Pyongyang Liu Hongcai and his wife and former NBA star Dennis Rodman," said Prof. Nam Sung-wook at Korea University. "He socializes only with people he can feel comfortable with, probably because he's shy."

      Kim is barely 30 and has no experience on the international stage. Since he came to power, the regime has attempted to hold direct talks with Washington and Tokyo by blackmailing them on humanitarian issues like the imprisonment of Korean American Kenneth Bae and requests from Japanese people to pay respects to their ancestors' tombs, but to no avail.

      Instead, the North is concentrating on developing countries, with mutual visits from mid-ranking officials from Indonesia, Laos and Vietnam. In the Middle East, it is hewing close to old allies in murky arms cooperation with Iran and Syria.

      "The North is trying to woo support from ASEAN and Middle Eastern countries," a South Korean government official said.

      Kim is sensitive about how the outside world sees him. In August, the regime sent out PR guidelines for all overseas missions, urging them to publicize the North's efforts for "peace on the Korean Peninsula" and talks on the nuclear issue.

      A South Korean government source said North Korean missions overseas have hired local people to manage PR.

      But the regime's foreign policies are still worked out by Kim Yong-il and Kim Song-nam of the Workers' Party's International Affairs Department, and carried out by Vice Premier Kang Sok-ju and Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun.

      And much like in the days of Kim Jong-il, officials like First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan and chief North Korean nuclear negotiator Ri Yong-ho are in charge of the regime's relations with the U.S.; vice minister Kim Hyong-jun is in charge of relations with China; and vice minister Kung Sok-ung of relations with Europe.

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