News / Asia

South Korean President A Pragmatist on Pyongyang, Says Analyst

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak speaks at a meeting to report on a Ministry of Justice operation at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, Dec. 20, 2010.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak speaks at a meeting to report on a Ministry of Justice operation at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, Dec. 20, 2010.

South Korea's president is demanding that North Korea dismantle its nuclear program in 2011 and he says resuming the six-party talks are the only way forward.

President Lee Myung-bak has previously insisted that Pyongyang show it is serious about nuclear disarmament before it is allowed to resume the talks with China, Russia, Japan, the United States and the two Koreas. But it has been a tense 2010 on the Korean peninsula ever since March, when a South Korea war ship exploded, killing 46 seamen. The North denied any involvement, but South Korea, backed by international investigators, blamed Pyongyang. Last month, a North Korean artillery barrage on South Korea's Yeongpyeong island killed four people, and prompted a series of massive military exercises involving South Korean and U.S. forces.

VOA spoke with Peter Beck, a long-time North Korea observer at the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations.  

Is President Lee Myung-bak changing his approach with North Korea by abandoning his demand that they first demonstrate they are dismantling their nuclear program before the six-party talks can resume?

"I think President Lee has been falsely painted as a hardliner when it comes to North Korea. I've known him from his days in self-imposed exile in the United States and as mayor and he is a businessman. He is a pragmatist. He is not a hardliner. I think this just shows his pragmatic side. At the end of the day, we don't have any appealing options other than to negotiate with North Korea and I think it's an acknowledgment of that reality. It is coming sooner than I would've expected given that the South has now suffered two sucker-punches by North Korea. But there really is no choice but to talk to the North."

Is the South truly ready to sit down and talk with the North after last month's artillery attack on Yeongpyeong island that killed four people and the sinking of the South Korean Navy ship in March that killed 46 sailors?

"There has to be a certain amount of outrage because what North Korea did was outrageous. But once people cool down, I think there is a realization that waiting for someone to di,  or waiting for a change in North Korea is not a policy, it's wishful thinking.  And I think he [Lee Myung-bak] is the first to recognize that. We've seen that South Korea is taking a resolute stand and trying to beef up its military to try to do better when the next sucker-punch comes. North Korea has learned that the only way they have a chance of prevailing in a conflict is if they have the element of surprise. They will try to do that again and the bottom line is it doesn't matter if they lose troops in response. So conflict is a no-win situation for South Korea. Even if they kill hundreds or thousands of North Koreans, it's not going to solve the North Korea question."

The North's political leadership says it is focused on boosting its economy in the coming year.  You've written about how North Korea's command economy collapsed in the 1990's and has been replaced by hundreds of informal markets where people sell home grown vegetables, house-hold items and Chinese consumer products. Is the North Korean leadership taking a lesson from China, where the government has allowed market forces to work?

"I think the markets are taking root in North Korea in spite of the government. Although there are forces at play, market forces and technology that are seeping into North Korea, I don't think North Korea is ready to take China's path.  But millions of North Koreans have taken matters into their own hands and have recognized if they wait for food to come from the state, they will starve. So even with the disastrous currency reforms that North Korea launched a year ago, markets seem to have recovered, based on the reports of visitors. "

You May Like

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More