News / Asia

South Korea Largely Ignores Latest North Korean Threat

Foreign tourists consult with South Korean tour guides wearing red jackets in a crowded shopping district in Seoul on Apr. 9, 2013.
Foreign tourists consult with South Korean tour guides wearing red jackets in a crowded shopping district in Seoul on Apr. 9, 2013.
North Korea has urged foreigners to leave South Korea to avoid a possible military conflict, but Pyongyang's latest warning apparently has done little to disrupt life in Seoul.

North Korean state television broadcast a message Tuesday, telling tourists and enterprises to evacuate Seoul and South Korea "for their own safety," because of the risk of what it called a "nuclear war."

But businesses in Seoul were operating normally after the threat, and there was no sign of unusual traffic leaving the city.

Familiar threats

North Korea issued a similar warning last week to foreign embassies in its capital, Pyongyang, urging diplomats to leave by Wednesday. None of the embassies has reported evacuating personnel.

White House spokesman Jay Carney dismissed North Korea's latest threat as "more unhelpful rhetoric" that further isolates the impoverished country.

"The North Korean leadership would be wiser to focus on developing its economy and assisting the North Korean people who suffer under this kind of leadership that chooses development of missile programs and nuclear weapons rather than the feeding of its own people," Carney said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed deeper concern, telling reporters on a visit to Rome that tension on the Korean peninsula has risen to a "very dangerous level."

"If any small incident is caused by miscalculation or misjudgment, it may create an uncontrollable situation," Mr. Ban said. "That is why I have been urging the DRPK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) authorities to refrain from this provocative rhetoric, and I have been urging the countries concerned in and around the Korean peninsula to exercise their influences with North Korea."

Response plans

South Korean soldiers of an artillery unit take part in an artillery drill with 155mm Towed Howitzers as part of the annual joint military exercise South Korean soldiers of an artillery unit take part in an artillery drill with 155mm Towed Howitzers as part of the annual joint military exercise "Foal Eagle" by the U.S. and South Korea, near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) which separates the two Korea,
x
South Korean soldiers of an artillery unit take part in an artillery drill with 155mm Towed Howitzers as part of the annual joint military exercise
South Korean soldiers of an artillery unit take part in an artillery drill with 155mm Towed Howitzers as part of the annual joint military exercise "Foal Eagle" by the U.S. and South Korea, near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) which separates the two Korea,
The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific said that if North Korea carries out a military provocation, U.S. troops and their South Korean allies are ready to respond. Testifying at a U.S. Senate hearing on Tuesday, Admiral Samuel Locklear said Washington and Seoul have developed a response plan based on a better understanding of the behavior of North Korean leaders.

"I do think it is a good planning effort," Locklear said. "It has provided U.S. General [James] Thurman and his counterparts there the opportunity to ensure the right command and control and the right coordination is in place, to ensure that as we approach future provocations, that we do so in a predictable way that allows us to manage those provocations, hopefully without unnecessary escalation that none of us want."

Locklear said he would order the interception of a North Korean missile if it poses a direct threat to the United States or its allies. He said he would not recommend shooting down any North Korean missile regardless of its trajectory. The admiral said it would not take long to determine where such a missile is going to land.

Missile concerns

  • North Korean children hold up red scarves to be tied around their necks during an induction ceremony into the Korean Children's Union held at a stadium in Pyongyang, April 12, 2013.
  • Two military officers admire displays at a flower show featuring thousands of Kimilsungia flowers, named after the late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung, Pyongyang, April 12, 2013.
  • South Korean soldiers stand guard at an observation post near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) which separates the two Koreas in Paju, north of Seoul April 11, 2013.
  • Female North Korean soldiers patrol along the banks of Yalu River, near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong, April 11, 2013.
  • A North Korean man blocks his face with his hand from being photographed as he and other residents take a ferry in Yalu River, near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong, April 11, 2013.
  • People take part in an oath-taking before the statues of late North Korean leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il on Mansudae Hill in Pyongyang, April 10, 2013. (KCNA)
  • Anti-North Korean protesters release balloons with peace messages on the Grand Unification Bridge leading to the North near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, north of Seoul, April 10, 2013.
  • South Koreans arrive with their belongings from North Korea's Kaesong at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, April 9, 2013.
  • Visitors look at the industrial complex in Kaesong, North Korea, through binoculars at Dora Observation Post in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) near the border village of Panmunjom, in Paju, South Korea, April 9, 2013.
  • A South Korean military vehicle passes by gates leading to the North Korean city of Kaesong at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, April 8, 2013.
  • An elementary school teacher orders her students to leave as they watch South Korean housewives denounce annual South Korean-U.S. military exercises, near the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, April 8, 2013.
  • South Korean army soldiers patrol along a barbed-wire fence near the border village of the Panmunjom, in Paju, South Korea, April 8, 2013.
  • North Korean military dogs run to a target with a portrait of South Korean Defence Minister Kim Kwan-jin during a military drill, April 6, 2013. (KCNA)

South Korean media quoted government officials as saying North Korea appears to be preparing to test fire another missile in the coming days.

North Korea has threatened to attack the South, the United States and U.S. allies in the Asia-Pacific region in retaliation for the latest economic sanctions imposed on Pyongyang by the U.N. Security Council. Those sanctions have been aimed at punishing Pyongyang for carrying out nuclear and missile tests in defiance of Security Council resolutions.

Japan responded to Pyongyang's threats on Tuesday, deploying ballistic missile interceptors around Tokyo to defend the city from a potential North Korean missile strike.

Tensions Rising on Korean Peninsula

  • February 12: North Korea carries out third nuclear test
  • March 27: North Korea cuts military hotline with South Korea
  • March 28: U.S. B-2 bombers fly over Korean peninsula
  • March 30: North Korea says it has entered a "state of war" with South Korea
  • April 3: North Korea blocks South Korean workers from Kaesong
  • April 4: North Korea moves a missile to its east coast
  • April 9: North Korea urges foreigners to leave the South.  The U.S. and South Korea raise alert level
  • April 14: US Secretary of State John Kerry offers talks with Pyongyang if it moves to scrap nuclear weapons
  • April 16: North Korea issues threats after anti-Pyongyang protests in Seoul
  • April 29: North Korea holds back seven South Koreans at Kaesong
  • April 30: North Korea sentences American to 15 years hard labor for hostile acts
  • May 20: North Korea fires projectiles for a consecutive third day
  • May 24: North Korean envoy wraps up China visit for talks on Korean tensions
  • June 7: South Korea accepts Pyongyang's offer of talks on Kaesong and other issues
International relations analyst Nick Bisley of Australia's La Trobe University said a new missile launch by Pyongyang would not be as dangerous as the prospect of a fourth North Korean nuclear test.

"A missile test is provocative and will certainly add to the sense of insecurity in the region," Bisley said. "A further nuclear test would ... have a lot of people very disconcerted, given that it would show they have a lot more capacity to set up tests, to undertake them, and would probably indicate that they are taking further steps down the nuclearization path."

Severing links

Pyongyang also took a step to cut its last economic ties with Seoul, suspending production at a jointly operated industrial zone where South Korean manufacturers employ cheap laborers in the North Korean border town of Kaesong.

None of the 53,000 North Korean employees at the complex showed up for work on Tuesday. About 400 South Korean managers and other staff remained, unsure of whether operations will resume.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye said the decision to withdraw workers from the facility will hurt North Korea's international credibility as a place to do business.

"Investment is all about being able to anticipate results and trust, and when you have the North breaking international regulations and promises like this and suspending Kaesong while the world is watching, no country in the world will invest in the North,'' Ms. Park said.

Kaesong factory owners' association chief Han Jae-kwon said if the situation continues, the small and medium South Korean enterprises will face bankruptcy. He said the group wants to send a delegation to North Korea to discuss the fate of the Kaesong complex. He also called on Seoul and Pyongyang to hold talks to find a way to immediately normalize the facility's operations.

After touring the complex on Monday, North Korean Workers' Party Central Committee Secretary Kim Yang Gon said Pyongyang will reevaluate whether the near decade-old project will continue. Kim said that will depend on Seoul's attitude in the next few days.

Pyongyang's motives

Cedric Leighton, a crisis management analyst and retired U.S. Air Force intelligence officer, said North Korea wants to send a message that it can live without the joint industrial zone and the millions of dollars earned by its workers each year.

"They are clearly looking at a way to retain and reinvigorate their own economy through a system of self-sufficiency," Leighton said. "And that could mean a very interesting development, because as opposed to the views that we've heard before about Kim Jong Un being more open to the rest of the world, what this might instead presage is a possibility of a greater isolation of North Korea, if that's possible."

Admiral Locklear said Mr. Kim appears to be pursuing a policy of provocation less predictable than that of the North Korean leader's father and grandfather, whom he said had given themselves an "off ramp" to exit confrontations with the international community.

Steve Herman contributed to this report from Seoul and Victor Beattie contributed from Washington.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Stella Gusman from: Los Angeles,CA
April 10, 2013 4:21 PM
We have been hearing threats for weeks now, but no one in our office seems to know why. In layman terms, why is N. Korea threatening war?

by: Robert Ezergailis from: Canada
April 10, 2013 9:58 AM
As the majority of attention becomes more centered on North Korea and its borders, it is very important to remember that communists do not view borders in the same way as we, in the west, tend to view them. We must remember that in communist ideology borders, divisions into nation states, are necessarily ambiguous, because that ideology has as one of its core beliefs the elimination of all such borders. (One of the reasons why some Islamists and communists found a strong resonance with each other. Both believe in the elimination of nation state divisions, in favor of borderless unity.)

This does have significant effects upon military strategy, and planning, among communism oriented states. Borders do not have the same importance and effect among communists as they do to us. That fact is important in trying to better understand the relationship of the PRC, China, to DPRK, North Korea. It is also extremely important for any effective and meaningful defensive strategy in any response to potential threat It is best in fact, from a purely ideological and strategic viewpoint to plan on the basis of the borders between communists as being non existent.

by: Mike from: USA
April 09, 2013 9:29 PM
meh. If Pakistan was willing to eat grass for its nuclear program, then I'm sure North Korea wont mind eating dirt so economic resources could be focused on expanding their nuclear weapon.

by: Hovhannes from: Montevideo
April 09, 2013 6:48 PM
Kim Jong Un is not the boogeyman of East Asia, he is the laughingstock. Let him and his sycophants stew in their own juice.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs