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NK leader taking offensive policy on S. Korea to divert public attention from internal woes: unification minister

By Yonhap

Published : Jan. 6, 2024 - 10:53

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Unification Minister Kim Yung-ho participates in a Cabinet meeting held in Seoul on Dec. 12, 2023. (Yonhap) Unification Minister Kim Yung-ho participates in a Cabinet meeting held in Seoul on Dec. 12, 2023. (Yonhap)

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un appears to have taken a more offensive policy stance toward South Korea to divert internal attention from economic difficulties and discontent over the hereditary power succession, Seoul's top point man on inter-Korean relations said Saturday.

Unification Minister Kim Yung-ho made the remarks in an interview with broadcaster KBS when asked about the intentions behind the North's leader defining inter-Korean ties as relations "between two states hostile to each other" at a year-end ruling party meeting.

Pyongyang fired 200 rounds of artillery shells into waters near the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime border between the divided Koreas, on Friday in its first major armed provocation this year.

"The North's internal situation is very difficult," Kim said.

Citing interviews with North Korean defectors in South Korea, Kim added, "There is a very negative perception on the (hereditary) succession of power. ... (The move) is intended to divert such discontent externally."

The Kim family has ruled North Korea since it was founded by the current leader's late grandfather Kim Il-sung in 1948.

The minister also dismissed a statement from the powerful sister of the North Korean leader this week that claimed the Yoon Suk Yeol government has provided the justification for the North's military development, calling it part of the North's psychological warfare.

"The government will sternly respond if North Korea continues such psychological warfare," he said.

Kim also downplayed concerns over Washington possibly recognizing North Korea as a nuclear state if former US President Donald Trump wins the upcoming presidential election in November, noting that it would prompt nuclear development by South Korea and Japan.