Warning Signs from Pyongyang

in Program

Since the April 12 address to the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) in which Kim Jong Un took a tougher line toward both Seoul and Washington for continuing military exercises, Pyongyang media have been notching up criticism of South Korea. Over the past year, the North had confined its criticism of the South—all of it in lower-level commentary—to the ROK “military” as the culprit for staging exercises and bringing in military equipment in what it claims is a violation of North-South accords. The day after Kim’s speech, however, a KCNA commentary escalated the criticism from the “military” to the “authorities.” Typically, during periods when inter-Korean dialogue is in a positive phase, the North generally keeps its complaints against the South aimed at the “military.” The shift to direct criticism of the “authorities” is a signal of how much the atmosphere for inter-Korean dialogue has frayed. Indeed, the KCNA commentary on April 13 went so far as to ask rhetorically whether there was any difference between the “present authorities” and the conservative Park Geun-hye regime.

On April 25, the North escalated its criticism of the South Korean “authorities,” releasing a spokesman’s statement in the name of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country (CPRC). Two days later, a KCNA commentary criticized the South Korean “authorities” for “double sided acts” in staging exercises in contravention of what Pyongyang says are North-South agreements over the past year to discontinue any activity threatening the other side.

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