A few days back, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol had offered economic assistance to its neighbor and rival North Korea on the condition that it abandons its nuclear program.
Kim Yo Jong ridiculed the S. Korean President on TV by telling him to “shut his mouth”. She added that it was “childish” of Yoon to suggest that her country would ever broker such a deal. Her comments were discussed in the S. Korean parliament and were termed as “very disrespectful and indecent”. The Unification Ministry of S. Korea also expressed regret over Yo Jong’s comments. It stated that such an attitude would not be good for both the regional peace and N. Korea’s economy.
The economy of N. Korea is in dire straits. According to the Bank of Korea (BOK), it is continuously shrinking. There are various reasons behind such circumstances. The downfall is due to UN sanctions, border closures and lockdowns. Its industrial activity and trade with China has also been stopped. In spite of that, North Korea prioritises its security over anything. It is specifically cautious of hostile policies from the United States, South Korea and Japan. That is why it spends a big chunk of its income on building its military.
Yoon was elected president in May. He first announced the offer during his maiden speech as president. His plan aimed to provide a better livelihood to the people of the neighbouring country. He had called it an “audacious plan” by which he would get N. Korea to give up its nuclear testing. It included projects related to food, health, infrastructure, power, agriculture etc. The plan was reiterated by Yoon on 17th August when the first 100 days of his presidency were completed.
Kim Yo Jong was the first N. Korean leader to issue a statement regarding S. Korea’s offer. Being the blood relative of the supreme leader, she is considered the second most powerful personality of North Korea. She is currently the Deputy Director of the Publicity and Information Department. She has also served as a diplomat on various occasions.
Experts say that the offer was not prepared by the current South Korean president alone. It had been put in the pipeline by previous presidents. Yoon, however, became the first one to openly propose it. There was little to no chance of this deal getting functional. The previous attempts made by Donald Trump in 2018 and 2019 also bore no fruit.
The remarks uttered by Kim Yo Jong imply that North Korea is nowhere near giving up its nuclear program. The international community is worried about the skirmishes between the two arch-rivals. The United States intelligence agencies have warned that N. Korea might initiate a nuclear test this year. Given that S. Korea is backed by the United States and N. Korea by China, it is possible that the bitterness between the two rivals may last long.