Analysis: North Korea a looming problem for whoever wins South vote

Mon Dec 10, 2012 12:30am EST
 
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By Jack Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) - Whoever wins South Korea's December 19 presidential election will likely find that spiky and unpredictable North Korea is as ready to strike as it is to negotiate.

The main contenders in the South's election have said they would hold talks with Kim Jong-un, the youthful ruler of one of the world's most heavily armed states, in a bid to end the chill that has descended on relations under South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak, whose mandatory single term ends in February.

But the "military first" policy of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has outlived him and analysts say the South's next president could find his son, the third member of his family to rule, just as wily and hard to deal with.

Conservative candidate Park Geun-hye, the daughter of former dictator Park Chung-hee, says she wants to build a new "trustpolitik" between the two Koreas, which remain technically at war after an armistice ended their 1950-53 conflict.

Her main challenger, left winger Moon Jae-in, has pledged unconditional talks with the North and aid.

During his 17-year rule, Kim Jong-il took $450 million worth of government and private-sector aid from South Korea under the South's Sunshine Policy, aimed at buying peace on the peninsula.

But while taking the aid, the North pushed ahead with developing nuclear weapons and missile programs.

"However things work out, it tends to be the North that sets the agenda," said Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies in the South Korean capital, 30 km (20 miles) from the frontier separating the prosperous South from the North, whose economy is just a fortieth the size of the South's.   Continued...

 
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) visits the Thrice Three-Revolution Red Flag Kamnamu (persimmon tree) Company under the Korean People's Army Unit 4302 in this undated picture released by the North's official KCNA news agency in Pyongyang on August 24, 2012. KCNA did not state precisely when the picture was taken. Whoever wins South Korea's December 19 presidential election will likely find that spiky and unpredictable North Korea is as ready to strike as it is to negotiate. The main contenders in the South's election have said they would hold talks with Kim Jong-un, the youthful ruler of one of the world's most heavily armed states, in a bid to end the chill that has descended on relations under South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak, whose mandatory single term ends in February. To match Analysis KOREA-ELECTION/NORTH REUTERS/KCNA/Files