North Korea used to be harshly critical of the outgoing Lee Myung Bak administration, but has been rather more conciliatory toward the incoming one of Park Geun Hye.
Experts spoken to by Daily NK say that North Korea is primarily seeking economic support and food aid. They say that due to a number of incidents that occurred on President Lee’s watch, such as the Cheonan sinking, Yeonpyeong Island shelling and Park Wang Ja’s murder at Mt. Geumgang in 2008, tourism from South Korea is down to zero and North Korea’s cash income from avenues outside the Kaesong Industrial Complex is also practically non-existent.
Therefore, they say that North Korea’s ultimate goal is to secure funds to maintain its regime by bringing about the end of the May 24th measures and restarting tourist projects. They also point out that if South Korea gets caught up in North Korea’s pseudo-peace offensive then this could lead to the same vicious cycle of provocation, dialogue and support as has been seen in times past.
Lim Kang Taek, a senior researcher with the Korea Institute for National Unification, explained to Daily NK, “If the May 24th Measures are canceled then inter-Korea economic cooperation and the resumption of Mt. Geumgang tours can occur, which would then bring a lot more foreign currency to the North Korean authorities. In particular if South Korean companies are allowed to go in, it will be much easier for the North Korean authorities to secure foreign currency.”
An anonymous North Korea expert agreed, adding also, “Last year Kim Jong Eun spent astronomical amounts of money stabilizing his power. They are making this conciliatory gesture to get cash from economic cooperation with South Korea.”
“Dialogue is important,” the expert went on, “but it is also important for South Korea not to get embroiled in North Korea’s strategy. If there are any further provocations then they must break the cycle of giving support to North Korea.”
Kim Kwang Jin, a senior researcher with the Institute for National Security Strategy, said, “Because Kim Jong Eun used funds recklessly last year, this year he does not have enough. There has been an expansion of trade between North Korea and China, but there is a lot of spending going on internally on projects to idolize the Kims.”