North Korea: 2009 Prediction…

South Korea’s Institute of Foreign Affairs & National Security predicts that, “Systematic instability that North Korea has been suffering from since the collapse of the communist world’s diplomatic and economic community will continue and deepen next year.”

In the annual report from the institute, released on the 29th and entitled “Perspectives on the international political situation in 2009,” the institute said that, “North Korea still has its state ruling apparatus, like the Great Leader-Dear Leader leadership system, the one-party dictatorship and the military-first policy, but it may come close to a critical pressure point, which could cause radical change in the middle or long term.”

It is suggested in the report that North Korea may intensify surveillance over the people and reshuffle its system to confront adverse conditions such as conflict between North and South, world economic deterioration and Kim Jong Il’s sickness.

However, the report explained further that through the economic crisis of the 1990s, people’s dependence upon and loyalty to the state and the leadership has gotten lower and reliance on the state has also been going down due to a collision between the regime’s ruling ideology and people’s methods of economic survival.

The political and military upper structure of the North Korean regime is operating in a stable manner, the report asserts, so the possibility of a revolution in the short term is low.

With respect to Kim Jong Il’s health, it predicts that, “If the “facts” released by the North Korean authorities are true, Kim Jong Il could re-appear on the ruling front in 2009.”

For the time being, North Korea will continue to criticize South Korea, but around the end of 2009, when the Six Party Talks might well be facing a dead-end and the normalization of relations with the U.S. also seem far off, it could accept dialogue with South Korea in order to break through a deadlock, and a food and economic crisis caused by the international situation.

The report additionally predicts the North’s action vis a vis the incoming U.S. administration, “North Korea might threaten the Obama administration by suspending of the denuclearization process, refusing to attend the Six Party Talks, firing missiles or nuclear tests, all for the purpose of maintaining the upper hand and subduing the U.S., according to the North’s standard negotiation tactics.”

Regarding the U.S. policy on North Korea, the Obama administration may consider Plan B, to press strongly when the negotiations are unacceptable, acting differently from the Bush administration, which does not have any red lines for the North to cross. The Obama administration has a firm will to carry on negotiating with the North, and at the same time it seems to be planning to stick to strict principles on denuclearization.

According to the predictions of the report, considering that the previous nuclear policies on North Korea caused or allowed for repetition of sanctions, inducements and, nevertheless, the development of nuclear weapons, the Obama administration might strengthen its hard-line policy on the North through the Six Party Talks, and it will also try to solve some possible worst-case scenarios by utilizing China’s mediator’s role.

On the Northern side of the DMZ, they will try to gain an appreciation of the direction of the new U.S. administration’s policy via direct approaches to personnel related to the Obama’s administration. Buoyed by the momentum of the launch of the Obama administration, North Korea will insist that deterioration of inter-Korea relations was caused by the uncompromising hard-line of the Lee Myung Bak administration, and try to make the position of the Lee administration wane by stirring up conflict within South Korean public opinion.