North Korea’s mysterious diplomatic performances

In early September, rumors have been around that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un was not feeling well. Kim has not been seen in public for more than a month since he was last seen by the media at a concert with his wife on 3rd September. He didn’t show up at the important political anniversary and other national events afterwards. While he disappeared from the public view, rumors have swirled among analysts. A report from a British newspaper, Daily Mail, suggested that Kim Jong-un had undergone surgery to reduce stomach because Kim had fallen in love with Emmental Swiss cheese, which made him gained weight and eventually developed health problems. As he was seen walking with a limp from the media, analysts speculated that he was suffering from gout or arthritis in addition to his obesity. Rumors of coup as well as his health problems have emerged. Further speculation was fueled about whether he has lost his grip on power.

White house showed negative reactions on these rumors. Patrick Ventrell, a spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, said the U.S had been monitoring the reports about Kim Jong-un’s health problems. Patrick said, “Given that the (North Korean) regime is the most opaque on earth, it’s not surprising that there is very little reliable and publicly available information about this. Regarding rumors of a coup, as we have said previously, those appear to be false.”

While all kinds of suspicion and speculation about Kim Jong-un ran rampant, Kim finally showed up at the official meeting after 6 weeks of absence. His reappearance after long absence tamped down the rumor of his health problems. One fact that we should focus on is that he was walking with the help of a cane. Lim Byeong Cheol, a spokesman from Seoul’s Unification Ministry, stated that Kim Jong-un tried to show that he is doing fine even though he’s indeed still having some discomfort.

North Korea’s mysterious behaviors continued. Top North Korean officials visited South Korea as a surprise for a sporting event and had highest-level talks in years. Also, Kim Jong-un ordered a release of Mr. Fowle, who was arrested as he tried to leave North Korea after leaving a bible behind. Kim stated that he had considered President Obama’s release request. The most remarkable change of its stance is that North Korea considers resuming the six-party talks on its nuclear program. Diplomatic charm offensives that North Korea has recently showed arose strong curiosity among international society.

How should we interpret these events: Kim’s return with a cane after long absence, North Korea’s sudden change of its stance on relations with major states and even on nuclear weapons? Are there any hidden motives behind or is North Korea seeking a genuine change in its relations with the world?

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4 thoughts on “North Korea’s mysterious diplomatic performances

  1. This is very confusing indeed. Maybe there was some sort of a coup and Kim Jon-Un is kept as a figurehead to push through their agenda? Either way, seeing how this pans out will be interesting.

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  2. In class we had discussed how important a leader is international politics, diplomacy, and conflict prevention. I think North Korea is one of those countries that exemplifies this through its autocratic rule of the Kim regime. This is outlined a bit in your post and is relevant to part of our course discussion. Hopefully more diplomatic exchanges are to occur in the future as well.

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  3. It is very strange that a leader that has such control and power over everything that happens within a country just disappear form one day to another, not to be seen in weeks. It defintaley rises suspicion throughout the world since Kim is very important for North Koreas interntational politics. The fact that he not only consider but also agrees on Obama´s request as well as considering resuming the six-party talks on its nuclear program is not a behaviour that we see every day from the North Korean leader and it sure looks like Kim has taken on a different approach to foreign relations. If this charm offensive is a way of changing its relations with the world to the better or if its just window dressing with underlying interests is yet to be seen. Although it would suprize me if there wasn´t any agenda behind Kim´s current behaviour.

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  4. North Korea could be running low on the food supplies that they often get for conducting nuclear talks, and could have released the US citizen as a means of obtaining more US aid in the future. The speculation of a coup is hard to gauge at this point, but Kim’s health is clearly deteriorating and could be very important in the future.

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