When you’re the dictator of a murderous regime which runs prison camps that enslave citizens who don’t praise their supreme leader, you don’t say sorry all that often.
This past weekend, however, Kim Jong Un did indeed apologise, after a South Korean fisheries official was shot dead by North Korean troops after crossing a maritime border between the two countries.
A letter was sent to South Korea’s Blue House, in which their North Korean counterparts explained that they had fired 10 shots at the man after he didn’t comply with a soldier’s demands to identify himself.
In line with North Korea’s COVID-19 disease prevention measures, the regime claims, they then burned the body onsite.
South Korea claims that troops poured oil on the dead official and burned his body in the water.
“Chairman Kim Jong Un asked to convey that he feels very sorry that instead of giving aid to our compatriots in the South who is struggling with Covid epidemic, we have given President Moon and our compatriots in the South a great disappointment with this unseen misfortune in our sea,” the letter read, according to the Blue House.
The statement added that North Korea has strengthened its maritime surveillance and apologized for “an incident that will clearly negatively impact inter-Korean relation.”
The letter also added that Jong Un had “apologetic thoughts to President Moon Jae-in and compatriots of the South”.
In recent months, tensions between North and South Korea have escalated, with communication ceasing after the former blew up an inter-Korean liaison office building just north of the border between the two countries.
That would certainly have the tendency to thaw any chatter, and the rise to power of Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, has also seen North Korea take a more hardline stance towards their neighbours.
So, why say sorry now? Here’s NPR:
The main reason Kim now appears to be limiting damage to relations with Seoul, Go [Myong-hyun, a North Korea specialist] says, is that he’s keeping his powder dry as he waits to see who wins the U.S. presidential election in November.
“And based on that,” Go says, “North Korea will decide whether to escalate or de-escalate. So I think they’re, you know, essentially in a holding pattern.”
If Kim sees a chance of getting a better deal through diplomacy, he could likely start with an overture to South Korea, much as he did during the Pyeongchang Olympics in 2018.
If not, Go predicts, the North could quickly revert to military provocations, including long-range ballistic missile launches.
Just something to look forward to as 2020 soldiers on, wrecking pretty much everything in its path.
We’re almost three-quarters of the way through. Hang in there.
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