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Dec 30, 2011 2 Comments ›› Angelia


North Korea warned the world not to expect change from the regime under new leader Kim Jong Un and threatened a “roar of revenge” against South Korean President Lee Myung Bak, ahead of New Year messages by both sides that analysts say will focus on inter-Korean relations.

Lee had provoked North Korea by raising security alerts and declining to send an official mission to pay condolences after the Dec. 17 death of Kim Jong Il, the National Defense Commission said in a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency today. The release came a day after the North ended a mourning period over Kim’s death.

“The veritable sea of tears shed by the army and people of the DPRK will turn into that of retaliatory fire to burn all the group of traitors to the last one,” the statement said, echoing rhetoric during Kim Jong Il’s rule. “The DPRK will have no dealings with the Lee Myung Bak group of traitors forever.”

Both Kim Jong Un and Lee face leadership tests that could shape their attitude toward engagement. Kim Jong Un needs to cement his grip on power in a country where the UN says one in three children are physically stunted from a lack of nutrition. Lee and his ruling party, which rolled back the “Sunshine Policy” of engagement with the nuclear-armed North, have dropped in opinion polls ahead of elections next year.

North Korea will release its statement Jan. 1 in the form of an editorial carried by local newspapers and the state-run Korean Central News Agency. In his annual address on Jan. 2, Lee will focus on inter-Korean relations, inflation and unemployment, according to a spokesman at Lee’s office who declined to be named, citing government policy.

Kim’s Promise

The North’s New Year message will focus on measures the regime will take to fulfill Kim Jong Il’s promise of creating a “strong and prosperous nation,” as part of the effort to bolster the image of the new leader, said Yang Moo Jin, a professor of North Korean politics at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

“Kim Jong Un is de facto leader but he still needs to prove himself in launching his new regime and an economic measure would be the most efficient way of doing that,” Yang said. “What’s more hard-hitting for North Koreans than policies that affect how they’ll be able to put food on the table?”

North Korea’s 2010 gross domestic product was 30 trillion won ($26.5 billion), one-fortieth the size of South Korea’s, according to estimates by the South’s central bank. The North’s economy probably shrank in four of the past five years, the Bank of Korea says. Pyongyang doesn’t release GDP data.

South Korea’s gross domestic product nearly doubled to 1,173 trillion won ($1 trillion) from 2001 to 2010. The Bank of Korea forecasts the country’s economic growth will slow to 3.7 percent next year from 3.8 percent this year.

More Conciliatory Stance

Lee will take advantage of the transition in the North and announce a more conciliatory stance, said Kim Young Yoon of the Seoul-based Korea Institute for National Reunification. The opposition has blamed Lee for escalating tensions, saying his tough stance provoked hostilities that killed 50 South Koreans in 2010.

Lee scaled back the Sunshine Policy implemented by his predecessor, Kim Dae Jung, when he entered office in 2008, saying that Kim Jong Il’s provocative policies should not be rewarded.

“The current mood in South Korea is to take advantage of the North’s regime change and improve inter-Korean relations,” Kim said. “The easiest way to do that would be to call for high-level meetings to make way for resumed six-party talks,” said Kim, referring to a dialogue aimed at persuading the North to relinquish its nuclear-weapons program and which includes the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.

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