Throngs of attendees at the Seoul Winter Paralympics, along with transfixed media spectators, witnessed the carefully staged sight and voices of 229 young women in matching red track suits who were deployed at three events including a women’s hockey game between Sweden and a unified North and South Korean team. In order to avoid flight risks, the selection of this "army of beauties" eliminated candidates with family members living abroad.
Adding to that illusory good will spectacle, Kim Jong Un's younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, was featured making nice with South Korea President Moon Jae-in through an overture to invite long-awaited peace negotiations between the two countries. Although the South Korean leader didn’t officially accept the offer, there is a likely chance that the talks will occur.
His acceptance of an invitation for talks in Pyongyang would constitute a double-edged sword. On one hand, inter-Korean discussions might temporarily ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula by influencing the North to hold off on further nuclear and missile tests. This could potentially lead to future workable negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang over those programs.
Far more likely, North Korea would use an inter-Korean summit as a false lure of better relations with the South to blunt international support for tougher sanctions that President Trump called for in his first State of the Union address.
The White House has notably softened its language to entertain "talks about talks" in an apparent attempt to give peaceful engagement a chance. As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Feb. 1 during a visit to Cairo, "We really need to have some discussions that precede any formal negotiations to determine whether the parties are in fact ready to engage in something meaningful."
Allowing for a possible miracle, the Trump administration has provided some contemplative relief time for North Korea to respond. During a Jan. 4 telephone conversation, Presidents Trump and Moon both agreed to postpone joint military exercises until after the Winter Paralympics end on March 18.
National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster has said it will then be necessary to proceed with exercises and maintain unity in the face of Pyongyang’s attempts to drive a wedge between the U.S. and its Asian allies. Previous annual exercises have moved B-1 bombers and F-35 fighters to the North Korean Peninsula, and have diplomatically reached out to countries ranging from China to Indonesia.
There are no easy or safe solutions to this highly volatile impasse. Kim Jong Un has made repeated bellicose threats to mass produce and target nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles upon America’s mainland. Meanwhile, South Korea lives in the immediate shadow of the North’s 1.1 million-person army. The South’s military numbers only about 650,000, supported by 28,500 U.S. defense personnel.
Nevertheless, any conceivable Korean Peninsula reunification terms demanded by Kim Jong Un for what he has termed "the final victory of the revolution" will not be acceptable. This is the same regime whose revolutionary victory in the 1990s produced a famine that killed up to three million people out of a total population of about 23 million.
The featured presence of Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong at the Winter Paralympics only underscores the reunification propaganda irony. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, she has served under her Big Brother as a deputy director of his powerful Propaganda and Agitation Department with a seat on his politburo.
Last year, the U.S. Treasury Department blacklisted her as a top North Korean official tied to "notorious abuses of human rights." It also specified that her department "controls all media in the country which the government uses to control the public."
As for those enthusiastic-appearing young women we saw featured cheering chants of "national cooperation" and singing tunes such as "My Hometown," and "Our wish is Unification," Ms. Kim and their handlers were carefully watching them even closer.
They are strictly forbidden to talk to anyone, including each other, about conditions outside their country. With messaging highly scripted, the squad is also required to report any conversations during their encounters with South Koreans at daily meetings with officials.
The original group’s first international appearance at the 2002 Asian Games in Busan resulted in an unhappy return. A 2007 U.S. State Department human rights report noted that 21 of those women were "imprisoned in the Daeheung prison camp. Reportedly for discussing what they had seen."
The beauty portrayed by those lovely young people at the Winter Paralympics hides an ugly beast that wields tyrannical control over a captive population. Those who interpret this charade with any reassurance that this regime seeks communion with a peaceful world are being dangerously deceived.
As Joongang Ilbo, one of South Korea’s largest newspapers wrote in a lead editorial, "Don’t get fooled again."
Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the graduate program in space architecture. He is the author of "Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom" (2015) and "Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax" (2012). He is currently working on a new book with Buzz Aldrin, "Beyond Footprints and Flagpoles." Read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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