By Kim Ji-myung
The officials seemed to give up their futile hope at last around Dec. 28 or 29. Till the last moment, South Korean media talked about a possible visit on Dec. 30!
President Moon Jae-in's office in the final months of 2018 had heightened people's expectations to the maximum with press releases on the detailed preparation for Kim's visit. His itinerary, a possible helicopter landing on the crater of Mount Halla on Jeju Island, where to set up a heliport for this event, etc.
However, the wide gap in people's recognition of the situation is alarming. Some of my friends, mostly aged and conservative, maintain two rock hard beliefs (although all welcome the thawing of inter-Korean relations and an ultimate unification).
The first is the absolute unfeasibility of Kim's visit to the South, and the second is the fundamental mistrust in Kim's words regarding the denuclearization program.
There is not much to gain for Kim even if he comes and meets South Koreans.
Another even stronger belief is the absolute necessity for Kim to hang onto his hard-achieved nuclear weapons system no matter what. If not in a Hollywood film, North Korea has no gainful scenario to use the weapons. These are for threats to make big powers listen to Pyongyang.
Kim said on Jan.2, "We would neither make nor test nuclear weapons any longer nor use and proliferate them, and we have taken various practical measures." And President Trump replied, "I also look forward to meeting with Chairman Kim who realizes so well that North Korea possesses great economic potential!"
To the relief of President Moon and his staff, Kim delivered a New Year speech, well-designed to achieve his purpose. His message does not mention destruction of any existing nuclear weapons.
Nonetheless President Moon and the South Korean media interpret this message in a most hopeful and romantic manner. The big photo of Kim delivering his New Year message being published by the print and broadcast media of South Korea was unprecedented and noteworthy in many ways. The photo showcased Kim's enormous room surrounded by gigantic bookshelves filled with decorative collections and series. As a portrait, it was a total failure because Kim is dwarfed by the background furniture and a marble floor, being seated in a big leather sofa in the middle part of the room. But is this what Pyongyang intended? To portray Kim as an intellectual, book-reading and reasonable leader?
A recent incident that happened on Dec. 27 suddenly seems quite timely. One of the many newly created groups to bandwagon Kim's visit hung a placard on a street in the heart of Seoul. It read "We welcome Kim Jong-un's visit with our all our hearts, supreme reader of North Korea." "Supreme leader" has been a common moniker used by Western media for Kim. "Reader" was found to be a simple spelling mistake. However, netizens mocked the error, saying, "Maybe Kim is a great book-lover" or "Is the group a reading club?"
If it was in North Korea, it could have brought a serious result, according to Ahn Chan-il, a North Korean defector who served in the North Korean military. Even the slightest mistake is unacceptable if it concerns the leader of the country, and a "reader" could be demeaning Kim as a mere "novice student." The person held accountable would be sent to political concentration camp without trial, he said.
Inscribing a new image of North Korean leader in the South Koreans' minds may be more easily achieved than making them imagine a life without human rights and freedom.
The writer (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the chairwoman of the Korea Heritage Education Institute (K*Heritage).