Political Posturing in North Korea

In acquiescing to South Korean demands, North Korea officials are engaging in some political posturing, a Duke expert says.

In agreeing Wednesday to reopen the Kaesong industrial complex, North Korea is acquiescing to South Korea's demands while also engaging in some internal political posturing, a Duke expert says.

The revenue generated by the complex, which is staffed jointly by the two nations, is critical to North Korea, says Cheehyung Kim, a North Korea historian on Duke's faculty.

"But the most important reason for North Korea is political: it wants to tell its own people and the world community that North Korea acts on its own terms," Kim said. "In doing so, it is also sending the message that Pyongyang does move rationally and within sensible boundaries."

North Korea is also proposing new talks with South Korean officials over the future of the complex, where more than 50,000 North Koreans are employed by South Korean companies that manufacturer consumer products.

"Kaesong is one of few things both governments see as an important entity for a better future -- the other being family reunions," Kim said. "On August 15, the two countries celebrate Liberation Day, when the Japanese empire ended. On this momentum, I see North Korea willing to talk and to listen, though any rational response may take time, after the dust of bellicosity settles."