National Security Brief: South Koreans Ignore Bluster From The North

While American media is now focused on sensitive, never-before-revealed information on North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons technology in a House hearing on Thursday, South Koreans aren’t really thinking too much about the bluster and saber rattling from their neighbors to the North.

“While worries about North Korea remain high in the U.S., Japan and around the world,” the Wall Street Journal reports, “there is little interest or discussion about the apocalyptic predictions from Pyongyang on the streets of Seoul.”

“It’s like a joke. It’s like a playground bully,” one retired shoe manufacturer told NPR recently. “I don’t take it seriously. It’s nonsense.”

“South Koreans see this as a very short-term thing, and they expect a clear resolution,” says Karl Friedhoff, program officer at the Asan Institute’s Public Opinion Studies Center. “Whatever the result may be, South Koreans don’t expect this to impact long-term national security.”


Indeed, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a House hearing on Thursday that much of the recent noise from North Korea is most likely new leader Kim Jong Un’s effort to shore up domestic support, Reuters reports:

“I don’t think he really has much of an end game other than to somehow elicit recognition from the world, specifically the United States … of North Korea’s arrival on the scene as a nuclear power,” Clapper said.

“Much of the rhetoric — in fact all of the belligerent rhetoric of late — I think is designed for both an internal and an external audience. But I think first and foremost it’s to show that he is firmly in control in North Korea,” Clapper said.

Many experts and analysts have been saying recently that the North’s bluster is getting far too much attention here in the U.S than what it’s worth. “Scores of foreign journalists have been dispatched to Seoul to report on the growing tensions between the two Koreas and the possibility of war,” one Korea expert noted in the New York Times this week. “Upon arrival, though, it is difficult for them to find any South Koreans who are panic-stricken. In fact, most people in Seoul don’t care about the North’s belligerent statements: the farther one is from the Korean Peninsula, the more one will find people worried about the recent developments here.”

In other news:

  • The Financial Times reports that British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that Syria is facing the “biggest humanitarian disaster of the 21st century so far,” adding that “It is a major failure of the [UN] Security Council and it has not been able to address that in a united way.”
  • CNN reports: Under pressure from Democrats and Republicans, the Joint Staff of the Pentagon and the U.S. Central Command have updated potential military options for intervention in Syria that could see American forces — if ordered — doing everything from bombing Syrian airfields to flying large amounts of humanitarian aid to the region, a senior U.S. military official said.

(Photo: South Koreans go shopping in Seoul. Credit: Reuters)