A ‘happy death’

A ‘happy death’

A happy death is an oxymoron; it is a figure of speech combining contradictory terms. “Happy death” is one since a death cannot be happy, but a figure of speech may point to one in specific conditions. After all, the replacement of Kim Jong-il with his youngest son Kim Jong-un may possibly lead to peace in eastern Asia.

Kim Jong-Il, the self-declared legendary leader of North Korea, was declared dead of a heart attack yesterday, actually two days after he died, prompting millions of North Koreans to cry uncontrollably, flailing their arms in grief. Now thousands of analysts and pundits around the world are seeking to grasp whether North Korea will act more reasonably in the wake of its dead leader.
Nearly 18 months ago, I visited South Korea at the invitation of the government for about a dozen reporters from United Nations countries who sided with this country at the start of the Korean War in the 1950s.

During the trip, we were taken to Panmunjom, a border post in the demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea. 

South Korean soldiers manning just the south of the demarcation line were facing the north, following the movements of the North Korean guards with great care. But most North Korean troops were not facing the south but the north, as if the real danger would come from that direction.

“Over the past several decades, there have been many defection attempts from the north. It is for this reason many people think North Korean guards are looking north, prepared to stop any such potential defection effort,” explained a U.N. official at the time.

So Kim Jong-un, qualified by the North Korean state media as the “Great Successor,” will be taking over the rule of this strangely isolated nation. Meanwhile, a vigilant world watches for signs during a turbulent transition to the untested leader in an unpredictable nation known to be pursuing nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, a senior North Korean delegate visited Ankara secretly in September seeking humanitarian relief aid on an extremely rare visit marking the second of such meetings in 10 years.

The team was led by North Korea’s Deputy Foreign Minister Kung Seok-woong. One Turkish nongovernmental organization agreed to send baby food to North Korea, with North Korean officials leaving Turkey one day earlier than planned. Turkey refuses, in addition to several other Western nations, to send more general-purpose food, like rice, fearing the military will appropriate it in accordance with the “military first” campaign in the country.

Turkey joined the Korean War in 1950 and suffered the highest casualty rate. After this, Ankara was admitted to NATO membership for its staunch fighting on the part of the United Nations. Despite being one of the world’s most isolated countries, North Korea has a strong nuclear weapons program supported by ballistic missiles. Turkish Foreign Ministry officials said the talks do not represent in any way a softening in Turkey’s position toward North Korea’s nuclear approach.

Most analysts do not expect to see a more aggressive North Korean position in the wake of Kim Jong-il’s death. It is the winter and North Korea is facing a famine and seeking foreign food aid. Kim Jong-un’s regime is in the making and it will take time before the Pyongyang regime will try another approach. 

Last year North Korea attacked the South Korean military ship Cheonan and bombed the southern island of Yeungpyeung, but is not likely to do so again in the near future.

Since the Korean War, Turkey and South Korea have been very strong allies despite the physical distance between the two countries. They are involved in close defense industry cooperation but failed to finalize a nuclear power pact for a plant in southern Turkey last year.

But as Japan’s efforts in the field falter after an extremely strong and deadly earthquake this year, Russia’s initiatives are not welcome because of Turkey’s already high energy dependency there, while France’s efforts will go nowhere because of an “Armenian genocide” law in the country; South Korea is seen to be in a fortunate position on the nuclear matter.