[October 2, 2016] It seemed so simple and yet so obviously necessary, yet no one had thought of it. South Korean President Park Geun-hye said, in a speech earlier this week, that she knows about the “gruesome realities” that North Koreans face daily and appealed to them to “Please come to the bosom of freedom in the South.”1 Great leaders project confidence, courage, and absolute clarity and that is exactly what was done.
Westerners are likely to overlook President Park’s comments and pass them off as just another politician trying to score points but no so in this case. But the hermit kingdom of North Korea and democratic South Korea have faced each other in a rugged and precarious armistice since 1953. This is a dangerous place and the potential for the loss of life is staggering since Seoul, South Korea is within artillery range of North Korean guns and North Korea possesses nuclear weapons.
Separated by the most protected border in the world, the Demilitarized Zone is heavily fortified. For example, it contains approximately 1.2 million mines, is policed by thousands of soldiers, contains many fixed fortifications, etc. The chance of something going wrong is significant, tensions are high, and there have been many serious violations of the armistice by North Korea over the decades.
President Park has made it is her goal to not just protect her people of South Korea but to reach out to those oppressed in the North. In effect she is asking for the citizens of North Korea to defect. If they do, she promises them great opportunities and protection. She does this in the face of one of the most unpredictable dictators of the modern era, Kim Jong Un (I profiled him several years ago when he came to power, see link).
For her to make a direct appeal to the citizens of the North is a bold and risky move. While few in the North will hear her message due to the state controlled media there, her words will leak through the hard shell of protection by the Socialist government. How Kim Jong Un reacts is, of course, hard to foresee. What we do know is that he will comment and it will be full of invectives and threatening retaliation.
When Park stands up to Kim Jong Un, the world is a better place and she is a great example of leadership in action.
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