Kim Sung-woo, the chief presidential secretary for public affairs to South Korean President Park Geun-hye, warned on Thursday that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is preparing a campaign of terror against the South, as tensions between the two countries over the North’s nuclear weapons program increase.
CBS News reports Kim Sung-woo charging that North Korea’s intelligence agency is working to implement Kim Jong Un’s order to “muster anti-South terror capabilities that can pose a direct threat to our lives and security.”
The presidential secretary remarked during a television interview that the risk of North Korean terror attacks is “increasing more than ever.”
The Korea Times reports lawmaker Lee Cheol-woo of the governing Saenuri Party echoed Kim’s warning, and said that South Korea’s National Intelligence Service has information supporting the claim that Pyongyang is preparing for a terror campaign, which could include “cyber attacks, kidnapping South Korean citizens, and launching poison gas attacks.”
Lee said the targets of North Korean terror might include “anti-North Korea activists, North Korean defectors, and South Korean government officials.” Subway stations, shopping malls, power plans, and other national infrastructure could be attacked, according to the NIS estimate.
Several reasons for North Korean mischief beyond the obvious feud over its nuclear program were discussed, including upcoming large-scale U.S.-South Korean military exercises, which the North portrays as the prelude to an invasion; the possibility of the U.S. deploying an advanced missile defense system in South Korea; and the approaching congress of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, at which Kim Jong-un is expected to announce what the Korea Times describes as a “major reshuffle.” Those who get discarded during North Korean shuffles tend to have a very short life expectancy.
According to CBS News, “the NIS, which has a mixed record on predicting developments in North Korea, said it could not confirm its reported assessment.”
The Park administration is pushing for the passage of a long-debated anti-terrorism bill, which Kim Sung-woo mentioned in a press briefing: “While North Korea is intensifying its preparations for terror attacks, political interests should not be put above safety and property of the people. To effectively handle threats from North Korea or international terrorist groups, I strongly ask the National Assembly to process the bill.”
Another piece at the Korea Times notes that Park’s administration is weathering some “confusion” over her recent remarks about changing the behavior of the Pyongyang regime through more aggressive methods.
Several Korean-language newspapers interpreted Park’s comments as a call for the overthrow of the Kim regime. Interestingly, much of the confusion is based on the vague meaning of the Korean word for “change,” making it reasonable for even native speakers to read Park as saying either “I will change the regime” or “I will make the regime change.”
The former interpretation is, of course, much more forceful, and the Korea Times notes that Park did explicitly mention regime change during the course of her speech to the National Assembly.
Park’s spokesmen insist her words had the latter meaning: she was promising to bring pressures to bear that would change Pyongyang’s behavior, not overthrow Kim Jong-un. The North Koreans, of course, promptly accused Park of plotting to subvert their government, a charge that is certain to come up as justification, if they do engage in terror attacks against South Korea.