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Reports on North Korea Leaders

According to media reports, in preparation of the 60th anniversary
of the Korean Peninsula’s independence from Japan, South Korea has
shown signs of interest in re-evaluating historical figures.

South Korea Positively Assesses Kim II Sung’s Contribution Made During the War against Japan; Becomes “Hot on Kim Jong II”

Source: Xinhuanet, April 28, 2005

According to media reports, in preparation of the 60th anniversary of the Korean Peninsula’s independence from Japan, South Korea has shown signs of interest in re-evaluating historical figures. One issue that stands out is how to evaluate the role of the deceased North Korean President Kim II Sung, who organized and led the guerrilla resistance against the invasion of Japan.

Kim II Sung: Also a "Hero Against Japanese Occupation"

A famous South Korea historian pointed out last week that Kim II Sung once rebelled against Japanese colonialism: "It is a historical fact. The fight led by Kim II Sung against the Japanese occupation should be considered part of the national independence movement." Although some conservatives opposed historians’ viewpoint, it actually gained the acknowledgment of most historians. South Koreans, who know history and are not prejudiced, did not raise any objections as well.

If we pushed the clock back to the 90s, one would be surprised to see this happening in South Korea. When Kim II Sung suddenly died in 1994, South Korean President Kim Young Sam refused to send a telegram of condolence to North Korea. Moreover, he even blamed Kim II Sung, which caused North Korea’s strong dissatisfaction, and forced the relationship between North Korea and South Korea into a corner.

However, upon entering the 21st century, things have changed in subtle ways. South Korea has persistently maintained a reconciliation policy toward North Korea, has engaged in economic cooperation with North Korea, and has insisted on solving the nuclear issue through dialogue, and so on. Moreover, changes are also found in evaluating the historical role of North Korean leaders. The assessment of Kim II Sung’s contribution to the resistance against the Japanese occupation is an example.

South Korea "Hot on Kim Jong II"

It is not so strange to have such a situation occur in South Korea. The South Korean public changed their impression of North Korea, especially of Kim Jong II. It started as early as when the summit was held between the North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong II and the incumbent South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung in Pyongyang, where the historical "Common Manifesto between South Korea and North Korea" was signed.
In the past, under the influence of anti-communist education and ideology, most of the South Koreans had negative opinions of North Korean leaders, and viewed them as "the absolutely irreconcilable enemy." However, after the Summit between North and South Korea, there was a strong, formidable shock to South Korean society. Many people realized that the propaganda of the past about North Korea was "not accurate," was "one-sided" or "twisted." Consequently, a "fever over Kim Jong II" developed in South Korea. Kim Jong II is now considered to be well-behaved, bold and unconstrained, as well as humorous and reasonable. A survey shows that the number of people who hold positive attitudes toward Kim Jong II on his leadership, and trust has risen sharply.

At the same time, some university students even initiated activities on "properly understanding North Korea."

North Korea Is No Longer The "Main Enemy"

After Roh Moo-hyun took office, he has continued to implement the policy of reconciliation and cooperation from the previous government, attempting to improve cooperation with North Korea. In the "White Paper on National Defense" published at the beginning of this year, there was an important change: North Korea is no longer classified as the "main enemy." All of this has subtly changed the public opinion of North Korea.

Last August, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun spoke during the 59th Anniversary of "August 15th," in commemoration of independence from Japanese occupation. He announced that a committee was to be established, to investigate and clarify the historical truth about those who assisted Japan during the Japanese colonialism period.

Roh Moo-hyun said at that time, "It is not to criticize those who are pro-Japan and anti-Korea, infringe on their vested interest, or turn back history. It is to learn a lesson from history and clarify the truth in order to build the right future."

From then on, a movement to uncover the historical truth surged in South Korea. Some politicians withdrew from the political arena because of it. During this movement, of course "pro-Japanese" forces became the target. However, those who have been buried in history and have not been properly evaluated for their roles in the resistance against Japan have also become the focus of public attention. Kim II Sung’s role against Japanese occupation is a historical fact that cannot be written off. It is only just and righteous for him to receive a proper assessment. Further, on the 60th anniversary commemorating the Korean Peninsula’s independence from Japan, it is only natural to properly evaluate Kim II Sung for his contribution to the resistance against Japan’s occupation.
North Korea No Longer Places Hopes on Bush Administration

Source: Xinhuanet, April 30, 2005

The spokesman from the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed their anger on April 30 in Pyongyang, for the recent speech made by U.S. President Bush, which maliciously attacked the North Korean leader Kim Jong II. The spokesman also stated at the same time that North Korea would no longer hold out any hope in solving the nuclear issue, or improving the relationship between North Korea and the United States during the Bush Administration.

The spokesman indicated to KCNA (Korean Central News Agency) reporters on the same day that North Korea would never tolerate anyone who maliciously attacks the supreme leader of North Korea.

The spokesman said, "As long as Bush is still in power, the world will never have peace, and North Korea will not expect a resolution of the nuclear issue, or that the relationship between North Korea and America will improve." The spokesman also pointed out, "Since Bush took office, North Korea has exercised tolerance and patience for more than four years. Now it is hard to continue to wait for the change of U.S. policy. North Korea will press ahead with the path it has chosen."