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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 236 (Nov. 15, 2012)

N. Korea Intervenes in S. Korea's Presidential Election in Diverse Forms

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- With inter-Korean relations deadlocked, North Korea is employing various forms of anti-South Korean campaigns in an attempt to intervene in the South's presidential election slated for Dec. 19, but focus is mostly on the incumbent Seoul government and the ruling party candidate.

   North Korea's propaganda outlets have recently stepped up their rhetoric against South Korea's ruling camp and its presidential contender, Park Geun-hye. It is also expected to concentrate on intervention in the election through social network services and to try to instigate social confusion by mobilizing pro-North Korean forces in South Korea and abroad.

   The anti-Seoul campaign ranges from direct criticism of the ruling party candidate's "anti-Pyongyang policy" to military threats in retaliation to a South Korean civic group's distribution of anti-Pyongyang leaflets.

   North Korea has also taken issue with the maritime border of the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the Yellow Sea, warning it will retaliate if the South continues to try to keep its "illegal" borderline.

   More recently, the North has publicized the homecomings of North Korean defectors who returned home after years of life in the South. As part of its ideological campaign against the capitalist South, the North said life in the South is bitter and uncomfortable.

   North Korea's smear campaign mostly criticizes ruling party candidate, Park, and it has not commented on the opposition party and independent hopefuls.

   Experts explain that the North's intervention in the presidential election is to send a defeating blow to the incumbent Lee Myung-bak government.

   The 60-year-old Park, who aspires to become South Korea's first female president, has been in a tight race with Moon Jae-in of the main opposition Democratic United Party and software mogul-turned-independent politician Ahn Cheol-soo. The two male contenders may form an alliance before the election to boost their chances against Park.

   North Korea is strengthening its efforts to denounce South Korea by mobilizing its anti-South propaganda organizations, including the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea.

   The powerful North Korean committee blasted Park's confrontational policy toward North Korea, calling her election pledges worse than Lee's.

   Referring to Park's election campaign pledges on diplomacy, security and unification policies, the North's organization of the ruling Workers' Party said their content is little different from the confrontation policy of the "traitor Lee Myung-bak, and go beyond Lee's in some aspects."

   A spokesman for the committee, in an interview with the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), denounced Park's unification policy as confrontational toward the North.

   Park declared she would carry forward a "unification proposal for national community based on the order of liberal democracy" which former dictators advocated only to be vehemently rebuffed by the public, the spokesman said, adding that she thus brought to light her intent for confrontation of the Koreas' social systems and her wild dream of achieving "unification through absorption."

   She openly made remarks the spokesman declared "disgusting,' such as "the law on human rights in the North" and "defectors to the South," which Lee did not even do at the outset of his term.

   None of the successive rulers of South Korea has ever betrayed a confrontational intent or wild ambition to achieve "unification through absorption" so openly in the days of the presidential election campaign as Park, he added.

   "The above-said policy commitments announced by Park are the ones for overall confrontation and war as they are more dangerous than Lee's confrontation policy," the spokesman was quoted as saying.

   Park's commitments would bring nothing but confrontation and a war, the spokesman said, adding that the public at home and abroad is becoming deeply concerned that if the "Saenuri Party" comes to power with those recent commitments, confrontation will further escalate and North-South relations will be driven to an uncontrollable catastrophe.

   The same committee on Nov. 3 openly called for an opposition victory in South Korea's presidential election, accusing Lee's conservative government of "ruining inter-Korean relations."

   The North's committee denounced South Korea's ruling Saenuri Party as a "disaster" that brews "all sources of misfortune" for Koreans.

   "If Saenuri Party, a group of obsolete conservatives, takes office, it will make the South Korean society and inter-Korean relations the same as under the Lee Myung-bak administration," the committee said in a statement. "It is apparent that (its election win) would bring fascist suppression and war."

   Park's late father and former President Park Chung-hee is a rallying point for South Korean conservatives ahead of the Dec. 19 election.

   "Saenuri Party has pushed for deceptive 'national unity,' 'reform' and 'differentiation' from the Lee Myung-bak government," the North's committee said, calling such moves "ugly."

   As the North's smear campaign against the South intensifies, South Korean officials are also concerned about possible provocations by the North during or after the election period.

   South Korea's foreign minister on Nov. 13 warned that North Korea may soon launch provocative acts on the South as Pyongyang has a track record of testing each new government in Seoul after a presidential election.

   Analysts and officials here have kept a wary eye on North Korea's unpredictable behavior during a period of political transition in Northeast Asia. South Koreans go to the polls on Dec. 19 to pick their new leader with China also undergoing a once-in-a-decade leadership change this month.

   "We have unpleasant experiences that North Korea has always tested our new government (with provocations)," Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan told a meeting of senior policy advisers earlier in the day.

   Kim did not elaborate further, but hinted his concern could be tied to a "situation where leadership changes are taking place in our country and our neighboring countries."

   Last week, Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said North Korea has finished preparations for another nuclear test, and would also launch another long-range missile test sometime in the future.

   Kim reiterated that South Korea's election as a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council for 2013-14 could help deter provocations from North Korea. "I believe that the Security Council membership itself has given us deterrence over North Korea to a certain extent," Kim told the meeting.

   Nevertheless, South Korea is paying keen attention on the North's continued psychological and ideological campaign against South Korea.

   One example is Pyongyang's propaganda about a North Korean couple's return to their homeland after earlier fleeing to South Korea where they lived for years.

   The North's state media reported on Nov. 8 that the couple, Kim Kwang-hyok and his wife Ko Jong-nam, returned to North Korea on Sept. 12, after being lured to defect to South Korea in 2008.

   They "were taken away to South Korea by dint of gimmicks, appeasement and manipulation of brokers and agents of the South Korean intelligence agency, where they suffered a miserable life," the KCNA said in the report.

   "But they came back home on September 12, keenly aware that they were cheated by (South Korea) and their stay there would only bring death to them," it said.

   It was the third time this year North Korea has reported about a story of defectors who fled to South Korea, then returned home.

   The country has publicized the homecomings, using them as examples to say that life in the South is difficult and uncomfortable.

   Recently, the South Korean government has urged North Korea to immediately stop its schemes to meddle in the South's forthcoming presidential election. The Seoul government believes recent developments involving North Korea, including the intrusion into South Korean waters by several North Korean fishing boats in the Yellow Sea, are premeditated attempts to influence the presidential election.

   The Seoul government has reaffirmed its principle to thoroughly prepare for North Korea's premeditated provocations and to take strong countermeasures to any such provocations.

   A senior official at Cheong Wa Dae said a series of violations of the NLL by North Korean fishing vessels cannot be regarded as accidental but can be understood as an attempt to influence the presidential election.

   On Sept. 21, South Korean patrol boats spotted six North Korean fishing vessels in southern waters in the Yellow Sea and fired warning shots to force them back.

   North Korea threatened unspecified military action, calling the warning shots an "adventurous military provocation."

   The maritime border in the Yellow Sea has been the scene of several bloody naval skirmishes between the two Koreas. Most recently in March, 2010, North Korea torpedoed a South Korean warship in the area, killing 46 sailors.

   It was the first time in two years South Korea has used military power to repel intruding North Korean fishing boats. The area is rich in crabs and other valuable seafood.

   When its navy boats took action against the North Korean fishing boats, South Korea's military also deployed a fighter jet, a military source said.

   On Sept. 29, North Korea accused South Korea of creating a "touch-and-go" situation along the tense Yellow Sea border, warning that it would retaliate if the South continues to try to keep its "illegal" borderline there.

   North Korea has never recognized the NLL, which was drawn unilaterally by the U.S.-led United Nations Command when the 1950-53 Korean War ended, and demands the line be drawn further south.

   The two sides fought naval gun-battles in the area in 1999, 2002 and 2009. In 2010, the North torpedoed the South Korean warship and shelled Yeonpyeong Island.

   South and North Korea faced a touch-and-go situation on Oct. 22 as military units stepped-up combat readiness along the border over South Korean activist groups' plan to float anti-North Korean leaflets.

   The artillery units of the North Korean army were deployed to firing positions and the barrels of howitzers and self-propelled guns were opened starting in the afternoon of Oct. 21 through the morning of Oct. 22, in order to be ready to fire at any moment.

   Upon North Korea's threat of a military strike, the South Korean military also stepped up combat readiness starting on Oct. 21 by deploying artillery and tank brigades and combat air patrols by F-15K and KF-16 fighters, according to military officials.

   Pyongyang has condemned the leaflet drop as psychological warfare and an attempt to topple its communist regime, warning it could ignite a war on the Korean Peninsula.

   Meanwhile, a ruling party lawmaker said North Korea is desperate in attempting to intervene in the South Korean presidential election.

   Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun of the Saenuri Party said on Oct. 1 that North Korea has stepped up efforts to intervene in the presidential election and the frequencies of the attempts increased by threefold this year from the period prior to the last presidential election five years ago.

   Citing data from the Unification Ministry, Yoon said the number of incidents in which North Korea made meddling remarks on the presidential election increased from 40 times in April, to 140 times in May, 171 times in July and 133 times during the first 23 days of September.

   Yoon said North Korea is strengthening its malignant propaganda to denounce South Korea by mobilizing its anti-South propaganda organizations. It is also exploiting on-line media networks such as YouTube, Twitter and Flickr to appeal to the young generation in the South.

   Yoon further said North Korea recently increased its condemnation of internal affairs in South Korea, including the move to conclude an information sharing agreement with Japan, a slush fund scandal and government state projects.

   He said North Korea is expected to concentrate on intervention in the election through social network services and try to instigate social confusion by mobilizing pro-North Korean forces in South Korea and abroad.