North Koreans Not Moved by Regime’s Claim of War Threat

Pyongyang’s old standby mobilization method finds fewer takers than before.

North Korean soldiers march in a military parade through Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang marking the anniversary of the Korean War armistice, July 27, 2013.

Warnings by North Korean authorities that the country is on the verge of war because of moves by the U.S. and South Korea to establish a system of missile defense are being met with contempt by audiences at home, sources say.

In lectures now being held across North Korea,  officials from the ruling Korean Workers Party are calling the South’s plans to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system a hostile act aimed at destroying the sanctions-hit, nuclear armed state.

“The authorities are causing an uproar as if war is going to happen soon,” a source in North Hamgyong province told RFA’s Korean Service this week. “But no one believes this method of [political] control anymore.”

Lectures in North Hamgyong began earlier this month at the Kim Chaek steel mill and then moved to other companies and social organizations in the province, RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The audience at the steel mill responded coldly to the ramped-up threats of imminent war,” he said.

“They were asking each other why South Korea’s deployment of a missile defense system could possibly matter to them.”

“North Korea itself is carrying out missile and nuclear tests that threaten the international community, so why should we criticize the South’s deployment of THAAD?” RFA’s source asked.

Hostility, disbelief

A source in South Hamgyong province meanwhile said that North Korea is now “continuously holding lectures condemning South Korea and the United States, using all kinds of foul language and swear words to criticize THAAD.”

“However, this is only arousing the audiences’ hostility,” he said.

For decades, official propaganda has frightened North Koreans into believing a war was about to start, but now just raises questions that are difficult to answer, the source said.

“North Korea boasts that it is the world’s strongest nuclear and military power, so why is South Korea’s deployment of THAAD such a big deal?” he asked.

“Is it because our military power is falling behind? Or that the authorities lack confidence in our strength compared to that of South Korea and the United States?”

“All these agitations just provoke disbelief,” he said.

Reported by Jieun Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Soo Min Jo. Written in English by Richard Finney.