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article imageOp-Ed: Kim Jong-un rides his white horse on nationally famous Mt. Paektu

By Ken Hanly     Oct 17, 2019 in Politics
North Korea's state media is giving heavy coverage to images of leader Kim Jong Un riding a white horse on the nationally significant Mt. Paektu. The state media said that the event was of great importance in the history of the Korean revolution.
Media suggests the event is a sign of a policy change
However state media gave no clue about what the sight of Kim riding through a snowy trail suggested in terms of a policy change just that there was to be some change. Reporters claimed that officials who accompanied Kim were filled with joy at whatever the change was to be.
The change could relate to restarting of stalled talks with the US. However, it could also mean the testing of more missiles as talks are on hold.
The state news agency KCNA used excessive effusive phrases in describing Kim's ride shown in the accompanying photo: "His march on horseback in Mt Paektu is a great event of weighty importance in the history of the Korean revolution. Having witnessed the great moments of his thinking atop Mt Paektu, all the officials accompanying him were convinced with overflowing emotion and joy that there will be a great operation to strike the world with wonder again and make a step forward in the Korean revolution."
The news agency seems more concerned with painting a positive picture of the great leader Kim Jong-un than actually informing the public about what Kim was intending to do. Perhaps, in the near future an actual change in policy will be revealed. Kim's personal relationship with Trump has been positive. No doubt Trump would be in favor of renewing talks with Kim. However, the North would like sanctions to be eased before any deal and there are still many hawks in the Trump administration who would oppose easing them to facilitate talks.
One North Korea expert saw the ride and report as a statement of defiance: "This is a statement, symbolic of defiance," said Joshua Pollack, a North Korea expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California. "The pursuit of sanctions relief is over. Nothing is made explicit here, but it starts to set new expectations about the coming course of policy for 2020." If this is correct perhaps the new policy will be more new missile tests rather than attempting to talk with the US.
Mt Paektu
The significance of Mt. Paektu is explained by WIkipedia: "Paektu Mountain, also known as Baekdu Mountain, and in China as Changbai Mountain (Chinese: 长白山), is an active stratovolcano on the Chinese–North Korean border.[2] At 2,744 m (9,003 ft), it is the highest mountain of the Changbai and Baekdudaegan ranges. Koreans assign a mythical quality to the volcano and its caldera lake, considering it to be their country's spiritual home.[3] It is the highest mountain in North Korea, the Korean Peninsula, and Northeast China.[4] A large crater lake, called Heaven Lake, is in the caldera atop the mountain. The caldera was formed by the VEI 7 "Millennium" or "Tianchi" eruption of 946, which erupted about 100–120 km3 (24–29 cu mi) of tephra. This was one of the largest and most violent eruptions in the last 5,000 years (alongside the Minoan eruption, the Hatepe eruption of Lake Taupo in around AD 180, the 1257 eruption of Mount Samalas near Mount Rinjani, and the 1815 eruption of Tambora). The mountain plays an important cultural role in the societies and civil religions of both contemporary Korean states, for instance, it is mentioned in both of their national anthems and is depicted on the national emblem of North Korea."
The mountain is said to be the spiritual homeland of the Kim dynasty.
Mountain visits have been involved in past negotiations
The mountain has figured in past policy. Kim Jong-Un
even visited the mountain with the president of South Korea: "In late 2017, Kim visited Mt Paektu days after North Korea launched its largest ICBM, and weeks before he made a key New Year's speech in which he opened the door to engagement with South Korea. Last year, Kim took South Korean President Moon Jae-in to the top of the mountain as part of a historic summit. Since then relations have cooled and Kim has said he will only wait until the end of the year for the United States to soften its stance in denuclearisation negotiations before North Korea will pursue an unspecified new path forward."
Perthaps Kim can arrange a horseback ride with Trump on the mountain. It would provide a great photo op.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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