Aidan Foster-Carter “Kim Jong-un doesn't appear to know what he's looking for” http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/08/north-korea-nuclear-threat-unknown-quantity
The real test lies a few miles to the west. Not a lot of people know this, but every day, dozens of South Koreans commute across the once impenetrable demilitarized zone to supervise some 50,000 North Korean workers, making assorted goods (clothing, kitchenware, the usual stuff) for South Korea businesses at a joint venture industrial park near the ancient city of Kaesong.
A fruit of Seoul's former "sunshine" policy, which sadly seems a world away now, Kaesong has somehow survived the ups and downs – mostly downs, lately – of inter-Korean relations. Even in 2010 when the South's President Lee Myung-bak "banned" trade with the North as a reprisal for the North's sinking a Southern warship (46 died), he exempted Kaesong.
This precious exception is also a touchstone. If the two Koreas were really about to go to war then Kaesong would shut down or be evacuated. Worst case scenario, the North would take hostages. None of this shows any sign of happening as I write. We can breathe again.
What was and is North Korea's game? In 2010 Kim Jong-il was angry with Lee for scrapping the sunshine policy, and wanted to teach him a lesson. Kim calculated, correctly, that even the hard-line Lee would not retaliate militarily, with all the risk of further escalation.
But now? Lee is gone. His successor, Park Geun-hye, had visited Pyongyang and dined with Kim. She has pledged to build "trustpolitik" with the North, which sounds like sunshine redux. Why then did Kim Jong-un greet her with a nuclear test and lurid threats?
Perhaps the new Kim on the block is the answer. Young, untried and by some accounts hot-headed, like a new Mafia boss succeeding his father, he may feel he has to show all concerned – his own team, as well as his many foes – that he is a tough guy, no pushover.
Like last year's nasty cartoons showing Lee as a rat being bloodily done to death, wild threats of pre-emptive nuclear strikes sound a new note. Both seem self-indulgent: excess for its own sake, rather than in the service of a clear goal.
For that is the oddity. One last musical reference. A world more puzzled than scared (though vigilance is essential) could and should ask Kim Jong-un, who may or may not be a Spice Girls fan: so, tell me what you want, what you really really want? Amid, despite or because of all the shrieking, the answer to that remains totally obscure.
*1:http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20130214/1360779561 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20130218/1361159143 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20130308/1362748291
*2:See eg. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaesong http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E9%96%8B%E5%9F%8E%E5%B8%82
*3:See http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20100527/1274964382 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20100530/1275243450 但し北朝鮮側は否定している。