By George Hutchinson and Robert Collins
April 25th was “Military Foundation Day” in North Korea. Experts from the U.S. to China believe there is a strong likelihood we’ll see another nuclear or ballistic missile test, or possibly both, soon. Bad news for all, since the North Korean threat no longer only pertains to South Korea, but now includes neighboring countries where U.S. forces are stationed. Soon, even the U.S. mainland will be threatened due to the regime’s ICBM development.
On May 9th, the Republic of Korea (ROK) will hold a snap presidential election to fill the void left by the impeached Park Geun-hye. Simply put, the next two weeks are not only critical for achieving a successful deal regarding North Korea, but decisions made and policies formulated during this window will dramatically impact the fate of the Korean Peninsula.
Over the past 20-plus years, previous administrations have tried just about every possible tactic, short of war, to coerce North Korea to cease its illegal nuclear and missile programs—none have worked. The only constant among these failed policies is North Korea’s commitment to not give up its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
To be sure, the national security of the American people and that of our allies is incredibly important and certainly your number one responsibility. However, human rights for the North Korean people are important as well.
In the Art of the Deal, your closing words include, “In my life, there are two things I’ve found I’m very good at: overcoming obstacles and motivating good people to do their best work.” You have also demonstrated a mastery of highly effective and spontaneous communications. Your unconventional communication and problem-solving talents are sorely needed, now.
Much like you have reduced the influence of the conventional news media by communicating with the American people directly through your Twitter account, an approach to North Korea’s problem sets is needed to blast through the traditional conventions that have not worked.
So beyond thumbing through the playbook of failed engagement and negotiation strategies, or placing over-reliance on an unreliable China, do what you do best—communicate directly to the people through Twitter. Use this venue to talk directly to the 25 million North Koreans who suffer under a brutal, multi-layered system of repression. Yes, North Koreans do not have access to your Tweets, but nearly everybody else does and numerous human rights groups have ways of sending those tweets into North Korea through surreptitious means.
Through your Twitter account, lead the world in a campaign that tells the North Korean people, “We have no beef with you, the people of North Korea—it’s the repressive system that imprisons you that we despise.” Call out those who disingenuously ignore the repressive Kim family regime’s abhorrent crimes against humanity (China). Call out North Korea for what it is—a human rights disaster...an uncaring, despotic regime set up entirely for the benefit of its elites who ruthlessly prevent the North Korean people from realizing any potential.
You face numerous challenges as you approach completion of your first 100 days in office this week. The North Korea problem may be chief among them. No administration has succeeded yet. But you’ve spent a life successfully overcoming obstacles and motivating people. You’re up to the task.
George Hutchinson and Robert Collins
George Hutchinson is a board member of the International Council of Korean Studies (ICKS). A U.S. Air Force veteran and former advisor to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, Hutchinson served as the Joint Duty Officer for the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission. Hutchinson is a Korean linguist trained at Yonsei University and the Defense Language Institute, Monterey, California.
Robert Collins is the author of HRNK’s reports “Songbun” and “Pyongyang Republic” and numerous articles in publications including the International Journal of Korean Studies and HRNK Insider. A 37-year veteran of the U.S. Department of the Army, he completed his career as Chief of Strategy, ROK-US Combined Forces Command.