The ICAS Lectures


Kim Jong Un's Grand Strategy and His Ultimate Goal

Jong Ho Ri

ICAS Winter Symposium

February 14, 2018 1:00 pm -3:30 PM
Woodrow Wilson Center
One Woodrow Wilson Plaza
1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington DC 20004

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

Biographic sketch & Links: Jong Ho Ri

Translation by Tong Kim, (ICAS Fellow; Washington correspondent and columnist for The Korea Times)

Translation by Olivia Lee, Daughter of Jong Ho Ri

Translation by Tong Kim, (ICAS Fellow; Washington correspondent and columnist for The Korea Times)

Kim Jong Un's Grand Strategy and His Ultimate Goal

Jong Ho Ri
Former Senior Economic Official, Office 39, North Korea

My name is Jong Ho Ri. I worked for 30 years at North Korea's Workers Party Office #39. I defected to South Korea in October 2014. While working at the Office #39, I set up the Daeheung Group's shipping company, and I served as its president and CEO for 7 years. In 2007, former Chairman Kim Jong Il of the National Defense Commission appointed me as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the General Corporation for Geumgang Economic Development, and I served in that capacity for one year. Afterwards, until my exile in October 2014, I served as the general manager of the Dairen Branch of the Daeheung Group that belonged to the Office #39, providing special advice to the regime on economic development. I received several medals, including the title of a workers' hero, which is the highest medal in North Korea. I also received a master's degree in economics.

As for the motivation of my defection, I saw Kim Jong Un's brutal execution of his uncle and his aunt and hundreds of high level officials who dedicated their life- long service to his father and the country. He killed them and their families and even their children mercilessly by the firing of an anti-aircraft gun that left no traces of the victims. I saw continuing acts of barbarianism. And almost every day I saw ranking officials and ordinary people being taken away to a political prisoners camp. They were driving the people into fear and trepidation. Among those ranking officials and ordinary people who were either brutally executed or sent to the prison camp were several of those whom I personally knew, and friends of my children.

After witnessing these cruel acts of barbarism, I concluded that there was no hope for the dictatorial regime of Kim Jong Un. This was my motivation for defection in search for freedom.

I lived in South Korea for one year. After settlement there, I felt it was dangerous for me to carry out any activity. In March 2016, I came to the United States in exile.

Today, I would like to speak on the significance of President Trump's and Vice President Pence's capturing of the North Korean human rights issue that had been slighted on the backburner.

President Trump said at the recent State of the Union address and at a breakfast prayer meeting that no other regime in the world than the tyrannical North Korean regime cruelly oppresses its own people. He highlighted the regime's brutality and its abuses of human rights. He invited nine North Korean defectors to the White House to listen to their stories, showing a great interest in the issue of North Korean human rights.

Vice President Pence also met with North Korean defectors to confirm the horrible human rights situation in the North, and he called the regime in North Korea a prison state, which confines, tortures and starves its people. He called on the world to know the truth of North Korea.

There is no respect for human rights in North Korea. The people don't even know what human rights are. Therefore, it is greatly significant that the importance of human rights was underscored.

First, the fact that President Trump and Vice President Pence exposed the cruel characteristic of the North Korean regime and they met with the defectors gave the people in the North hope and confidence, while dealing a fatal blow to the regime. They were separating the people from the brutal, tyrannical regime.

The North Korean human rights issue represents a crime against humanity, committed by the dictator's order, direction, and organization. The United Nations committee on North Korean human rights concluded that the regime is the worst since the Nazis.

Second, President Trump's capturing of the North Korean human rights issue from hiding carries a strong message that we should rescue 25 million North Korean people from the yoke of tyrannical oppression as soon as possible.

Third, President Trump has shown his strategic intent, through a two -prong approach, to resolve the North Korean issues by highlighting the human rights issue in addition to maximum pressure against the North. The human rights issue can be used as a powerful weapon.

Human rights are based on a universal value, and their abuses constitute a crime against humanity. Advocacy for human rights is broadly supported in the United States and the world. The human rights issue can become one of the strongest weapons to resolve the North Korean issue.

Next, I am going to talk about Kim Jong Un's tactical intent of participation in the PyeongChang Olympics and about the prospect of what could happen after the Olympics.

Kim Jong Un has been driven into a crisis without an exit due to the efficacy of sanctions, military pressure and diplomatic isolation. He is in a serious state of situation with no hope of survival. North Korea's claim that they can survive sanctions with the force of self-reliance is a 100% lie.

His decision to participation in the PyeongChang Olympics and his attempt to have an inter-Korean summit are a highly calculated deceptive tactic designed for an exit from such a crisis. His tactic is also to interfere with the PyeongChang Olympics.

First, Kim's reason for participating in the Olympics and his interest in dialogue, hiding his true threatening traits and making gestures of appeasement, lies in a fundamental objective of finding a breakthrough to his crisis from sanctions. He is trying to take advantage of South Korea as a shield.

Until a few months ago, Kim Jong Un threated to turn South Korea and the United States into seas of fire, frantically conducting missile and nuclear tests. As his situation was becoming worse by sanction pressures, he started making gestures. He invited President Moon Jae-in to visit Pyongyang. He sent his sister and North Korea's nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam to attend the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Olympics. His actions show how serious is the crisis he is in.

Second, Kim Jong Un's decision to participate in the PyeongChang Olympics and to respond to dialogue is to use the South Korean President as a shield against an imminent preemptive strike by the United States, and to earn time to complete his missile and nuclear programs. Kim is fearing a U.S. preemptive strike. The fear of a preemptive strike is widely spread equally among the elites and the general population. Therefore, Kim Jong Un is using tactics of trying to take advantage of the South Korean people and use them as a shield against an imminent preemptive strike. Behind the Olympics, North Korea's nuclear and missile programs will continue.

Third, Kim Jong Un also dispatched an art performance troupe of beauties and a cheering squad of beauties to the PyeongChang Olympics. This too is a deceptive tactic. Their only purpose is to conceal the regime's evil nature and to interfere with the PyeongChang Olympics, and to turn the PyeongChang Olympics into a Pyongyang Olympics.

Kim Jong Un sent hundreds of beauties as members of the art troupe and a cheering squad in a psychological warfare of smiles and sentiments to appeal to South Koreans, hiding the true evil nature of the North Korean regime. They are using the stage of the PyeongChang Olympics for a platform of Pyongyang's festivity, thereby interfering with the PyeongChang Olympics. In 1988, North Korea exploded a South Korean passenger airliner in the air in order to interfere with the 88 Seoul Olympics.

Fourth, Kim Jong Un knows that his situation will be very dangerous even after the Olympics. He will make all out efforts to make a hole to the sanction regime, by exploiting the president and the government of South Korea. Depending on the situation, he will take the South Korean people as a hostage or continue to launch threatening provocations. As we can see it, Kim Jong Un's card in participation in the Olympics and engagement in dialogue is not genuinely for peace but a deceptive tactic.

While I thank President Trump and Vice President Pence for meeting the North Korean defectors and for showing a great interest in the North Korean human rights issue, I would like to make a few proposals.

First, I hope that the Trump administration strongly promote the human rights issue, as with the sanctions regime, government-wide and internationally so as to eventually resolve the North Korean issue.

The U.S. government is working hard to expose the brutality of the tyrannical regime in North Korea and to find a solution to this grave issue. However, the South Korean president keeps his eyes, ears and mouth closed to the brutal nature of the tyrannical North Korean regime and to the human rights issue.

The people in North Korea, just like the people in the South, want to be free from oppression and to enjoy freedom and live happily. If the South Korean president hold hands with the North Korean dictator, it will bring more pains and death to 25 million North Korean people, who are yearning for liberation and freedom. This must be stopped.

Second, the sanctions regime carried out by the Trump administration is the toughest ever, that we had never seen. Kim Jong Un who is struggling in a crisis is attempting to undermine the sanctions by using President Moon Jae-in.

If the president and government of South Korea join in Kim Jong Un's deceptive tactics of making a hole to the sanctions regime and disrupt the unified effort of the international community, apply a secondary boycott immediately. Investigate whether South Korea had secretly provided funds and materials under the pretext of the PyeongChang Olympics and dialogue.

Third, in order to curb a continuing increase of the dangerous nuclear arsenal, and to prevent the hardship of the people from the sanctions, please expedite the military option that will remove the nuclear button. If you cannot stop the continuing North Korean nuclear program today, South Korea and the world will be the brutal leader's nuclear hostages tomorrow. Time is running out.

To minimize the danger of a preemptive strike that can bring about a quick solution, psychological warfare will be effective for the removal of the nuclear button from within by the North Korean people.

The Korean peninsula is not a peaceful place. For decades, millions of military soldiers are facing off, aiming their guns at each other, waiting for a last battle that will determine the fate of the peninsula.

Fourth, even if Kim Jong Un proposes a freeze on his nuclear and missile programs and a gradual political solution, that will be only to avoid the sanctions and such a proposal will be a 100% deception. Do not be deceived.

The North Korean dictatorial regime's diplomacy is based on the strategy and tactics of deception. For the past 25 years, North Korea signed many international agreements, including the Agreed Framework, only to cheat them, continuing to advance their nuclear program behind the scene. The North Korean constitution and the Workers Party convention clearly stipulate Byungjin (a parallel pursuit of increasing their nuclear arsenal and economic development). The denuclearization of North Korea will absolutely not be possible, unless Kim Jong Un is removed.

Kim Jong Un is attempting to stay in power for a long time. We don't now when he is going to bring up the threat of his nuclear weapons. North Korea is a closed state. If they hide nuclear weapons underground, there is no way to find them.

Fifth, the idea of a peaceful resolution to the North Korean nuclear issue through dialogue is like "hitting the rock with an egg."

The North's nuclear program is directly linked to Kim Jong Un's survival. Dialogue, even 100 rounds of talks, will not produce a desirable result that we want. Kim Jong Un is the third generation in the regime's dynastic succession of power. He is dreaming of staying in power for 50 more years. He wants to keep the dynastic system forever. For the protection of its system, North Korea does not allow opening, continues its reign of terror, and deprives the people of freedom. It is a prison state.

President Moon has four years left of his office. If he holds a summit meeting with Kim Jong Un, how could Moon provide an assurance for Kim's long-term rule? North Korean diplomatic strategy is for deception. They take what's sweet, reject what's bitter. Carrots do not pay off. They respond to dialogue only when they need it.

In the past, Presidents Kim Dae Jung and Rho Moo Hyon gave a lot of funds only in return for a useless paper of agreement, only extending the life of the North Korean regime and driving the South Korean people into a more dangerous situation. In conclusion, any dialogue for a resolution to the nuclear issue should be allowed only after the Kim dynasty system is replaced.

Thank you.

This page last updated February 20, 2018 jdb

Translation by Olivia Lee, Daughter of Jong Ho Ri

Kim Jong Un's Grand Strategy and His Ultimate Goal

Jong Ho Ri
Former Senior Economic Official, Office 39, North Korea

My name is Ri Jong-ho. I worked in Office 39 of North Korea's ruling Worker's Party for 30 years. I served as CEO of Daehueng Group, which is one of the main group of Office 39, for seven years. Appointed by Kim -Jong il in 2007, I served as chairman of KKG, which is belong to the National Defense, for one year. Before defecting to South Korea on Oct. 2014, I run the Dalian, China, branch of a North Korea Daehueng trading company while involving national development of North Korea as a special adviser. I received many honors including the Hero of Labor Award, the highest civilian honor in North Korea.

My motive for exile is - by watching that Kim Jong-un brutally executed his uncle and aunt and hundreds of high-raking officials including my friends who were loyal to his father and dedicated whole life to the country - I felt fury and thought that there was no hope under his dictatorship. Therefore, I defected with my family on Oct.2014 to South Korea and came to America as an exile because South Korea was not safe for us to stay and work.

Today, I would like to start with regarding the significance of the capturing by President Trump and Vice President Pence on the importance of human rights issue. In fact, human rights are not respected in North Korea, and residents live without even knowing what they are. Therefore, it is important to emphasize the North Korean regime's cruelty and human rights issue.

First, that President Trump and Vice-president Pence highlighted North Korea human rights issue and met the North Korean defectors will give hope to the oppressed North Korean and deal a deathblow to the dictator. The human rights suppression in North Korea is conducted under the dictator's order and instruction. The message of President and Vice-president will separate the residents from the brutal dictator.

Second, human rights issue is a superweapon. Human rights issues in North Korea are crimes against humanity, therefore, will receive widespread support not only in the United States but also around the world. It can be the most powerful means to solve problem.

Next, I would like to talk about the tactical intention of Kim Jong-un to participate in Pyeongchang Olympic and prospects after the Pyeongchang Olympic.

Kim Jong-un is in a crisis under the strongest-yet sanctions, military pressure, and diplomatic isolation. North Korea claims that they can survive in sanctions deepening on their own efforts, but it is 100% lie. North Korea's participation in Pyeongchang Olympic and trying to have summit meeting with South Korea is a highly disguised tactics to escape from the crisis and disturb Pyeongchang Olympic.

The first purpose that Kim Jong-un is, hiding his nature of evil, took part in the Pyeongchang Olympics with an appeasement policy is to overcome the crisis of sanctions against North Korea using South Korea. Until a few months ago, Kim Jong-un threatened that he would turn South Korea and the U.S. into seas of flame with continuing to conduct nuclear and missile test.

However, as he faced crisis because of sanctions, he sent his sister and Kim Yong-nam for joining Pyeongchang Olympic and invited President Moon to Pyongyang. This explains the seriousness of the crisis that Kim Jong-un is in.

The second purpose of Kim Jong-un to participate Pyeongchang Olympic is that he is trying to by time to compete his nuclear and missile programs utilizing South Korea president as a shield against the impending first strike. Kim Jong-un is afraid that the U.S. will launch a preventative strike.

The third purpose of Kim Jong-un that sending cheerleaders and the artists to Pyeongchang Olympic is to mask his nature of evil and make the Olympic a Pyongyang Festival. The hundreds of artists and beauty cheerleaders, who were sent by Kim Jong-un, took advantage of the opportunity to turn the Olympic into a North Korean propaganda venue for Kim Jong-un and the regime and break the Olympic atmosphere.

Lastly, the critical situation of North Korea will continue after the Pyeongchang Olympic, so, Kim Jong un won't stop to create a hole in sanctions by exploiting South Korea Government and the public. Depending on the circumstances, North Korea could hold South Korean hostage and continue its threatening provocations.

As such, North Korea's participation in the Pyeongchang Olympic and the dialogue propose are not purely peaceful purpose, but disguised tactics.

I appreciate that President Trump and Vice-president Pence met defectors who are under-privileged and show great interest in North Korean's human rights - as North Korean who knows the inside well - I would like to suggest several ideas to the White House and the America Government.

First of all, I hope that the Trump Administration can eventually resolve the North Korean human rights issue by strongly pushing it on a government-wide and international-wide like sanctions.

The U.S. government has highlighted human rights issue of North Korea by addressing the atrocities that Kim Jong-un has committed and tries to do its best to solve it. However, the president of South Korea, closes his eyes, mouth, and ears regarding the human rights issue in North Korea and the brutality of Kim Jong-un, only tries his best to impress the dictator. North Koreans, like South Koreans, want to escape from the dictator's pressures and enjoy his or her freedom and happiness. But if South Korean president goes hand in hand with the dictator, it will lead the 25 million North Koreans who long for liberation to great pain and death. It should be prevented.

Second, the sanctions that Trump's administration imposed were the strongest that have never been done before. That's why Kim Jong-un is trying to create a hole in sanctions using President Moon Jae-in.

If the South Korean president and the government attempts to corporate with Kim Jong-un to make a hole in sanctions and destroy the concerted effort of the international community, please not to hesitate to apply the secondary boycott at South Korea. It is needed to be investigated whether South Korea provided funds and materials to Kim regime under the ground using the Olympic and the dialogue as an excuse - it is very likely because North Korea didn't take any action unless it was paid in the past.

Third, it is desirable to proceed quickly with military options to remove nuclear buttons to prevent the increasing risk of North Korean nuclear and further suffering of residents due to sanctions on North Korea.

If we fail to stop the ongoing nuclear program today, tomorrow will be more dangerous and South Korea and the world will be a hostage of the brutal dictator. I'm pressed for time. We don't have much time left. A containment offensive which can minimize risk and a psychological warfare against North Korea which can lead the insiders to remove its nuclear button by themselves would be the most effective military options. The psychological warfare against North Korea is a strategy to win without bleeding. The Korean Peninsula is not a peaceful place at all, but a dangerous place. The Korean Peninsula has been in a state of truce for decades, millions of soldiers confronting each other, it is unavoidable to shoot it out one day as long as Kim regime exists.

Fourth, even if Kim Jong-un proposes to freeze nuclear and missile development and close the nuclear gradually, it would be a 100 percent trick to avoid harsh sanctions. Hence, the U.S. should not believe him.

The diplomatic strategy of the North Korean dictatorship is a false tactics. North Korea has made a lot of agreements with the international community, including the Geneva Agreed Framework, over the past 25 years, but it has lied and has continued to develop nuclear and missile programs. It is also impossible to solve the nuclear issue until Kim Jong-un is replaced because the North Korea's Labor Party constitution and doctrine specify development of nuclear weapon. And importantly, it is not clear when Kim Jong-un will bring up his nuclear weapons as he tries to stay in power for long term. North Korea is a closed country, so it cannot be found if nuclear weapons are hidden in underground caves.

Fifth, resolving North Korea nuclear issue through dialogue is like hitting a rock with an egg.

Since the North Korea's nuclear program is directly linked to the survival of Kim Jong-un, hundred times of dialogues cannot produce the desired outcome. This is because Kim Jong-un took his power by his third generation of heredity and dreams of a more than 50 years long term power. He did not open the country to maintain his power, and he took away the people's freedom with a reign of terror, making it a huge prison country. There is nothing that President Moon who has 4 years left in his term can insure Kim Jong-un who wants to be in power over 50 years. Kim regime only receives whatever sweet and discard whatever bitter, and only takes the carrots that provided and never give the result that provider wants in return. The North Korean dictator only raises dialogue when he needs it. Therefore, the dialogue between President Moon and the dictator will only prolong the life of dictator and put South Korean in more danger, which Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun did in the past. The bottom line is that talks on resolving the North Korean nuclear issue are certainly possible when the Kim dynasty is replaced.

Thank you.

This page last updated February 20, 2018 jdb