North Korea says South Korea is their Number 1 Enemy



North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has deemed South Korea the hermit kingdom’s top enemy, eschewing any chances of reunification between the two nations divided by the 38th parallel.

In a Jan. 15 speech, Jong Un said he concluded that peaceful reunification was no longer possible. He added that Pyongyang would scrub any reference to South Koreans as fellow countrymen or partners for reconciliation. Instead, North Korea’s constitution would deem the South as a foreign country and a hostile state – one that should be occupied, subjugated and reclaimed in the event of war.

The third-generation leader also accused Seoul of seeking the collapse of the Kim regime, which was established by his grandfather Kim Il Sung and continued by his father Kim Jong Il. Alongside this accusation, Jong Un ordered the abolition of three government agencies working on inter-Korean affairs. He also vowed to tear down the Arch of Reunification that Jong Il had commissioned to symbolize eventual reunification.

“The change would break with decades of North Korean doctrine under [Il Sung and Jong Il] that sought to unify with the South through peaceful means, even while signaling a readiness for war,” the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) pointed out. “North Korea has drawn closer to Russia, supplying its war effort in Ukraine, and revived trade with China.”

“The possibility that the sharp shift in North Korean rhetoric and doctrine could translate into action remains a top concern among U.S. and South Korean officials. Inter-Korean clashes have occurred between the two Koreas in the past, notably with the shelling of a border island and the sinking of a South Korean naval ship in 2010.”

Seoul ready to respond to Pyongyang

“We do not want war, but we also have no intention of avoiding it,” Jong Un addressed the Supreme People’s Assembly – North Korea’s legislative body – on Jan. 15. “Explicitly speaking, we will never unilaterally unleash a war if the enemies do not provoke us.”

Meanwhile, South Korea has expanded its military cooperation with the U.S. and Japan. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, a conservative, also reiterated that Seoul will respond to military action by the North – formally the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“Should North Korea provoke us, we will punish them multiple times as hard,” the South Korean leader said during a Jan. 16 cabinet meeting, a day after Jong Un delivered his remarks. Yoon added that he believes peace can only be achieved through strength.

The WSJ pointed out that the discord between the two Koreas, mainly driven by the North’s aggression, has been building. In June 2020, Pyongyang blew up an inter-Korean liaison office operating in the southern border town of Kaesong. Both Koreas backed away from an inter-Korean accord meant to tone down hostilities in November, leading to both rearming soldiers near the two nations’ Demilitarized Zone.

Ties between Seoul and Pyongyang further worsened after Yoon took office in May 2022, replacing his leftist predecessor Moon Jae-in. Within months, North Korea blasted Yoon’s proposal to revive inter-Korean ties as an “absurd dream.” Jong Un ultimately admitted in an end-of-year plenary speech in 2023 that he had abandoned hope in the South as a partner for peace.

In turn, the Yoon administration has sought to take a tough stance against the North. The South Korean president has admonished Pyongyang over its spree of weapons tests and accelerated the rollout of the country’s new missile defenses. Moreover, a South Korean defense white paper released last year cast North Korea as the enemy for the first time in six years.


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