In the aftermath of heightened military escalation between North and South Korea this past week, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has dismissed several top government officials for their poor handling of the conflicts that increased tensions between the two countries.
According to reports by the New York Times, Kim fired government officials working in the party’s Central Military Commission. Although no official reason for the dismissals was disclosed, analysts speculate that the North Korean officials who were in charge of handling the military crisis failed to satisfy Kim’s expectations.
The tension between North and South Korea began earlier in the month on August 4, when alleged North Korean land mines near the border exploded and injured two South Korean soldiers. Despite the accusations, the North Korean government denied any involvement in the attack whatsoever.
After the land mine explosions, the South Korean government began broadcasting propaganda messages on loudspeakers criticizing Kim and his regime in the North. Kim’s regime, which does not permit outside criticism of its government and policies, feared that such broadcasts would cause internal unrest among the populace and weaken Kim’s grip on power. Both sides threatened military strikes as tensions heightened sending the two Koreas into a military standoff.
Heavy artillery fire was exchanged across the border, but no injuries or other damages occurred during the brief attack.
Nearly 43 hours of negotiations between officials finally diffused the situation when both sides agreed to a deal: the South would stop broadcasting its anti-North Korea messages and the North would end its attempts to escalate the already mounting tension. The North Korean government later expressed “regret” for the injured soldiers in an issued statement to the media that still vaguely denied its involvement but de-escalated the situation.
What had initially caught Kim off guard was how quickly and severely the South had responded to the mine blasts that had injured the two soldiers. According to Chang Yong Seok, a senior researcher at Seoul National University’s Institute for Peace and Unification Studies, North Korea certainly would have expected some conflict but not to the extent of being threatened with military strikes.
“North Korea could have thought about some sort of heightened tension but not like this.”
With the situation de-escalated and a new found peace between the two countries, both nations look to move on from their most recent standoff.
[Photo by South Korean Unification Ministry via Getty Images]