North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile or ICBM in the early morning of November 29. Later in the day, the nation announced that the missile was a Hwasong-15 and declared that it realized “the historic cause of completing the state nuclear force and building a rocket power.” It is the first time that North Korea used the expression of “completing the nuclear force.” It is interpreted as a political declaration of completing the task of developing an ICBM, separately from the technical completion of nuclear weapons or the possibility of deploying them for actual warfare. Here is Professor Kim Dong-yeop from the Institute for Far East Studies at Kyungnam University.

North Korea declared the completion of the nuclear force, even though it is still uncertain whether the nation has actually made technical progress in missile development. I think it is more of a political declaration, rather than pointing to technical completion. By declaring that the regime is capable enough to complete nuclear armament, North Korea seeks to dispel security jitters inside the nation and secure the stability and legitimacy of the regime. In a New Year’s speech in January this year, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said that the nation was in the final stage of preparations to test-fire an ICBM and nearing the stage of completing the nuclear force. In his New Year’s speech in 2018, the leader will review the past year and probably say that the stated goal has been fulfilled. Also, there has been considerable progress in the nation’s missile development, although there are some inadequate elements in relevant technology. Given the timing, I think the political declaration is a message toward the North Korean public.

After firing its Hwasong-14 missile on July 4 for the first time, North Korea described the launch as the final gateway to completing its nuclear force. Later, the nation stressed that its sixth nuclear test on September 3 was a very significant moment in its nuclear program. And Pyongyang has now declared the completion of its nuclear force. The Hwasong-15 missile it fired last week soared as high as 4,475 kilometers and flew 950 kilometers. If fired at a standard angle, the missile might have flown more than 10-thousand kilometers, putting the U.S. mainland within its target range. North Korea claims that this missile is capable of carrying a “super-large heavy warhead” and flying all the way to the U.S.

Among the missiles North Korea has fired, the Hwasong-15 flew the longest distance. One major difference from the Hwasong-14 is that the Hwasong-15 has two main engines. Also, its diameter is nearly two meters, 0.4 to 0.8 meter wider than that of the previous version, and the new missile is about 2 meters longer than the Hwasong-14. The super-sized missile was launched from a transporter erector launcher with nine axes, longer than an eight-axis vehicle used for previous ICBMs. Given the features, it would be fair to say that the Hwasong-15 is a new type of ICBM, not an upgraded version of the Hwasong-14 or the Hwasong-12. It seems there has been a significant technical improvement in North Korea’s missile development in terms of the range and the weight of a nuclear warhead, as the new missile appears to place the entire U.S. mainland under target. But it is necessary to verify whether the North has secured atmospheric re-entry technology.

One day after the Hwasong-15 launch, Kim Yong-nam, the president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly in North Korea, told the visiting delegates of the Lower House of the Russian Parliament that North Korea was ready to sit down with the U.S. when its status as a nuclear state is acknowledged. But Katina Adams, spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said in an interview with a local media agency that it is not enough for North Korea to stop its program where it is today and that it has to be prepared to come to the dialogue table with a focus on how to cease and roll back its nuclear program. Following North Korea’s recent missile launch, the U.S. has again used strong rhetoric, including suggesting a possible pre-emptive attack on North Korea.

The U.S.’ North Korea policy is summarized as “maximum pressure and engagement.” The U.S. mentions the possibility of a pre-emptive strike on North Korea, meaning that all options, including military ones, are on the table. It also indicates Washington’s strong will to respond firmly to North Korea’s provocations with military action. The U.S. has made a lot of comments about its North Korea policy since the Trump administration was inaugurated on January 20 this year. But no officials have been selected yet to be fully responsible for executing the North Korea policy. The U.S. is likely to maintain its existing stance toward North Korea.

While the U.S. is pushing for additional sanctions on North Korea following the communist nation’s recent missile launch, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had warnings for both North Korea and the U.S. regarding U.N. Security Council resolutions. In a joint press conference with his Mongolian counterpart on December 4, Wang said that China was opposed to North Korea’s nuclear and missile development and had fully implemented relevant U.N. resolutions. He also stressed that any measures outside the resolutions would not be helpful for the implementation of the resolutions. The remarks show that China is criticizing the U.S., which is considering imposing sanctions on North Korea separately from the U.N. resolutions, while still condemning North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

The U.S. is urging China to play a more active role in resolving the North Korean nuclear issue, but China has made it clear that it will not impose its own sanctions that go beyond the boundaries of the U.N. sanctions. In regards to responsibility, China claims that it is the U.S. and South Korea, not China, that should be responsible for the North Korean problem. Clearly, China wants North Korea’s denuclearization. Nevertheless, it believes that stability should come first. Beijing doesn’t like Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons development, but it doesn’t want regional instability triggered by the sanctions and the risk of Kim Jong-un regime’s collapse, either. These factors may pose a threat to its pursuit of a strong China, which the nation has been advocating since the 19th national congress of the Communist Party of China. Beijing will remain unchanged in this position.

While the international community is discussing fresh sanctions on North Korea, attention turns to the possibility of Pyongyang’s additional provocations. Some say that there would be no further provocations since North Korea has already declared that it has secured ICBM technology. On the other hand, others predict that North Korea may launch another provocation in time for the sixth anniversary of either the death of former leader Kim Jong-il, the sixth anniversary of current leader Kim Jong-un’s appointment as supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, or the nation’s winter drills.

There is still the possibility of North Korea’s additional provocations. Considering that the actual distance of its missiles has not been tested, North Korea will likely continue to test-fire Hwasong-14 and 15 missiles to complement some elements that are technically incomplete, although it has declared the completion of its nuclear armament. Before that, the nation may fire a submarine-launched ballistic missile or short-range missiles. Or, North Korea may conduct its air defense drills in a tit-for-tat reaction to the combined air force drills between South Korea and the U.S.

Some analysts are saying that next year’s PyeongChang Winter Olympics may serve as momentum to dispel worries about North Korea’s additional provocations and to ease tensions between North Korea and the U.S. For South Korea, it is very important to make the PyeongChang Games an Olympics of peace in order to break the deadlock in inter-Korean relations and establish a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.

I believe the PyeongChang Olympics will be a great opportunity. Regional diplomacy is in a difficult situation now due to North Korea’s missile launch. But I don’t think North Korea will take issue with the Olympics. On the contrary, North Korea’s participation in the Olympics could help eliminate some risk factors. The massive international sports event may facilitate the process of turning the situation around in the diplomatic arena. I expect the Winter Games will provide very important momentum to affect regional security matters, including the nuclear issue. I’m looking forward to a positive result.

[Interview] Defector Hopes to Create Dishes to be Enjoyed by People in Both Koreas

It was very cold in Hamheung. Even in the bitter cold, local people would go to a restaurant named Shinheunggwan and enjoyed cold noodles called naengmyeon. They called it nongma noodles. They said their limbs trembled with cold when they finished eating. Still, they really enjoyed the noodles in a chilled broth. The noodles were chewy as they were made from potato starch. While eating, they often pulled the chewy noodles for fun. I miss the good, old days. I wish I could go there to eat the cold noodles again.

Cold weather often reminds people of a warm broth, but Ms. Park Jeong-ae, who came from the North Korean town of Hamheung, craves the cold noodles of naengmyeon she used to eat in her hometown in winter. In North Korea, she majored in art and worked as a teacher at an art college. As a member of the elite, she lived in comfort. But she escaped from the North in 2006 in the hopes of providing better education to her daughter. Park arrived in South Korea without any special preparations or plans. She vaguely knew about South Korea through TV or movies in the North. But the reality was even more different than she had expected. She was at a loss at what to do first. She had been an art professor in North Korea, but it was far from easy for a 40-something housewife who had no special skills, experiences, or connections to resettle in a new environment.

There were so many occupations that I didn’t even understand. I had no idea of what those jobs with English names meant. I was also curious about the occupation of a housekeeper, who is paid for doing house chores. I actually worked as a housekeeper for months. I thought it was amazing to get paid every day to earn my livelihood simply by doing chores. I even wondered if I could run a business of housekeepers in North Korea after unification. Why? There is no such occupation in the North.

In South Korea, everything was new and amazing. She was surprised to see a nail salon, a massage center and a supermarket filled with everyday goods as well as various kinds of soy sauce and soybean paste. But other than goods and shops that she had never seen in North Korea, what was even more surprising to her was the social freedoms enjoyed in South Korea.

After I arrived in South Korea, I saw the massive public protest against U.S. beef imports. In North Korea, anyone who joins a protest rally would be arrested. Moreover, everyone in North Korea would be willing to eat beef, no matter where it comes from. I couldn’t understand why American beef mattered to people here. To figure out what was going on, I went out to the street where the rally was being held. There, I discovered that South Koreans enjoyed freedom and human rights, which were unfamiliar to North Korean people. I felt that people here voluntarily took to the street, not being mobilized forcibly, to exercise the rights they were entitled to in a free and democratic nation. Also, I was amazed by the concept of volunteer work. Right after I came to South Korea, a volunteer from the Red Cross was in charge of my family. I wondered why she was doing so much work for other people, not for herself.

While getting to know South Korean society gradually, she turned her eyes to food. She had few opportunities to cook in North Korea as she taught art in college. But thanks to her mother and grandmother, she was able to successfully run a restaurant in an unfamiliar South Korean society.

My grandmother used to run an eatery during the Japanese colonial period, and my mother also did the same job. I picked up cooking from my parents, and I think I simply used it here in South Korea. My mother was good at making spicy beef soup with vegetables, which is called yukgaejang here, Hamheung naengmyeon, and kimchi, in particular. My mother’s yukgaejang was really special.

First, Park sold soondae or Korean sausage stuffed with various ingredients. Her Hamheung-style soondae drew an enthusiastic response from customers. Encouraged by the result, she took up a challenge again by opening a restaurant where customers can enjoy various kinds of North Korean food.

The restaurant offers North Korean food representing different regions, such as Pollack soup from Chongjin, Pyongyang-style chicken soup with rice, naengmyeon from Hamheung, and Wonsan-style rice in hot soup. Many North Korean defectors are glad to enjoy representative local delicacies in North Korean provinces. Also, old North Korean expats who left their homes during the Korean War love raw Pollack, fermented flat fish and dumplings offered at the restaurant. There, they hold family gatherings and other events related to five different North Korean provinces. The home-lost people are happy to eat the food they had enjoyed in their hometowns.

Park majored in North Korean studies in South Korea in order to examine cultural differences in the two Koreas. She is temporarily stepping away from her restaurant business because she is completing her doctoral dissertation. By using her ten years of experience of operating a North Korean restaurant, she plans to develop food that would please the palates of people in South and North Korea.

It is necessary to develop food that combines South and North Korean cuisine. I’ll conduct research on food that would be accepted by North Koreans after unification. South Koreans do not know about North Korean food very well, as they cannot know about food only through books. I hope defectors like me will create a new taste that would appeal to people on both sides of the border. With this purpose in mind, I’m working on related research, and I plan to expand the scope by discussing it with a lot of North Korean expats.

We’d like to give our warm support to Ms. Park, who dreams of developing food that would be enjoyed by those in both South and North Korea.