Fletcher Features

Prof. Lee Analyzes North Korea's Threats of Aggression Against the United States

Sung-Yoon Lee is the Kim Koo-Korea Foundation Professor in Korean Studies and Assistant Professor at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University

US, South Korea join forces to prevent cyberattacks by North Korea

Recent massive cyberattacks that paralyzed computer networks at several South Korean banks and broadcasters, strongly suspected to have been launched by North Korean hackers, have prompted Washington and Seoul to come up with tough new countermeasures to stop Pyongyang from waging information warfare in the future.

"The U.S. and South Korean militaries will cooperate to develop diverse deterrence scenarios against hacking attacks and increase anti-cyberwarfare forces to over 1,000 to better deal with emerging threats from countries like North Korea," said Kwon Kihyeon, a spokesman at South Korea's Ministry of National Defense.

Details of this new counterstrategy cannot be revealed now for security reasons, Kwon said. But the plan is to finish drafting the tactics by July, and test and review them during the next joint U.S.-South Korea military drills, which begin in late August, before they're implemented in October. …

… North Korea runs a cyberwarfare unit of at least 3,000 expert hackers with the aim of breaking into foreign computer networks to get information and spread computer viruses, according to Sung-Yoon Lee, a professor of Korean studies at the Fletcher School at Tufts University.

Last month's hacking assault on South Korea -- the largest in two years -- using malware, coupled with the recent military threats from Pyongyang directed at Seoul, have raised unprecedented concern about potential cyberterrorism by the North against the South. It's no wonder North Korea is widely suspected of carrying out the attack, Lee explained.

Read the full piece (ITWorld)

Boston's Korean community reacts to rising North Korea-US tensions

There are thousands of Korean immigrants and Korean Americans living in greater Boston, and there is strong support for the South but there is some mixed reaction about what the North might do.

Endless lines of soldiers are among the images of the North Korean military released to the public by state-run TV amid recent threats by 30-year-old leader Kim Jong Un about nuclear violence against South Korea and the United States.

But are warnings about re-starting its plutonium reactor real or just posturing?

"For such a country at such a disadvantage economically speaking, nuclear extortion has proven to be most successful national policy," said Tufts University Fletcher School Professor of Korean Studies Sung-Yoon Lee, speaking on this day to a conference about human rights in North Korea, knows for all the talk, the North has limits.

"We know North Korea is not suicidal so they won't launch an all-out war. They don't want to play that game because they will lose," Prof. Lee said.

Listen to the full story (NECN)


North Korea Announces Plans to Restart Reactor


Mysterious and disturbing provocations from North Korea gained a possible new twist today. North Korea announced it would restart all of its nuclear facilities to expand the availability of plutonium and enriched uranium for what it says is a growing nuclear arsenal.

This announcement follows tough talk from South Korea warning of a quick and strong response to any military moves by the North. The White House says it is alarmed by this latest sustained North Korean episode of bellicose rhetoric but the Obama administration says it sees no North Korean troop movements that might indicate some mobilization is underway.

Sung-Yoon Lee is a professor in Korean studies and an assistant professor at Tufts University's Fletcher School. John Delury is an assistant professor at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea.

According to Delury, the last time someone other than a North Korean visited the nuclear site was when Stanford University physicist Siegfried Hecker examined the uranium facility in 2010. He described it as “ultra-modern” at the time. “Now what the North Koreans are saying is it’s full steam ahead and they are restarting everything, including the plutonium program which we know has been stalled for a while. Plus whatever is going on with their uranium program.”

Listen to the full conversation (The Takeaway)


North Korea threats predictable but Kim Jong Un is not, analysts say

Is Kim Jong Un crazy -- or crazy like a fox?

Analysts said Friday there's a familiar method to the madness coming out of North Korea, where the rookie supreme leader has put rockets on standby, threatened to "settle accounts" with the U.S., and posed near a chart that appeared to map missile strikes on American cities. On Saturday, North Korea said it had entered a "state of war" against South Korea, according to a statement reported by the north's official news agency, KCNA.

Kim Jong Un's father and grandfather were also serial saber-rattlers when they headed the secretive regime, and experts said there are clear strategic reasons why the world's youngest head of state is ramping up the rhetoric now, after little more than a year in power….

… "I think there is always room for miscalculation and things spiraling out of control," said Sung-Youn Lee, assistant professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. "But he is following the playbook set by his father and grandfather."

North Korea is "very adept at engaging at psychological warfare," Lee said. It cranks up the tensions, putting pressure on Seoul and Washington, and is rewarded with aid and concessions when it tones things down, Lee said.

Read the full piece (NBC News)

Prof. Lee Weighs in on North Korea's Bluster and Propaganda

This week, North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jung-un, ordered his underlings to prepare for a missile attack on the United States. He appeared at a command center in front of a wall map with the bold, unlikely title, “Plans to Attack the Mainland U.S.” Earlier in the month, his generals boasted of developing a “Korean-style” nuclear warhead that could be fitted atop a long-range missile.…

… On top of all that, most countries on the verge of a major military assault do not broadcast their battle plans to the world.

“You would expect such a military order to be issued in secret,” said Kim Min-seok, spokesman of the South Korean Defense Ministry. “We believe that by revealing it to the media and publicizing it to the world, North Korea is playing psychology.” …

… In such a setting, Mr. Kim’s trip to a border island on a wooden boat — it almost seemed designed to create a “Washington crossing the Delaware” motif — is proof of his “daring and pluck,” as the country’s main party newspaper, Rodong, explained. Rodong also declared about North Korea’s nuclear weapons: “Let the American imperialists and their followers know! We are not a pushover like Iraq or Libya.” The first, famously, had no nuclear weapons; the second gave up its nascent nuclear program in late 2003, a move North Korea describes as Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s greatest mistake.

In the propaganda world that the three generations of the Kim dynasty has created, Mr. Kim is “a great iron-willed general admired by all of his people, including real generals who have actually served in the military,” said Lee Sung-yoon, North Korea specialist at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. “For the Kim III, fantasy is reality.”

Read the full piece (The New York Times)

DPRK Following a Strategy of Gradual Escalation: Prof. Sung-Yoon Lee

RAY SUAREZ:  The temperature kept rising on the Korean Peninsula today, at least judging from public pronouncements. The communist North declared its missile forces are ready to launch at American targets.

More than 100,000 North Koreans filled Pyongyang's main square today, shouting "Death to the U.S. imperialists." The mass rally coincided with a new threat. State television announced North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has decided the time has come to settle accounts with the U.S.

TV PRESENTER: He has signed the plan on technical preparations of strategic rockets, ordering them to be on standby for fire so that they are able to strike at any time the U.S. mainland and its military bases in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam and those in South Korea.

RAY SUAREZ:  State media also released photographs of Kim and his senior generals during an emergency meeting late last night. They're seen looking at a map, purportedly showing U.S. cities that might be targeted by North Korean missiles. The White House responded through a spokesman traveling with President Obama today.

He said bellicose rhetoric only deepens North Korea's isolation. On Thursday, a more forceful demonstration: A pair of B-2 stealth bombers flew 6,500 miles to South Korea and back, as part of ongoing joint military exercises between the two nations.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Martin Dempsey, addressed the flight during a briefing with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. …

… RAY SUAREZ:  Professor Lee, do agree? Are we really in more jeopardy than we were just a few weeks ago?

SUNG-YOON LEE, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University: Well, we have seen a crescendo of bluster barrage.

I don't think we are on the brink of war, because we know the North Korean regime harbors no suicidal impulses. I don't necessarily want to paint the North Korean regime as all-knowing, omnipotent, brilliant military strategists. So, there is always the danger of miscalculation, yes.

But we have seen North Korea resort to periodic, deadly, but always limited, controlled attacks against the South and the United States forces in South Korea over the past 60 years. And I think the North Korean regime views this period, 2013, as a particularly appeasement-prone time.

And, hence, it's in North Korea's interest to raise the stakes, paint Washington and Seoul especially into a corner, with a view towards receiving more economic concessions in the future.

Watch the full video (PBS Newshour)

Experts: Tough response just what N. Korea needs

The Obama administration needs to send a loud and clear message to nuclear-saber-rattling North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un, according to experts across the political spectrum: Don’t mess with the U.S.

“Their MO is to talk crazy and act rationally, so that’s what I’m looking for,” said Scott A. Snyder, director of the Council on Foreign Relations’ U.S.-Korean Policy Program. “I think there’s greater risk in this situation and I think that’s why the U.S. is sending the message it has.”

That message came in the form of nuclear-capable B-2 and B-52 bombers unleashed in military drills over South Korea, and new United Nations economic sanctions, all as Kim threatens to launch his newly developed missiles. …

… However, the North KorĀ­eans have learned that the tenuous international aid that keeps their regime in power and their nation afloat is based largely on their perceived threat to their neighbors.

“It’s quite rational,” said Sung-Yoon Lee, an expert on North Korea at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. “It’s not crazy.”

And shoving back too hard against Pyongyang’s inflated threats could force them to double down and help convince its impoverished population that their sacrifices to maintain North Korea’s military are necessary.

Suffolk University Professor Simone Chun said the administration has taken the wrong tack entirely — and should be urging the North Koreans to sit down at the negotiating table.

“I think President Obama has wasted five years when he could have made a huge difference,” Chun said. “North Korea wants normalization of diplomacy with the United States.”

Read the full piece (Boston Herald)

Expert: N. Korean threats help control N. Korea population


On Saturday, North Korea announced that any issues arising between the two Koreas will be dealt with according to wartime regulations.

Voice of Russia's Stephen Schaber tries to make sense of the new developments with the help of Dr. Sung-Yoon Lee, an assistant professor of Korean Studies at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University:

North Korea has also threatened to close the Kaesong Industrial Complex, which staffs workers from both North and South Korea.

Prof. Sung-Yoon Lee says that these threats are not serious. However, Kim Jong Unmay be upping the threats against South Korea in order to better control the North Korean population. Keeping the populace in a constant state of threat is one way to keep a hold on his power, Dr. Sung-Yoon Lee says.

Tune in to the conversation (Voice of Russia)

N. Korea's Likely 1st Target Pinpointed


An expert on North Korea predicts the isolated Hermit Kingdom could stage “some kind” of attack or bombing within a few days on the Korean Peninsula amid heightened rhetoric about nuclear war.

Sung-Yoon Lee said the recent bluster is “unusual for [North Korea's] standards.”

North Korean threats could include wiping out an inhabited South Korean island, and it is “not mere rhetoric,” Lee told the open source Langley Intelligence Group Network, or Lignet, in an exclusive interview.

Lee is the Kim Koo Korea Foundation professor in Korean Studies and an assistant professor at Tufts University’s Fletcher School.

Lee said that the bellicose rhetoric from North Korea could be boxing in North Korea’s 28-year-old leader, Kim Jong-un, and that if he doesn’t act, he could lose face.

Read the full piece (WND



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