North Korea Puts Nuclear Threats on Hold in Favor of Business, Skiing and Mushrooms

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JUNG YEON-JE / AFP / Getty Images)

South Korean military trucks drive past barricades on the road linking North Korea's Kaesong Industrial Complex at a military check point in Paju near the demilitarized zone dividing the two Koreas on June 6, 2013. North and South Korea agreed in principle on June 6 to hold their first official talks for years, signalling a possible breakthrough in cross-border ties after months of escalated military tensions.

Proving once again that the North Korean government is like New England’s weather — if you don’t like it, wait a few minutes, allegedly uttered by Mark Twain — Pyongyang is now saying it is reconsidering its April order to South Korea to abandon the Kaesong industrial park.

The complex, just north of the demilitarized zone in North Korea, employed 53,000 North Koreans making textiles and rudimentary electronics in more than 100 South Korean-run factories. Pyongyang shut the operation down two months ago as the international community ratcheted up pressure on the North following its nuclear and missile tests.

On Thursday, Pyongyang proposed talks between the two Koreas – they’d be the first in more than two years – to pave the way for re-opening the industrial park. Discussions could begin as early next week, South Korean officials suggested.

Shutting the complex – which generated nearly $100 million annually for cash-strapped North Korea – could have been more costly than Pyongyang anticipated, given increasing Chinese coolness toward Kim Jong-un, its new leader. China has long been North Korea’s protector and benefactor, but recent statements from Beijing concerning North Korea’s belligerent behavior suggest its patience may be running out.

Meanwhile, in other North Korean news, Kim sent out an appeal to his army on Tuesday to construct a new ski area as a “gigantic patriotic work.”

On Wednesday, the troops said: “You bet, Great Successor.”


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Better mushrooms than mushroom clouds.

Also on Wednesday, the Korean Central News Agency, the North’s official news outlet, reported that Kim had recently visited the new Posong Mushroom Farm to learn cultivation skills and share his agricultural knowledge with the local fungi farmers.

“He underlined the need to contribute to the diet of soldiers and people by building in various places such bases mass-producing mushrooms in an industrial method,” KCNA reported.

If there were ever a time to invite Kim to the Pentagon, now is that time.