Fake news of the week, I suggest, was the sudden warming of relations on the Korean peninsula following the visit to the Winter Olympics of cute little Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korea’s nuke-waving Kim Jong-un — not only attracting positive coverage for the games but driving a splinter between South Korea and the US and nudging Vice President Mike Pence towards a tentative offer of direct talks with the North. But is the thaw for real? As a long-time student of prospects for Korean unification, I suspect not.
The world’s media seem to have forgotten the last such rapprochement, in 2000, when the then northern leader Kim Jong-il (father of Yo-jong and Jong-un) hosted ‘peace talks’ in his capital Pyongyang with his southern counterpart Kim Dae-jung, who collected a Nobel Peace Prize as a result. Local media waxed lyrical about ‘a spark from heart to heart’ but it turned out the meeting had been fuelled by a $186 million bung to Kim Jong-il via South Korea’s Hyundai industrial group — whose chairman subsequently threw himself from a 12th-floor window while northern Kim refocused his energies on building a nuclear arsenal. Call me a cynic, but I wonder what price, in cash and designer skiwear, was extracted to keep these games safe.
This is an extract from Martin Vander Weyer’s Any Other Business, which appears in this week’s magazine