South Korean military goes back to describing North Korea as an ‘enemy’
The change in language in educational material for the military reflects the more belligerent attitude of South Korea’s new president, Yoon Suk-yeol, and the tensions fuelled by this year's long series of missile launches. For South Korea, a new nuclear test by the North is imminent.
If his Democratic predecessor, Moon Jae-in, tried to keep channels of communication and dialogue with Pyongyang open, the new conservative president is carefully reviewing relations with Pyongyang.
In recent weeks, tensions have risen on the peninsula as North Korea undertook a long series of missile tests since the start of the year, the latest a few hours after US President Joe Biden ended his Asian tour.
Furthermore, more nuclear testing can be expected. Just a few days ago, the South Korean government admitted that it considered a North Korean test imminent, with preparations in their final phase. South Korean authorities indicate the first half of June as the most likely time.
Amid such tensions, South Korea’s new conservative government is showing its distrust of Pyongyang more and more. The educational material distributed by the Defence Ministry to its troops clearly describes North Korea as an enemy.
“North Korea's provocations are security threats facing us, and as long as such security threats continue, the North's military and its regime are our enemy," reads the material now in use in the South Korean military since Yoon took office.
The 2019 version, distributed under the Moon administration, simply referred to Pyongyang’s "real military threats".
A Defence Ministry spokesman, commenting on the new material, said the current administration intends to boost “the spiritual combat power of military personnel”. The changes to the military educational material serve precisely this purpose: to view the North as an enemy.
The revision is not unexpected. During his confirmation hearing in parliament in early May, the new defence minister, Lee Jong-sup, described North Korea as an “evident” enemy given its nuclear and missile threats and expressed his support for the review.
The change in language, however, may not stop there. As pledged during the election campaign, the conservative government plans to designate North Korea as an enemy in its defence documents.
According to reports from the Yonhap news agency, the Defence Ministry is already gathering opinions on including such language in the next defence white paper.