Kim Jong Un’s new way to express anger at the South: Turn the lights out

South Korean soldiers set a barricade at a checkpoint near the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas in 2020. PHOTO: JUNG YEON-JE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
South Korean soldiers set a barricade at a checkpoint near the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas in 2020. PHOTO: JUNG YEON-JE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Summary

North Korea has dismantled streetlights on some of the few inter-Korean roads, highlighting a new type of hatred.

SEOUL—Kim Jong Un’s expressions of wrath toward South Korea now extend to streetlights.

In recent weeks, the Kim regime removed dozens of roadside lights that had lined two rare inter-Korean roads built during more harmonious times, according to Seoul officials.

Kim, the 40-year-old dictator, wants to scrub any—if not all—associations his country has with its southern neighbor. Early this year, he abandoned hope for peaceful reunification and pronounced South Korea the new No. 1 enemy.

Soon after, down went the Arch of Reunification in Pyongyang. Maps shown on state media darkened out the country to the south. The opening stanza of North Korea’s national anthem changed, jettisoning a lyric that referenced the geographic length of the entire Korean Peninsula.

The mass erasure of South Korea comes amid a protracted stretch of soured ties between Pyongyang and Seoul. That has left Kim with fewer novel ways to convey his displeasure.

Nearly four years ago, the Kim regime blew up an inter-Korean liaison office in the western border town of Kaesong. The two nations last fall scrapped a military accord meant to tone down hostilities. The military hotline has been severed for the past year. Pyongyang and Seoul these days are more likely to trade shell-firing drills than words.

Pyongyang hasn’t halted its weapons tests, insults of South Korean officials or threats of violence. Last week, Kim said that if the South attacked, his military could deliver a “death blow." Meanwhile, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol hasn’t softened his tough-line stance with Pyongyang amid Kim’s rising aggression.

The two inter-Korean roads represented key symbols of the detente between Pyongyang and Seoul at the turn of the century. One road connected to an inter-Korean industrial park in Kaesong where North Koreans worked and generated tens of millions of dollars that flowed to the Kim regime. The other shuttled busloads of South Korean travelers to the Mount Kumgang resort. Both locales have been defunct for years.

Rooting out South Korean dramas, music and even everyday expressions in the North has been a priority for Kim, even before his reversal on reunification. But it will take a significant amount of time for Kim to eliminate even the most obvious tie-ins to the South, said Park Won-gon, a professor of North Korean studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

“North Koreans must be quite puzzled," Park said. “The regime has been indoctrinating people about unifying the two countries for seven decades."

Write to Timothy W. Martin at Timothy.Martin@wsj.com

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