South Korean Psy Ops During 2018 Summit
Psy Ops for Dinner: The Dokdo Dessert
Given our position on Takeshima, this is totally unacceptable and extremely regrettable.
– Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Taro Kono
Kim Jong-un made history when he crossed over to the South Korean side of the Joint Security Area, the border that has separated North and South Korea since 1948. To the world’s media it looked like a supreme gesture of reconciliation, but South Korea was playing another, psychological game in the background and it would be dished up as dessert.
Summit Loaded with Psychological Symbolism
Since President’s Trump hardline against North Korea, backed up by an aggressive foreign policy elsewhere, it looked as though Kim Jong-un was ready to capitulate. South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has said that Donald Trump deserves the nobel peace Prize for his actions, certainly he has done more to earn it than his predecessor.
High-level talks between Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in were wrapped in symbolic gestures: they met in the Peace House around an oval table measuring 2,018 mm to repsent the year of the meeting; they planted trees together; and they sat down to a banquet together. The Korean leaders made pledges to each other, with Kim Jong-un agreeing to work towards the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula (although he did not say specifically that South Korea would relinquish its nuclear weapons).
They agreed to meet again later in 2018 to convert the Korean Armistice Agreement into a full peace treaty that would formally end the Korean War, 65 years after the 1953 ceasefire. They agreed to end hostilities, including propaganda broadcasts across the border. The world watched as they signed the Panmunjom Declaration putting all this into writing.
The Dokdo Operation
But days before, on 24 April, the Japanese Foreign Ministry made an official complaint to the South Korean embassy in Japan concerning the unwelcome appearance of a dessert called Dokdo listed on the dinner menu. The Dokdo desserts were made of mango and decorated in a Korean style including a depiction of the Korean peninsula with a small group of islands – the Dokdo islands. Dokdo is the Korean name given to a small group of islands lying about midway between North Korean and Japan, and the subject of a long-standing dispute over sovereignty.
We know them as the Liancourt Rocks – Takeshima to the Japanese – and they are exactly as they sound: an unwelcoming collection of jagged rocks lying in the Sea of Japan, but North Korea, South Korea and Japan all claim ownership. The history of the dispute goes far beyond the separation of North and South Korea; if anything, the dispute would appear to unite North and South against a common enemy: Japan.
Psy Ops Success
On the day of the first Inter-Korean Summit in eleven years on 27 April, the Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Taro Kono, incensed by the Dokdo dessert, felt it necessary to state that the islands were the inherent territory of Japan. At an historic peace conference, the South Koreans had delivered a provocative dish of psychological operations on the side.
While the world’s media lapped up the main course of historic agreements and smiles all round, only the Japanese were rocked by the explosive danger of the mango dessert. Whatever comes of the North/South peace process, relations in the Far East continue to remain fraught.