2014 was another year of lasting conflict between the Unites States and North Korea.The tensions between the two countries will affect the decision making process in 2015. Sony Pictures Entertainment, a Hollywood old timer, is the distributor of the movie The Interview, a satirical comedy deriding the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). The movie tells a story about two journalists who killed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and paints North Korea in negative and sarcastic terms. There was an immediate sharp response from Pyongyang. Sony Pictures came under massive cyber-attack before screening. The movie incited anger in North Korea and provoked subversive actions allegedly committed by North Korean government against the distributor. It deteriorated the relations between the countries.
Heads of states, national banners and national anthems are symbols of statehood. Disrespectful attitude always entails tough official response. North Korean political culture has specific features – the national leader is treated with utmost respect as the man who enjoys a special status in the government political structure. The moral values advocated by Confucius presuppose that the supreme leader is the father of the nation and the representative of Heaven among other things. Those who are acquainted with the North Korean cultural and historic traditions are not surprised when an insult is met with a tough response. No doubt, the US is aware of the fact. The previous Republican administration wanted to slow down the bilateral negotiation process while putting the blame on Pyongyang. Former President Bush deliberately launched personal attacks against North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, for instance, calling him a “pigmy”. It immediately provoked the desired effect - an angry reaction to be followed by long pause in the contacts. The US administration and those who shot the movie had been warned about the consequences in advance. The response was not unexpected. The movie was perceived by Pyongyang as a deliberate hostile action and a deep insult to national dignity. No surprise, the diplomatic moves (formal appeals, statements and warnings) aimed at preventing the movie from hitting big screen or, at least limiting the demonstration after the premier, followed. Ja Song Nam, North Korea's Ambassadorto the U.N., wrote a letter to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on July 27, 2014 to protest the movie. The Ambassador said he wanted the paper and its annex to be circulated as a document of the General Assembly and the Security Council. The letter says, “To allow the production and distribution of such a film on the assassination on an incumbent Head of a sovereign State should be regarded as the most undisguised sponsoring of terrorism as well as an act of war.” According to the remarks by diplomats of North Korean embassy in Russia, Sony Pictures distributes a film which may entail dangerous consequences as it justifies and fosters terrorism… “The fact that it is an ordinary matter to shoot such a movie proves that the contemporary America is plunged in the quagmire of despair and insanity”. The Pyongyang’s arguments and assessments have been widely supported across the globe, including in Moscow. The commentary by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that “The very idea of the film is so aggressive and scandalous that the reaction of the North Korean side (and not only them) is quite understandable. Russia is concerned with yet another stage in escalating tensions between the United States and the DPRK due to accusations of Pyongyang of being complicit in the cyber-attack on the Sony Picture web site. The US never presented any direct evidence of these acts by Pyongyang. Moreover, let me remind you that Pyongyang suggested conducting a joint investigation of the incident which would open up additional opportunities for easing the tension. In fact, the step is evidence of the North Korean side’s sincere striving for investigating the issue in every detail. Revenge threats and calls to other countries to condemn the DPRK voiced by the US are viewed by us as absolutely counter-productive and dangerous, because they just contribute to the situation on the Korean Peninsula which is complicated enough, and can lead to the further escalation of the conflict. This runs absolutely contrary to everybody’s interests, especially to the interests of regional security.” (1) These assessments have solid foundation.
The North Korean evil-wishers in the United States, South Korea and some other countries saw the scandal as an opportunity to intensify the ideological subversion activities against North Korea. They want the scandalous film to spread around the world, even in North Korea, if there is a chance to make it get there. Fighters for a Free North Korea are planning to airlift DVDs of the comedy into North Korea via hydrogen balloons. (2) For years balloons have been launched from South Korea to cross the demilitarized zone and deliver anti-North Korean materials. The fact has become an irritant to affect the bilateral relationship. Besides, in December, 2014 a wave of cyber-attacks was launched to interrupt the Internet connection in North Korea. No wonder that under the conditions Pyongyang launched a counter information operation. The North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs blamed the United States for spreading around unsubstantiated accusations. Pyongyang offered to conduct a joint investigation of the cyber-attack together with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation to find the culprit. It said it can prove that the U.S. accusations of North Korean involvement in the cyberattack on Sony Pictures were "groundless slander”. The Korean Central News Agency of DPRK cited the sources in the National Defense Commission saying “The army and people of the DPRK are fully ready to stand in confrontation with the US in all war spaces, including cyber warfare to blow up those citadels,” the statement said. It stressed that, “Our toughest counteraction will be boldly taken against the White House, the Pentagon and the whole U.S. mainland, the cesspool of terrorism, by far surpassing the "symmetric counteraction" declared by Obama” The statement affirms that Obama is guilty of irresponsibly dissipating rumors about North Korea being the culprit behind the cyber-attack. The action was fully justified though North Korea does not know who did it. (4).
It should be noted that many media outlets have cited the Pyongyang’s warning. Concern was expressed about a possible retaliatory action on the part of North Korea. The North Korean rhetoric should not be taken at face value. The experts on the country understand it’s a special manner of expression. They had to apply efforts to dispel the fears. There is one more thing to mention here. From the very start North Koreans distanced themselves from the hackers’ actions. They said they never planned to threaten or cause any damage to the common Americans going to cinema.
2) Sony Hack: Activists to Drop 'Interview' DVDs Over North Korea Via Balloon published byTheHollywood Reporter. 16.12. 2014, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/sony-hack-activists-drop-interview-75852
3) North Korea Threatens to Target White House after Claims it was Behind Sony Hacking published by The Guardian on 22.12. 2014: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/22/north-korea-threatens-target-white-house-obama-sony-hacking