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Leaders of Two Koreas Exchange Letters On COVID-19 Outbreak: Significance and Implications Updated: 2020-03-06 15:34:30 KST

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent a personal letter to South Korean President Moon Jae-in to express his condolences over the novel coronavirus outbreak.
In his letter to President Moon, the first after months of broken-down communication, North Korean Chairman Kim conveyed a message of comfort to the South Korean people over the COVID-19 outbreak that has infected thousands and killed north of 40.

"In the letter, Chairman Kim conveyed his message of comfort to the South Korean people who are battling against the outbreak of COVID-19 and expressed his confidence that they will prevail in this fight without fail."

Let's read between the lines. Joining me live in the studio to do just that with us is Dr. Go Myong-hyun, research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

It's not immediately clear if the North Korean chairman's letter is an attempt to improve strained ties with South Korea amid a deadlock in a broader nuclear diplomacy with the U.S.
Just a day earlier, his powerful sister had issued insults - with some strong words - against President Moon's presidential office in her first official statement.
What are you reading into this?

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's choice of words and expressions in this personal letter also deserve some analyses.
While the exact contents of the letter were not released, according to President Moon's press secretary, the North Korean leader had said he was concerned for the South Korean leader's health , expressed frustration that North Korea can't do much to help, and said he will "quietly cheer" for compatriots in the South.
Help me understand this warmth.

It's a substantial turn from the rather unloving statement to South Korea from Kim Yo-jong which specifically noted at least President Moon Jae-in had not said anything objectionable - now that we know North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was planning to make a surprise conciliatory move, if you will, the next day, in hindsight, it makes a bit of a sense that she tried hard not to make direct attacks at President Moon. But, still, what kind of a game is the North playing?

These messages out of Pyeongyang follows its short-range weapons test earlier in the week it was a reminder that as the novel coronavirus dominates the world's attention, North Korea continues to advance its weapons program. Your thoughts?

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's personal letter comes just a couple of days after South Korean President Moon Jae-in's proposal for collaboration with the North in public health.

March 1st Independence Movement Speech
"I am looking forward to cooperation with North Korea on healthcare.
The lives of the Korean people will be safer when the two Koreas can respond together when infectious diseases spread among humans and animals and jointly cope with disasters and catastrophes in border areas and climate change on the Korean peninsula."

Kim Jong-un, in the letter, reportedly shared some candid thoughts about general matters on the Korean peninsula. President Moon Jae-in reportedly responded with a letter of his own although the Blue House said the details of the letter could have be released.
What messages do you speculate were exchanged by the two leaders?

North Korean media have not reported yet on a personal letter that leader Kim Jong-un sent to South Korean President Moon Jae-in or President Moon's letter back. What do you make out of this?

The letter was the latest indication that Kim may be ready to resume geopolitical maneuvering with Washington and Seoul, after focusing in recent weeks on his own efforts to prevent any coronavirus outbreaks in North Korea.
What does this indicate? Is North Korea still free of the novel coronavirus - as it officially claims?

Could this be more of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's outreach for collaboration on a humanitarian level, like vaccinations and testing kits or is it more economic?
(to secure relief from economic pain caused by efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak)

This could serve as an opportunity to change slash improve the relations between the two Koreas, but how will Washington respond to this?

Go Myong-hyun, research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, many thanks, as always for your insights this evening. We appreciate it.
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