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Bargaining for peace

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By Donald Kirk

WASHINGTON ― How about Pope Francis inspiring millions of the faithful in North Korea as he did in South Korea four years ago? Can we picture highly organized throngs cheering him on the way in from Pyongyang's sparkling new international airport, blessing one and all while host Kim Jong-un smiles happily beside him in the limo?

In a year full of surprises about confrontation on the Korean Peninsula, it's still hard to imagine that Kim seriously is inviting the Pope Francis to Pyongyang. Nor is it easy to see Francis accepting such an invitation knowing, as aides at the Vatican have to be telling him, that the ladies you see in the lone Catholic church in Pyongyang are basically actresses for whom the demure white veils they all wear are part of the act.

Still, President Moon Jae-in did well to urge Kim to put on a show for the pope in Pyongyang. The suggestion is a challenge, a chance for Kim to prove to the skeptics he's really reforming.

As in his promises of "denuclearization," however, any appearance of humanitarian reform in North Korea is fake news. Just ask Kang Chol-hwan, author of "The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag," or Ji Seong-ho, who was severely injured escaping from North Korea and now runs a group called Now Action &........

© The Korea Times