So how are we supposed to tell the difference between the bluffs and a real, earnest ambition to start a full-scale war? There’s no way to know for certain short of reading Kim Jong Un’s mind, of course. But we do have one pretty good metric with which to judge the country’s intentions: the Kaesong Industrial Complex.
The Kaesong Industrial Complex, located just across the northern side of the border, is staffed by South and North Koreans. It can’t function without Pyongyang’s daily OK. If the North suddenly shuts down Kaesong at some point, watch out. But as long as it’s still running, as it has been throughout the provocations and tensions of the last few weeks, we can probably – probably – assume that North Korea is not actually planning to launch a war.
North and South Korea opened the joint-run Kaesong industrial facility in 2002. At the time, Seoul had a policy of “sunshine” with Pyongyang, trying to coexist peacefully with its neighbor. The plant was meant to give both countries an incentive to cooperate.