It is impossible to know exactly what is going on in North Korea, but something big has happened.
The third generation Kim dynasty heir, Kim Jong-un, has been missing from public sight for a month, and may be ill, dead, or overthrown. There is much speculation, and contradictory reports are circulating, including the assertion that Pyongyang is sealed off, and no one is being permitted to enter or leave. But one fact is clear and it is dramatic. CNN reports:
With Kim Jong Un out of sight for a month, a covey of North Korea’s high officials popped down to South Korea for a last minute jaunt on Saturday, and delivered a diplomatic bonbon.
The three officials told South Korea that Pyongyang is willing to hold a second round of high-level meetings between late October and early November, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said in a statement Saturday.
High level visits from North Korea to Seoul don’t just happen casually, because some people wanted to attend the closing ceremonies of the Asian Games, the official pretext being offered. I strongly suspect that some kind of deal with the South is being sought by the North, probably out of desperation over their situation, which is very bad, and possibly triggered by Kim Jong un’s illness, death, incapacity, or overthrow.
Politics in North Korea revolve around factions built on personal loyalty. If there is currently a group that wants some form of rapprochement with the South in power, it is always possible that they will be overthrown by a hardline group. However, the willingness of people to leave Pyongyang and visit Seoul suggests that they are reasonably confident of their hold on power.