The problem with identifying the most unhinged politician in South Korea’s ruling Uri party is a lot like trying to identify France’s most offensive armpit: at a certain point, extremity renders empirical comparison pointless. Still, I’m not sure anyone in the Uri party has built a more solid record than ex-GNP’er Kim Won-Ung, the only South Korean parliamentarian to have earned two of his very own “DOA” posts. His latest oral discharge is a ferocious denial that North Korea’s short-range missiles, which can’t hit much of anything else, represent a threat to South Korea.
General Bell reminded a group of legislators that some North Korean missiles are a threat to the South; Mr. Kim called those comments “careless.”
Bell may have been responding to South Korea’s general state of apathy about the missiles, or perhaps to more colorful views (as in red) like these.
Mr. Kim said he wasn’t buying [the prevailing view that North Korea’s short-range missiles are a threat to South Korea], although he did concede that they might be used against U.S. military bases here if Japan or the United States launched a pre-emptive attack on North Korea.
So there you have it. North Korea attacks U.S. bases on Korean soil? Not our prob, what me worry. It’s a rather odd way to define “alliance.”
Other than that, he said, “it is careless for a responsible soldier to say that the North has Scuds to attack the South.” He added that U.S. missiles could target China and Russia, but that tensions did not rise because of them.
Asked if the general had been exaggerating the threat to justify the presence of U.S. troops here, Mr. Kim said, “U.S. and South Korean national interests may overlap but may differ. General Bell is a foreign military leader who had no choice but to devote himself to the national interests of the United States.”
If Bell were in fact free to articulate America’s national interests, he’d assuredly point out that they don’t include stopping bullets for the likes of Kim Won-Ung, who recently called for expelling U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow for speaking the truth:
The ruling-party lawmaker was speaking on a PBC Radio talk show. “If I were told to choose between peace on the peninsula and our allies, I would say that we need to give up our alliances,” Kim said. “It seems to me the neocons in the U.S. are not aware of what is going on.”
“I am saying this clearly to Ambassador Vershbow: no country that becomes an obstacle on the path to reunification of the peninsula can ever be a friend of Korea, and this is something that Vershbow needs to bear in mind,” Kim said.
Kim warned the envoy faces being called in “for a talk” by the Foreign Ministry, “or, in the worst case, we can ask the U.S. government to recall him. He said given the character of relations with the U.S., “the Korean government is likely to be submissive on this issue. But if Vershbow persists with the same attitude, we will present a resolution or a proposal calling for his recall to the National Assembly.
Vershbow had called North Korea a “criminal” regime because it counterfeits U.S. dollars, deals dope, and engages in more criminal conduct than you can fit into a single sentence. The South Korean government objected to the statement, and the State Department duly dismissed the objection, stating that (Yonhap’s words) “Vershbow’s remarks reflected U.S. policy toward North Korea.” That was followed by a direct rebuke from several members of the House International Relations Committee. The episode marked a new low in U.S.-Korea relations until more new lows followed soon thereafter.
My personal favorite is this Kim Won-Ung classic, from Here’s Kim the time President Bush met with North Korean defector and human rights advocate Kang Chol-Hwan:
South Korea’s ruling lawmaker Kim Won-Ung also blasted Bush’s meeting with the defector, saying it would disrupt the prospect of reopening the six-nation nuclear talks. “The United States is also responsible for the famine in the North,” Kim told a parliamentary session.
That’s a dumbfoundingly stupid thing to say, even for Kim Won-Ung. Never mind the fact that North Korea’s own mismanagement brought the nation to the brink of famine in the first place. Never mind that when famine broke out, North Korea went on a spending spree for nukes, missiles, submarines, destroyers, artillery, and luxuries for its fave apparatchiks, and that any of those purchases was a premediated decision to let thousands of people starve. Never mind the evidence that North Korea deliberately manipulated the nation’s food distribution system as a weapon to political cleanse two million people. Kim is either ignorant or deceptive of the fact that during the famine, the United States was the largest donor to the World Food Program’s feeding operation in the North. That program, for all its inadequacies, was vastly better monitored than South Korea’s relatively modest food aid, which was subject to minimal monitoring and as a result probably graced the NKPA’s finest officer’s mess halls.
With that kind of record, you wouldn’t expect a guy like Kim to miss an excuse to visit Pyongyang for a little Japan-bashing propaganda.
I will give Kim credit for one thing, however: he’s an equal opportunity antagonist. Another of the Chinese-born Kim’s milestones of statesmanship was his sponsorship of a bill that would have declared the 1909 Gando Treaty void, thus opening the way for a boundary dispute between a reunified Korea and China. Truly, here is a man off his meds against medical advice.
The fact that a man who thinks this way holds a senior position in the ruling party of a supposed ally calls that alliance into serious question. The fact that no one calls for Kim’s head is a reflection of the fact that he’s a little more than a wayward tick on a bloated carcass.