Anju Links for 19 April 2007

*   Cho Myong Rok, who is probably the second or third-most important North Korean official, is reported to be dying.  Cho is the one Kim Jong Il designated to visit Washington and meet with President Clinton years ago. 

Doctors expect the 79-year-old vice marshal to live another month or two, as he already had one of his kidneys removed 10 years ago, and has gone through treatment for cancer in his intestines, the organization said. 

Here’s a brief Global Security profile.  The report comes soon after word of the replacement of Premier Pak Pong Ju, another of the top echelon.  One can hope that so many personnel changes at the top will start a new round of purging and backstabbing that will further sap the regime’s cohesion.  He’ll be with Saddam soon enough.

*   Projection, Perhaps?   I wonder why  a major South  Korean paper would run with  a piece of  baseless and sensationlist garbage that  stops just short of predicting an anti-Korean progrom in surburban Virginia  because of the Virginia Tech murders.  I see absolutely no sign of this here, and I question the judgment of people pulling their kids out of school or secluding themselves in their apartments.  Could it be because they  understand the temptation to project blame on entire nationalities just a little too well?  In any event, the fears appear to be unsupported (and to me,  deeply insulting). 

*   I’m not sure how meaningfully, but 31 nations have now taken at least some domestic measures to implement UNSCR 1718, which limits North Korea’s trade in WMD components, weapons, and luxury goods.

*   One Man’s Story.   I’m always interested in stories about how ordinary North Koreans live through hunger, and how they come to the decision to reject their government and leave. 

At that time, the greatest obstacle to our play was hunger. When you run around and play, you need food to regain your energy. There were even times we had no strength to sit up and play. Rather we lay, slumped. During those times, we sat around day-dreaming. We would play truth or dare and pretend to smoke with cigarette butts we had secretly collected and talked nonsense while lamenting over our lives.  [Daily NK]

It’s sad to think of kids having to grow up like this; at the same time, their resilience and the loyalty of their friendships strikes you.

7 Comments

  1. ” I question the judgment of people pulling their kids out of school or secluding themselves in their apartments. Could it be because they understand the temptation to project blame on entire nationalities just a little too well? In any event, the fears appear to be unsupported (and to me, deeply insulting). ”

    Are you serious? You are “insulted” by the recognition by others that not all American think and act rationally? If I were a parent of a Korean student at VT, I would also have pulled my child out ASAP. There are already incidents of racism directed at East Asians reported from all over the country, from nasty passing comments from random strangers on the street to a child getting spit on in school.

    I’m sure you would also dismiss the experience of many Sikhs in America after 9/11.

  2. On the presumption that the staggering enormity of the unspeakable tragedy at VT on Monday accords even the most misguided or incoherent commentator some room for error during this very emotional week, may I meekly make the following observation.

    I understand Joshua’s disgust at the Korean all-too-frequent propensity to “project blame on entire nationalities,” and I share his negative view of the ROK Foreign Ministry’s gratuitous remarks just hours after the revelation of Cho Seung-Hui’s identity that the ROK wishes that this tragedy will not lead to “racial prejudice or confrontation.” The presumption by the South Korean GOVERNMENT of possible racist repercussions or violent attacks committed against Koreans living in the United States was uncalled for and, yes, insulting. The call to Koreans in the US by the ROK Ambassador to the US for “32 days of fasting” was misdirected and amateurish (which reminds me, just where was he during the memorial service at VT on Tuesday that President Bush attended? Whether just or unjust, fair or unfair, the reality is that Cho was a South Korean citizen, and while no South Korean individual or entity is guilty of Cho’s crime, that Cho was a South Korean citizen instead of a US citizen makes this a legitimate bilateral issue of interest). And the deluge of collective guilt, sympathy, and apprehension bursting forth from South Korea is admittedly less-than-rational.

    However, on this last point, my reaction, for the first time in over a year of devoted reading, stands at slight variance with that of Joshua,–a most penetrating observer of Korean affairs, not to mention a most compassionate friend of the Korean people, whose selfless devotion, biting wit, and rare perspicacity I greatly admire. My wish is that Joshua will eventually feel less insulted by all the trepidation or the seeming paranoia on the part of Koreans living in US as well as in Korea, and perhaps share with his readers his views on possible scenarios for the current ROK government to manipulate for its own political gain any future racist attacks by non-ethnic Koreans on ethnic Koreans residing in the US. I think Joshua will agree–although he may be too modest to say so himself–that there are plenty of Americans, say, of “fighting age” (as theorist of “population bulge” describe restless men between the ages of approximately 15 and 30), who are far far less rational, sophisticated, cosmopolitan or compassionate as he and prone to committing random acts of hate crime. I think Joshua will also agree that such a criminal act will in an instant change the public mood in South Korea from the current current of frenetic sympathy toward America to a torrent of feverish racist hostility toward America and Americans as a collectivity. More importantly, such a mood swing would give life to those South Korean politicians whose credentials remain little more than their uncanny ability to bash America and fan the flames of ethnic nationalism.

    The gruesome nature of Cho’s crime and his apparent malicious premeditation trigger strong emotions in many people across the Untied States. In the eyes of the general public, I would think that the images released by NBC do not make Cho a sympathetic figure, as clearly demented as he was. What’s more, this is the worst massacre in America since 9/11, and the first massacre of this scale committed in the US by an ethnic Korean. I would think that it would be some time before the word “Korean” is not reflexively associated with “Cho” by Americans and others in the US who have no other mental association with things or people “Korean.”

    Already there have been several reports of unwarranted verbal abuses thrown at Koreans or “Korean-looking” people in several states (“if I had a gun on me I would kill you!” etc.). Although so far non-physical and trivial, such feelings are apparently not only confined to men. This morning standing in line at Whole Foods Market a well-groomed middle-aged lady behind me gave me a prolonged look of hostility and disgust, the rare kind that she might reserve only for sighting her cheating ex-husband with a new trophy wife. Since I do not consider myself the most menacing-looking, for a split second I actually thought that the cause of the lady’s unladylike vibes were that I was holding seven or eight items standing in a “six or fewer items” line (yes, I am ethnic Korean). Later in the day a Korean male friend, walking out of a Korean restaurant, was met on the street by an elderly woman who, unprovoked, gave him the finger and proceeded to yell at him repeatedly a two-syllable command in the imperative mood. I’d hate to see such emotions manifested in a burly inebriated man with delusions of “establishing justice” or “seeking revenge.” The “Vincent Chin” case of the early 1980s in Detroit is a reminder that East Asians are not immune from lethal hate crimes.

    Well, call it inferiority complex, or ethnocentric pride, or tribal mentality, it is true that Koreans tend to react in unison and identify with any ethnic Korean who excels in his or her given field, blithely regarding the individual as “their own.” Likewise, Koreans genuinely wallow in collective self-flagellation on issues that in different cultures would elicit a far lower degree of guilt or embarrassment (for instance, Korean adoptees in the US, upon visiting Korea, are almost universally met, to their horror, with patronizing guilt and pity). Again, such reactions are far from rational or logical, but I am not sure if they are completely irrational or illogical. Perhaps “non-rational” or “non-logical”–if indeed such terms exist–best describe such uniform, solipsistic, and, at times, neurotic, “we vs. they” group mentality, which have been reinforced by numerous adverse historical incidents throughout the centuries.

    In the end, popular passions ebb and flow; even virulent anti-US sentiments come and go. I think the graver threat to US-ROK relations and the real insult to Americans are the extent to which politicians in South Korea would be willing to manipulate such unruly popular passions for their own short-term political interest and to the detriment of long-term national interest. And, in that regard, I fear that the tragic crime committed by Cho, whether rational or just or not, carries troubling political implications.

  3. Unfortunately, people like my parents who are first-generation Korean immigrants genuinely are fearful of a backlash. Like Josh, I think it’s unfounded and insulting coming from the South Korean press. What makes it so heartbreaking for me is that my parents love America more than anyone, and have raised their kids to love America, but they just can’t believe that they will ever be accepted as full Americans. I don’t think my parents will ever get rid of the curse of Korea’s education/indoctrination on race, even though they have done all they can to shelter their children from this.

    My suggestion to my parents was to wear orange and maroon (VTech colors) this week to show their support for the families, because Korean Americans are mourning just like the rest of country. I’m hoping that a few kind words from non-Koreans about VTech will re-affirm their faith in the decency of Americans… and prove that the Chosun Ilbo article was completely baseless.

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