It’s not assured that the South Korean public will see President Roh’s going-out-of-business summit for what it is, but if it does not, it won’t be because South Koreans didn’t hear from enough cooler heads about it. Richardson presents a broad sampling of reaction from the (mostly conservative) Korean papers that dominate their country’s market. Most share a skeptical view and agree on that this is an obvious, cynical election-year ploy. There isn’t anything Roh is proposing to do in this meeting that he couldn’t have done in the last five years if North Korea had reciprocated some of the good will he offered them.
Current events remind us why, and why we shouldn’t assume that Roh would even get that last chance to ask. The North Koreans are no-shows for a meeting today when they were supposed to fine-tune the logistical details of the summit. When will the pre-meeting take place? The North Koreans say they’ll get back to Roh’s people at their earliest convenience. If it’s ever a pleasure doing business with these people, you’re either smoking dope or buying it from them in bulk.
The opposition, fearing that it will be stuck paying for Roh’s next agreement, is asking to make the terms of any deals public, and for a vote :
The Grand National Party (GNP) decided to thoroughly verify agreements to be reached with North Korea at the second inter-Korean summit meeting through the process of confirmation by the National Assembly. The GNP also decided to ask the government to make public the agenda, discussion procedure, and results of the summit meeting. [….]
In a phone interview with the Dong-A Ilbo, GNP floor leader Kim Hyung-oh said, “We are concerned that a series of inter-Korean agreements could impose a heavy financial burden on people of South Korea, including the ministries already planning massive aid for the North,” …. [Donga Ilbo]
This way, the actual terms of the next giveaway become as much a part of the national conversation as the summit itself. There’s also a greater danger that Roh could make foolish political concessions that the North Koreans will seize on long after he leaves office. Presciently, OFK favorite Professor Sung Yoon Lee had written about this just before the summit was announced. He first notes that nuclear states do not develop nuclear capabilities at such expense “only to bargain them away for money or food – blandishments that carry a short expiration date,” unless it follows a fundamental change in the character of the ruling regime. Then, he gives an idea of what’s behind North Korea’s interest in a last-minute “peace framework” with Roh:
North Korea knows better than any other that a peace treaty is just an agreement on paper, one that often conceals the true hostile intent of the signatory. At the same time, North Korea calculates that the conclusion of such a peace treaty with the US would create enormous pressure for the eviction of US forces from the South. With the signing of a peace treaty and all the political spin celebrating the dawn of a new era and genuine peace on the Korean Peninsula, the very raison d’etre for US troops in South Korea would vanish. [Asia Times]
I’m one who thinks that the South can defend itself without American troops, but whatever one’s feeling on that topic, one genuinely hopes that South Korea will maintain a high enough state of readiness to deter the North from trying anything rash. Here, the news is already bad before these two unpopular Korean leaders have even sat down. Roh may have just agreed to delay a major U.S.-ROK military exercise, Ulchi Focus Lens. North Korea is also demanding that those exercises be cancelled before it will honor the rest of its Agreed Framework 2.0 obligations. North Korea has run out of easy giveaways and has now reached the point where further concessions would do significant harm to its plans. Not that North Korean stalling is contrary to the Bush Administration’s own plans at this point.
- Who will represent the North Korean people?
- Will [Roh] ask for the political prison camps to be closed? [OFK: more]
- Will Roh ask for the return of the South Korean abductees and prisoners of war as well as the abductees from other nations? [OFK: more]
Read the rest here. Sadly, some American politicans are just as good at sidestepping those questions. Let’s close the discussion with these questions. First, has a decade of the Sunshine Policy made South Korea safer? Second, has it changed North Korea for the better?
* The NGO Anti-Slavery International has released a lengthy and detailed report on North Korea’s forced labor camps. I’ll be reading the entire thing and commenting on it further as appropriate; here are links to the full report, an article summarizing it, and a petition you can sign (it goes to the Chinese Ambassador to the UK and then asks you to write your MP, something I haven’t had since 1776; I still signed the petition). Thanks to a reader for forwarding.
* KCNA has admitted that severe flooding has yet again struck North Korea. According to Reuters, hundreds are dead, 30,000 homes were destroyed, and North Korea’s roads and bridges were badly damaged. Floods last year contributed to a significant decline in food production, and cropland lost to erosion can take decades to replace. It’s another part of Kim Il Sung’s lasting legacy of agricultural guidance: he ordered thousands of acres of trees cut down to put marginal acreage into production. Instead, he got flooding that washed away some of his country’s best farmland. Natually, foreign observers won’t be able to actually visit the damaged areas to assess humanitarian needs, but South Korea will soon be hit with a big demand for reconstruction aid. Just like after the Ryongchon explosion.
* Speaking of Douglas Shin, a reader (thanks) directs me to the gorgeous new Web site of his organization, Crossing Borders. You may not agree with their goals, but I do. You can’t replace a bad idea with no idea. It will take a belief system that can inspire people to break the grip of North Korea’s cultish deification of the Kims. It’s a matter of how you go about it, of course.
* More tyranny tourism. Though mildly interesting and appropriately skeptical, it’s the same circuit of monuments that all visitors follow and probably won’t be anything new to readers of this site.
* “The number of truck bombs and other large al-Qaeda-style attacks in Iraq have declined nearly 50% since the United States started increasing troop levels in Iraq about six months ago, according to the U.S. military command in Iraq.” [USA Today, Jim Michaels]
* Christopher Hitchens deconstructs unrealistically prosaic mythology about Al Qaeda in Iraq. Hitchens doesn’t draw the connection, but those myths are almost photonegatives of 9/11 conspiracies. Both are false realities designed to rationalize away threats from forces we can’t control and transfer them to forces we can control.
* Not Ready, Part V: “Asked whether he would move U.S. troops out of Iraq to better fight terrorism elsewhere, he brought up Afghanistan and said, ‘We’ve got to get the job done there and that requires us to have enough troops so that we’re not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there.'” I’m going to have to make myself a chart, or a weather vane, to keep track of Obama’s bi-policy disorder.