Shot for Watching ‘Winter Sonata’

wintersonata200.jpg“There have been two or three reports of public executions of North Korean young people in major cities including Chungjin, as punishment for having illegally copied and distributed South Korean visual material,” said Kang Chul Hwan, vice-chairman of the Seoul-based Committee for the Democratization of North Korea.

“It is not an overstatement to say that the Kim Jong Il regime is waging war on the South Korean TV drama,” he said, adding that the North Korean authorities have intensified surveillance and searches to prevent South Korean videos from entering North Korea. [Radio Free Asia]

I think that’s the same Kang Chol Hwan.

What absolute, absolutist desperation to shoot people to  save a system that’s more clearly doomed with each passing month, and hasn’t been worth saving for decades, if ever. It really reminds me of Berlin in 1945 when, as the Russians were closing in on the city, the Nazis sent out flying courts-martial to hang people on the spot for “defeatist” statements.

28 Comments

  1. Like you I hope to see an end to the despicable regime in North Korea, however when will this happen? I think the regime is reaching the height of oppression and if it is getting away with this, it can get away with anything.




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  2. The more oppressive the regime, the more sudden and violent its end tends to be. Repression is a vessel that contains the pressure of popular discontent. Our economic warfare against the regime — if practiced with real determination — could crack the vessel, and by reaching out to the North Korean people, we can stir their discontent and help shape, to a degree, the post-revolutionary society in a more civil and democratic direction.

    The regime is getting away with this because other countries give it unconditional aid and allow Kim Jong Il to choose to have everything his way. He gets to oppress his people, build his bombs, and have his power and luxury. By simply cutting off any aid whose fair distribution we can’t assure, we could probably bring the regime down within a year.




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  3. Sunday Morning Greetings Joshua Stanton. In your continuing work you well count the ways that the Kim family regime could be made history, rather as the corpse under glass that disintegrates upon contact with oxygen. Certainly the targeted sanctions exemplified by USA government treatment of Banco Delta Asia gave every promise. The crux of the problem seems that the regime is very well focused on what it must do in a hostile world to survive, in depth and detail. Without the slightest compunction, it does them. Those significant entities that would in theory see an end of the regime have other priorities. For the USA, in the case of Christopher Hill’s brief, is it because his superiors are clearing the decks for a showdown with Iran?

    Like Kim Jong Il, (and very unlike Mohammed Reza Pahlavi), Saddam Hussein would stop at nothing to ensure regime survival. As with the Kim family regime, there was the carefully tended pyramidal hierarchy of favored and unfavored. Alas for him, in usual Mesopotamian crime-boss style, he sent his agents to attempt to assassinate George Herbert Walker Bush, who had mortally crossed him, during a post-presidential visit to Kuwait. Given the personalist nature of Bush’s son, that mis-step would eventually provide the necessary focusing agent to bring about his downfall.

    When and how will Kim Jong Il do something to cause the Chinese, or the Japanese, or the Americans, or (dare we dream it) a Lee Myung Bak to put two implacable eyeballs on him? Or, will his lifestyle catch up with him, and the regime then shiver in dissensions among army, party, and family personalities and cliques?

    Thank you again for your dogged research and analysis.




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  4. By simply cutting off any aid whose fair distribution we can’t assure, we could probably bring the regime down within a year.

    Few North Korean people are aware they’re the recipients of aid. Sanctions would simply be used by the regime as propaganda, and as an excuse to harden internal security even more. The regime survived the Arduous March and the holocaust of the Korean War and its imediate aftermath – there’s no way to tell whether or not starving them to death en masse would do any good at all.

    The key is engagement. Put an embassy in Pyonyang, encourage exchanges between South Korea, the US and the rest of the world. Open them up gently. Koreans are ferociously stubborn, and won’t budge to threats or heavy-handed coercian – you must know that by now.

    I went to North Korea a few weeks ago. Everywhere we went we were walking evidence of the fact that the west has it better – and that, contrary to the party line, western people are aren’t devils. All of us were bransishing good cameras, nice clothes – at customs two North Koreans toyed with my South Korean-made iRiver mp3 player – amazed that it had been made south of the border. On the way out the soldiers were fascinated by my SK currency, by the photos I had “accidently” left in my camera of Seoul and other places outside their paradise. We gave gifts – western cigarettes to soldiers, crayons and writing pads to children, al sorts of things. Our guides got tipped in euros – one of them asked me to buy her some things from the foreign currency store, items like shampoo, toothpaste etc, all of which will go to her extended family, and all of which will be given with the unspoken word of the outside world’s affluence.

    Of course we couldn’t access the people who are dying in the prison camps, but trying to smoke out the regime wouldn’t end well for them. It wouldn’t end well for anyone, because it simply wouldn’t work.

    Traffic has increased on the roads since 2002. Small stores have opened up selling icecream. The number of Chinese traders has increased.

    No-one likes to court a regime as noxious as North Korea’s, but in my opinion trying to squeeze it to death simply won’t work.




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  5. Vanmidd, the problem with your theory is that we’ve already pushed engagement as far as Kim Jong Il will let it go. After ten years of sunshine and $7 billion in aid, not even the South Koreans have made much impact on North Korean society, except through videos that were smuggled in under pain of execution. South Koreans still have no idea where their food aid is going.

    Sure, the North Koreans would let us open an embassy to be a pipeline for govt-to-govt aid, but that doesn’t mean people like you will ever be allowed to stroll the streets of Chongjin and talk to people. Every form of “engagement” is tightly restricted and closely monitored. You can’t force engagement through the wall of state control to reach the people if the regime is determined to prevent that.

    Of course, I strongly favor direct engagement with the people, but most of that has to be done non-permissively: smuggling of radios, cell phones, DVDs, religious literature, and broadcasting. Sending our message in that unfiltered way doesn’t involve propping up the very system that must be obliterated.

    Tell me: How many unguarded conversations did you have with anyone? Who outside Pyongyang did you ever speak to? For how many moments were you without a minder? And finally, with whom did you go to North Korea?




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  6. Unguarded conversations? Very few (my Korean isn’t great, and that was a large part of it). Three reasonably meaningful ones -although I’m loath to mention with whom, because I do think some North Koreans have access to these sort of websites and I’m inclined to protect their identities. But we did joke and play games with alot of others – an impromtu volleyball game when we asked if we could join – a game of soccer on the main road with some farmers at our bus reststop, some tomfoolery with punmujon guards and a drinking session with guesthouse workings at Kaesung.

    As for how long we were without our minders – rarely, if ever. No surprise, really. But our guides rarely denied us anything if we asked them. We made a lot of unscheduled stops when we asked, and we often gave out presents. One of our guides was very relaxed, the other constantly terrified. But as I said, there is a certain satisfaction in handing out gifts to kids, like chocolate – and seeing a look of confusion and sheer joy on their faces. It’s tiny, I know, but as an example, I think I personally touched a quite a few people. and our group was 20. This month (i think) something in the order of 250 americans are going – a rare event. A load more people are going to realize that the devil spawn are actualy decent, normal, friednly human beings. Its a step in the right direction.

    I went with Koryo Tours.




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  7. To your excellent rebuttal, Joshua, I would like to add that commenter Vanmidd is making presumptions about the conclusions North Koreans will draw after seeing his Western finery and gadgets. North Korean elites wear imported clothes and collect expensive electronics. Foreign visitors like Vanmidd are, in the eyes of their local hosts, VIPs who would be expected to sport nice clothes and have MP3 players clipped to their belts. If the North Koreans put on a dog and pony show for their foreign visitors, wouldn’t they expect the same?




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  8. Sonagi, feel free to address me, you sound like you’re fawning to our good host.

    To address your coment: I’m not making presumptions. I was there and I made my own judgements. Of course many of the North Koreans would consider us elites. But its hard to misjudge a South Korean-made mp3 player or photos of yourself and friends in downtown Seoul, or your family in Sydney, with all the western affluence in the background plain to see.




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  9. Van,
    Way to sidestep Joshua by taking a jab at Sonagi. Smooth. I’d love to see you attempt to answer Joshua’s reply to you.

    Engagement could be the key, but in reality it is not. It’s been tried. The thing about engagement, like the tango, is that it takes both sides wanting to accomplish the same thing. It North Korea wanted to engage they could have years ago. June 2000, the first inter-Korea summit, was a perfect opportunity for North Korea to begin that process. But it, or the regime rather, never did.

    The fact of the matter is that North Korea cannot engage as long as Kim Jong-il is in power – flat out cannot do it.

    I hate to burst your bubble, but those who saw your MP3 players and a few pics of Seoul are in those positions for a reason.

    What do you know about North Korean economics, Van? The fact is, South Korea and China – and yes, even the U.S. – have kept North Korea afloat for the past decade on aid, much of which is funneled to the elite to keep them happy (read: loyal to KJI). Strangulation, like true engagement, is a major vulnerability of the regime.

    There’s a much bigger picture than what you’re apparently letting yourself see. A few days in North Korea is great, but you have to understand the context.




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  10. When the regime puts people in concentration camps or executes them for watching South Korean soap operas, I cant understand the engagement people at all. It is burying your head in the sand.




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  11. But its hard to misjudge a South Korean-made mp3 player or photos of yourself and friends in downtown Seoul, or your family in Sydney, with all the western affluence in the background plain to see.

    It’s hard for YOU, a Westerner, to misjudge. Two people can observe the exact same scene and form different opinions or draw different conclusions based on each person’s own schema. Remember, vanmidd, these North Koreans have never seen directly with their own two eyes places like those depicted in your photos. They don’t have the schema you and I do. Even if the North Koreans viewing your photo collection do realize the prosperity gap, that doesn’t mean they are going to rethink extreme state loyalty instilled since birth and reinforced by everyone around them. You can wish or hope that your gadgets and photos may have planted seeds of doubt, but unless you are a mind reader, you cannot know what they were thinking.




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  12. I think the perception gap that really matters here is between the Pyongyang elite and everyone else.

    VanMid, tell me if I’m off-base here, but the people who were shadowing and “guiding” you everywhere were the elite of the elite. They probably had an endless supply of Chinese cigarettes, gasoline, and other things other North Koreans could only dream of. They might even get some of the same shiny gadgets you had if they meet their regular quota for informing on their neighbors at the next “criticism” session. They know they’re living what passes for the good life, would not dare jeopardize that, and know that they (and their families) might not survive the wave of revolutionary justice that would come when the regime falls.

    Of course, we’re both forced to speculate here. You’ve never been to the North Korean interior, so you’re in no better position than I am to say whether your minders’ thoughts, standards of living, or attitudes represent the North Korean people as a whole. (When you applied for your visa, you were asked if you could speak any Korean, weren’t you?) I suppose it’s remotely possible that you might prove to be a corrupting influence on your minders. For the sake of their wives and children, pray that they never reveal the slightest hint of that.

    The last time you stopped by, you were calling me a hypocrite and drawing moral equivalence between Gitmo and Camp 22.

    Now, the moral equivalence between fattening up 400 terrorists and 50,000 men, women, and kids dying off at a rate of 20% a year escapes me, but if it doesn’t escape you, please be honest enough to admit that you harbor a degree of sympathy for Kim Jong Il’s system of government.  Or at best, that you’re sufficient eager to forgive its sins that you’d break the laws of ethics and reason to do it.

    Given the timing of your previous comments and your more recent visit, you obviously knew exactly what you were supporting when you forked over all that dough to the keepers of the world’s worst death camp. So did you bother to so much as broach the subject? Any sense that engagement has reached the killing fields up there, or even the very discussion of it during your drinking sessions? Can you honestly report that $7 billion in South Korean aid has bought any progress in bringing out Kim Jong Il’s softer side? Any chance that you’ll ever be able to show your nice threads and gadgets to the good folks in Wonsan, much less those in the “life imprisonment zone?”

    I’d venture not in their lifetimes.




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  13. Richardson,

    Way to sidestep Joshua by taking a jab at Sonagi. Smooth. I’d love to see you attempt to answer Joshua’s reply to you.

    I did answer Joshua’s reply. Read it.

    Joshua,

    Of course we’re both speculating. I agree that our guides were amoung the more well-off – although I saw our female guide’s photos of her family and her house in the background, and it was very, very modest, small and run-down. I really don’t think they live that much better than the other Pyonyang residents – certainly they’re not the “elite of the elite” – they’re chosen because of their language skills. They’re trying to get by like everyone else, and who can blame them? People try to do the best with what they’ve got. The real power lies much higher than them.

    Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not apologizing for anyone, certainly not the regime. I hate it with a passion. I just think engagement is the best shot we’ve got at achieving change. I don’t agree that the North Korean regime is anywhere near collapse as it currently stands. And I don’t think trying sanctions and isolation will help at all. If push comes to shove the North Korean elite can get whatever they want by smuggling goods and capital over the Chinese border – no-one, not even the Chinese government, will ever be able to change that.

    As for unconditional aid, and they ludicrous amounts of money the South throws at the north (and which the EU and U.S has thrown at it in the past), I’m 100% against it too. But the North Koreans are willing to let their people die. And as I already mentioned, even by putting the North under the sort of pressure they faced in the last famine or at the end of the Korean war, will similarly horrific casualty rates, you still probably won’t exact any change. They’ve lived through it before. The difference is that then they had many people who were witness to the outside world, and now most of the population has grown up knowing nothing else. The idea of some sort of popular revolt strirred up by discontent is naive: the regime’s control is absolute, more so than any other regime in the world for the last 100 years.

    I do recal our last discussion, which was heated to say the leats, and I stand by my coments. But please don’t misconture my argument: “…drawing moral equivalence between Gitmo and Camp 22.” is not what I was doing, and you know it. They are not equal, not even close, but they are both wrong – a point I repeated several times.

    As for this garbage: “…please be honest enough to admit that you harbor a degree of sympathy for Kim Jong Il’s system of government” I don’t think that even deserves a reply.

    you obviously knew exactly what you were supporting when you forked over all that dough to the keepers of the world’s worst death camp

    Yes, supporting change. Change that wil eventually end those camps. Isolation means more camps, more death – and maybe a new, even harder leader when Jong Il dies.




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  14. I really don’t think they live that much better than the other Pyonyang residents – certainly they’re not the “elite of the elite” – they’re chosen because of their language skills.

    Language skills they developed because of the training they received thanks to their family background – being of the elites…..Don’t live any better than the average Pyongyang resident? Well, even if true, and I’m not saying it is true, since loyalty to the regime and being of an elite family is necessary to live in the capital, while handicapped and wavering class people are moved out, I guess even that truth wouldn’t say much…

    “Trying to get by like everybody else” is poppycock – when you factor in the multitudes outside the capital…

    People try to do the best with what they’ve got. The real power lies much higher than them.

    Now, that is true, and that is also why they will not be “corrupted” by Western visitors. They know where their bread is buttered and as Joshua pointed out – they are caught between the power of the regime and fear of the unleashed masses if collapse does come.

    The idea of some sort of popular revolt strirred up by discontent is naive: the regime’s control is absolute, more so than any other regime in the world for the last 100 years.

    There is reason to believe this isn’t accurate as well. Your point on having weathered the storm of the 1990s is fine, but an equally valid guess is that the famine left the regime more fragile than it was in the early 1990s, at the tailend of the Cold War support they were getting from Russia, and they are not strong enough to handle another famine. Their Great Leader is also dead and the son doesn’t hold the masses like the father.

    There are notes here and there that discontent among the masses is vastly greater than it was under the father and under the son during the Great Famine.

    But the bottom line of your approach is that it supports the same number of casualties but on a slower pace.

    I can’t think of one single note I’ve read or heard about since 1998 and the advent of the Sunshine Policy that leads me to believe any changes in thought or influence have taken place thanks to it.

    The notes on influence from the South or elsewhere I can think of came about through subversive means, means that you might not go for since they come from the grassroots and tend to destabilize the regime – thus risking a faster paced slaughter than the slow tyranny your plan makes sure stays around……The South Korean soap operas and radio broadcasts and cell phone connections and other means of gaining information from the outside world —- the means that have produced some notes of change (and discontent) on the grassroots level – have never been a part of Sunshine. In fact, the Sunshine policy would argue against them — like the Germany advocate who got mugged by SK authorities trying to fly radios over the border from the South….




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  15. I had some relatively unguarded discussions with North Koreans, once about ten years ago, when I was on a train in Siberia. There are a lot of loggers and other grubby laborers on those trains. The Russians don’t like them much, and I don’t speak Russian while I do speak Korean. So both of us had some extra time on our hands.

    These people are definitely constrained by their experiences. They have no frame of reference with which to interpret our clothes, manners, gewgaws and geedunk — because none of it exists in their world. I had with me photographs of the city of Seattle, where I was in graduate school, and of the St. Louis Arch, the landmark of my hometown. Those people understood the Arch, for sure, but they remained convinced the Seattle photos were paintings or otherwise faked because they could not imagine such a paradise.




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  16. Van,

    You answered the couple of direct questions, but omitted those that were obvious even if not explicitly in question form. I said you didn’t answer Joshua’s reply to you, which implies the rest.

    I really don’t think they live that much better than the other Pyonyang residents – certainly they’re not the “elite of the elite” – they’re chosen because of their language skills.

    You don’t get it; those “modest” homes in Pyongyang are the homes of North Korea’s elite! The entire city is for the elite, and the cream of that elite are the actual ruling class of the nation.

    Those people are not chosen b/c of language skills, they have language skills b/c they were chosen! Google “songbun.”

    If push comes to shove the North Korean elite can get whatever they want by smuggling goods and capital over the Chinese border – no-one, not even the Chinese government, will ever be able to change that.

    And:

    Yes, supporting change [by paying large amounts for paltry tours in North Korea.] Change that wil eventually end those camps. Isolation means more camps, more death – and maybe a new, even harder leader when Jong Il dies.

    China allows unmonitored cross-border trade in order to prop up North Korea b/c China dies not want a failed state and the possibility of USFK on that border. That trade could easily be halted.

    If you think the money you paid for your trip is in some way helping average North Korean’s, you’re fooling yourself.

    In denial and uninformed by design.




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  17. Brenden,

    A hell of a lot of loggers in siberia ended up defecting – you can read about in Under The Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader. There were a lot of people who wanted the camps shut down because they were inhumane, but compared to the average living conditions/wages in Korea, those in the camps did very well. The jobs were highly sought after, and helped put ordinary North koreans in touch with people like you. An example of engagement, IMHO.

    Richardson,

    You don’t get it; those “modest” homes in Pyongyang are the homes of North Korea’s elite! The entire city is for the elite, and the cream of that elite are the actual ruling class of the nation.

    Don’t lecture me, I understand it very well. Pyongyang residents are the elite, but our guides are not the “elite of the elite” which is the point I made in reply to Joshua. They are not the “cream of the elite” or the “ruling class”. can we move on from that point now?

    Those people are not chosen b/c of language skills, they have language skills b/c they were chosen!

    Fair point.

    China allows unmonitored cross-border trade in order to prop up North Korea b/c China dies not want a failed state and the possibility of USFK on that border. That trade could easily be halted.

    No, it couldn’t. The border is long, mountainous and porous – smugglers, NK agents, Chinese nationals on Pyonyang’s payroll – all these people come and go at will, and even under an enforced embargo (assuming the Chinese government would ever put one in place – which they will not) goods and capital would keep coming and going.

    Nobody will ever be able to bottle up the North Korean State. Sure, you could stem alot of flow, but the people who would suffer the most would be the average North Korean, not the elite. Trying to strangle the regime to death is like trying to squash one bad egg in a basket by crushing the whole thing. All you do is galvanize the people’s hatred for you. The more they suffer, the more the regime blames the U.S, and the people believe it.

    The same goes for financial sanctions. Freezing 25 mill of british money and then giving it back just doesn’t cut it, I’m afraid.

    If you think the money you paid for your trip is in some way helping average North Korean’s, you’re fooling yourself.

    I didn’t say my money was helping average North Koreans – but its unavoidable if you think it’s important to bring North Koreans into contact with foreigners, and expose them to ideas that can lay the seeds for future action. in saying that i think my tip helped my guide (a new mother) and her large extended family. Does it weigh on me that I couldn’t help those who needed it more? Yes.

    In denial and uninformed by design.

    If you can’t argue with any degree of acumen, at least ensure your insults make sense.




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  18. Don’t lecture me, I understand it very well.

    Apparently not.

    Pyongyang residents are the elite, but our guides are not the “elite of the elite” which is the point I made in reply to Joshua. They are not the “cream of the elite” or the “ruling class”. can we move on from that point now?

    C’mon Van, I didn’t say your tour guides were the “elite of the elite,” I said the ruling class is. And you either didn’t look up songbun, or don’t understand it.

    Nobody will ever be able to bottle up the North Korean State.

    You don’t know much about PLA capabilities (search on “PLA modernization”) in regard to the border; it’s not as hard as you seem to believe, aside from what a blockade could do – it’s not like there are a lot of other routes. Some trade would surely slip through, but not a fraction of enough for the needs of Kim Jong-il (basically payoff to the elite). Half-assed strangulation hasn’t worked, but that’s all that’s been applied.

    The same goes for financial sanctions. Freezing 25 mill of british money and then giving it back just doesn’t cut it, I’m afraid.

    The $25 million was a drop in the bucket; the point was about the international banking system, which now refuses to handle North Korean funds for the most part. That has hurt the regime.

    I’m glad you’ve raised your awareness by reading a book or two about North Korea and visiting for a few days; but keeping your head in the sand about the rest doesn’t help you much.




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  19. usinkorea, i missed your comments-

    just a few points. handicapped people and elderly are not shipped out of the capital – i saw plenty of them. amoung those who have been back and forth, this is considered one of the myths. politicals on the other hand…

    For what it’s worth I also think the Sunshine Policy is a huge failure and needs to be scrapped. I agree entirely on your thoughts about subversion and the lack of will by the SK Government to actively take hardline stances on certain matters and to actively engage in subversion.

    I do think you can actively subvert and engage at the same time – just requires some scapegoats and some creative diplomacy/manoevering.

    Again, if you read defector interviews, so many of them had got a leaflet drop and remembered it. Almost all of them think it’s a good idea. I would expand that program on a huge scale: soap operas, food, even smal denominations of money to encourage macro economics, black markets etc…




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  20. I think Van is suffering from post NK-trip-syndrome…which is an understandable syndrome many visitors to NK suffer from upon their return. As I can recall from my own trips to NK, the moment you return you feel like you have seen and witnessed something very unique. And the reason you feel this way is that you’re one of the very few who have been there and are therefore only to eager to share the experience with grandeur. Whilst NK guides treat you like you’re special, one also could feel like a specialist of NK after having seen and most importantly having ‘sensed’ the country.

    Fortunately, this syndrome wears off after several weeks, and very soon you’ll come to the conclusion that you’re actually non-the-wiser and as a matter of fact, you may actually be more confused hadn’t you bothered coming in the first place.

    I would like to add that I think Richardson is correct in his ‘positioning’ of the guides ; most of them live in or near Kwangbok Street and got a lot of spare foreign cash in their pockets – especially euro’s.




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  21. I do think you can actively subvert and engage at the same time – just requires some scapegoats and some creative diplomacy/manoevering.

    But subverting the regime and choking off its access to material from the outside world are both aimed at the same goal: bringing the regime down.

    Well, you could argue that sanctions also or primarily have in mind convincing the regime to change its ways……but sanctions untimately have as an alternative end the discontent of the people and pressure on the government if not outright revolution.

    But, it seems to me the people (like yourself) who push for engagement are against the idea of encouraging revolution….because it could unleash chaos and cause the deaths of so many of North Korea’s citizens and possibly South Koreans and Japanese (and Americans) too.

    Basically, what the usual engagement people boil down to is, “I’m satisfied enough with the level of deprivation and tyranny North Koreans live under. At least the hundreds of thousands are dying slowly, and I don’t have to turn on CNN one day and see footage of massive unrest and bloodshed. That might make me feel bad – well – worse than I do now about the plight of North Koreans. I don’t want to feel bad……so, let’s just accept that the concentration camps are going to stay around while we also make ourselves feel better by taking a progressive approach called ‘engagement’ that might only have a snowball’s chance in hell of working, but at least it doesn’t make me have to face a sudden onslaught of violence that a regime collapse could bring.”

    I know — you said that cutting the regime’s supply to material wealth from the outside also has a snowball’s chance in hell at working……..that the regime will survive no matter what we do……..which I guess would leave us with, what? at least making ourselves feel better about being progressive and friendly….even toward evil……

    But, I think we got to see over the last twelve months that the moves the US made to tighten up on Pyongyang made it squeal and that is why it agreed to come back to the 6 party talks…

    …….and I still have half a mind that says in 50 years, if I’m still around, when documents related to the 6 party talk negociations become available, they will show that the reason the US flip-flopped from applying what seemed to be effective pressure back to giving NK outlets to support it needs —- is that people in the State Department and elsewhere in the government believed North Korea was moving toward collapse and the government decided that was a worst case scenerio – and should be avoided…..

    But that is pure speculation on my part….




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  22. TellTell, thanks for the amatuer psychology, but my opinions hardly changed from before to after – although I did find it useful talking to people who had been there up to 50 times for their observations and opinions, and I think if you’re observant you can gain a hell of a lot of useful insights. Maybe you just weren’t paying attention. I suggest next time to don’t treat the experience like a contiki tour. A week is a long time to spend in a country and not see anything.

    USinkorea, I don’t agree with your assumptions on engagement people, particularly this stuff:

    “I’m satisfied enough with the level of deprivation and tyranny North Koreans live under…I don’t want to feel bad…we also make ourselves feel better…at least making ourselves feel better about being progressive and friendly…” etc etc. Talk about making assumptions. Who is this imaginary person you just invented? It might surprise you to know that most “engagement people” want the same thing as you do: change, asap.

    re: “but at least it doesn’t make me have to face a sudden onslaught of violence that a regime collapse could bring.” I didn’t mention the sudden violence of a regime collapse, because I don’t foresee a regime collapse resulting from “simply cutting off any aid whose fair distribution we can’t assure” to quote Joshua.

    My position is that engagement is the best option (out of very few good ones) of forcing change in the country, even if that change wil have to wait until after Kim Jong Il dies.




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  23. The truth is, there are very few options regarding North Korea, and I have a feeling despite the intentions of the South Koreans, there will most likely be a hard landing.

    Let’s hope there is a plan in case of a hard landing. If there is one, the ROK is remaining mum about it.




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  24. Let’s hope there is a plan in case of a hard landing.

    Odds are it will be a hard landing or a harder landing. There are plans, but who knows how realistic and useful they will turn out to be.




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  25. My position is that engagement is the best option (out of very few good ones) of forcing change in the country, even if that change wil have to wait until after Kim Jong Il dies.

    And I contend, again, though not for you specifically but on the “engagement” people in general, that they have largely decided to stick with talk of “engagement” because they cannot stomach the potential horrors of a collapse —– which means on the flip side — they can stomach the amount of horrors currently going on…

    A key to this idea is that they really don’t believe engagement will work or they have forced themselves to believe it — because they can offer little to nothing to back it up….

    Meaning, the main thrust of their argument for engagement stems from pointing out the “what if” horrors rather than any signs of progress.

    Your line about having to wait until Kim Jong Il dies fits in perfectly….

    Hard line or soft line, the death of Kim could produce massive changes on its own….

    I prefer the hardline of forcing NK to collapse, and absorbing whatever pain comes with it, and doing our best to minimize it, because at the end of the day, prolonging the regime over time could lead to just as much misery and suffering and deaths as forcing collapse.

    Forcing collapse is also at least a real solution that we can hope to bring about. Whereas “engagement” is a pipe dream (though on these two points I know we disagree fundamentally….)

    Despite what WWII is supposed to have taught us, we haven’t done well at working against genocides. And our track record seems to highlight the fact that the only reason Hitler’s final solution was not carried through was the fact he kept trying to grab territory……….

    We like to think we would do something about the Hitler’s of our time…..

    …..when we have a clear contemporary example staring us in the face……..and we talk about engaging him…….




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  26. Kim Jong Il’s favorite movie was The Host, and he loved Jumong. He ban his own people from watching dramas, movies, etc. Words fail me.




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