Monthly Archives: April 2009

Korean Word of the Day: 막무가내

This word, pronounced mak-mu-ga-nae, roughly translates to that most untranslatable of Yiddish words:  chutzpah.

On Tuesday, North Korea had the chutzpah to demand (막무가내로 우기다) that the U.N. Security Council apologize for the flaccid non-binding presidential statement it offered in lieu of any meaningful enforcement of the two Security Council resolutions North Korea’s recent missile test violated:

The UNSC should promptly make an apology for having infringed the sovereignty of the DPRK and withdraw all its unreasonable and discriminative “resolutions” and decisions adopted against the DPRK.

North Korea’s very ridiculousness can be (if this is the right word) disarming.  It’s hard to take a man, even a democidal tyrant, seriously when he resembles an unkempt fishwife or when his state media has a fondness for peculiar words like “brigandish.”  This dismissive consequence of ridicule has a way of obscuring the depth and scale of Kim Jong Il’s brutality, a case of mass political cleansing that has had no equal in this world since Pol Pot’s overthrow.

But at least we’ll be spared the sight of Kim Jong Il’s face on coffee mugs and tote bags.  A million deaths is a statistic, but a bad haircut will not stand among the right-thinking.

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Study: N. Korea Reduced Public Executions in Reaction to S. Korean Criticism

Does Kim Jong Il care what South Koreans, Americans, or other earthlings say about his regime?

Citing interviews with about 50 North Korean defectors who fled their homeland between 2007 and 2008, the Korea Institute for National Unification said in a report that North Korea appears to be mindful of criticism from the international community about its human rights condition and has responded with limited changes.

According to the annual report “White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea 2009,” those interviewed said they had witnessed fewer public executions than before. The report also noted changes in the legal system in recent years in favor of human rights, such as a 2003 law on the protection of the disabled and revisions to the criminal law in 2004 and 2005 stiffening requirements for permission to interrogate or arrest individuals.

“North Korea appears to be reacting sensitively to criticism from the international community,” Kim Soo-am, a research fellow at the think tank and major author of the report, told reporters.

“Adjusting its legal system and reducing public executions, North Korea appears to be trying to find a way to reduce international criticism in a way that will not threaten the regime,” he said.

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It’s North Korea Freedom Week

The list of events this year looks extremely interesting. For most of these, you have to be in Washington D.C. I only wish I had time to attend more of these. More here. One that I’d especially like to attend is a screening of “Kimjongilia,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

Calls for the release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee will also be heard, but so far, Lisa Ling is maintaining her public silence. Sort of.

Their families and acquaintances plan a candlelight vigil on Tuesday in front of the headquarters of Current TV, where the two were working, in San Francisco.

Lisa Ling, Laura Ling’s sister and herself a TV personality, told reporters, “This has been an incredibly difficult time for us. Please understand that due to the extreme sensitivity of the case, it is vital for our families to stay quiet. Please know however, that when you are out there holding those candles, that we are there with you with fires lit in our hearts.” [Chosun Ilbo]

But as we now know, the State Department is telling the families that it’s vital to stay quiet because the State Department is more interested in “bigger issues” — like rolling the stone up the hill again — than in protecting American citizens.

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Kaesong Death Watch

There’s enough bile circulating in my veins as it is, so it’s a burden lifted to read reports like this, via G.I. Korea, and have the confidence that the behavior will be terminated and deterred in due course. These days, Kaesong isn’t shipping much merchandise, but a lot of karma is about to arrive on some manufacturers’ loading docks.

Exhibit A: Amid North Korean demands to increase “wages” for Kaesong workers — the workers themselves probably see little or any of the money — panicky South Korean investors are appealing to their government to insure the free flow of freight traffic and the release of a South Korean employee still being held by the North Koreans. It’s hard to see what the South Korean government can really do about this.

Exhibit B: Inter-Korean trade in March 2009 was a full 30% lower than it was in March 2008.

The two Koreas exchanged goods and services worth US$108.74 million over the last month, down 31.1 percent from $157.9 million in the same period in 2008, the data from the Unification Ministry said.

North Korea sealed the border three times in March, disrupting South Korean production in a joint industrial complex in the North’s border town of Kaesong.

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27 April 2009

ROH MOO HYUN takes the Fifth.

NO WORSE THAN HAVING THEM THERE, I guess: The Economist calls for proceeding with six-party talks without the North Koreans. I happen to be a supporter of continuing this charade, but only because charades have cosmetic value.

CITING SOUTH KOREAN INTELLIGENCE SOURCES, the Joongang Ilbo reports that the North Korean military is reasserting itself “over several key policy-making issues” in a restructuring of the ruling Worker’s Party. This would dial back a trend reported last year, in which the the civilian party leadership gained at the military’s expense. Or, all of this could be bullshit….

A CAUTION THAT ALSO APPLIES to fresh reports that Kim Jong Un is being groomed for succession. Far too slowly to take power before his old man goes to the big meat locker, if you ask me.

North Korea marked the 77th anniversary of its military on Saturday with vows of a ‘merciless strike’ against the United States and its allies, which it accuses of attempting an invasion.” Thank goodness they’re not in league with the terrorists anymore.

IT ISN’T COWBOY DIPLOMACY when a Democrat does it:

Responding to North Korea’s purported reactivation of its plutonium-producing facilities, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Saturday that Washington wants dialogue with Pyongyang, but the communist country should first retract its brinkmanship.

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Deputy Chief of Mission at U.S. Embassy in Seoul Calls Laura Ling and Euna Lee “Stupid”

ling-lee.jpgI wonder how many years of studying international relations it would take a guy like me to become a suave, smooth-talking ambassador of American values like this guy:

A US diplomat in Seoul has shocked a group of visiting Congressional staff members by allegedly making highly insensitive comments about two journalists — Taiwanese ­-American Laura Ling and Korean-American Euna Lee — now facing serious criminal charges in North Korea.

William Stanton, deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in South Korea and a candidate for the next director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), is said to have told the visitors during a briefing that the two young journalists were “stupid” and that their case was “distracting from bigger issues. [Taipei Times, William Lowther]

First, let me get one thing out of the way: I am absolutely, positively not related to this person. Second, let me posit that this statement is proof that William Stanton has absolutely no idea what the “bigger issues” are.

Congressional sources said most of the nine visitors — all in their 20s and on a training trip to Asia — were particularly distressed because both Ling and Lee could be sentenced to long prison terms and there is strong evidence they did nothing wrong.

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North Korea’s Indictment of Laura Ling and Euna Lee Is Meant to Terrorize Journalists and Paralyze Our Government (And It’s Working)

Someone wake up Al Gore and tell him Manbearpig has two of his reporters:

North Korea said Friday that it had decided to indict two American journalists who have been detained for more than five weeks on charges of illegally entering the country and committing “hostile acts.

“Our related agency has completed its investigation of the American journalists,” North Korea’s state-run news agency, KCNA, reported. “It has formally decided to put them on trial based on confirmed criminal data. [….]

North Korea has said that it would allow the reporters consular access and treat them according to international law. Amnesty International has said it doubted that they will receive a fair trial, given the North Korean judicial system’s lack of independence or transparency. [N.Y. Times]

Nice of Amnesty to put in a token appearance now and then when they’re not too busy fluffing Khalid Sheikh Mohammad’s pillow. Now if only they decided to get vocal about North Korea’s attempt to reenact the Holocaust. Note also that someone in the MSM has finally picked up on what OFK readers caught almost immediately:

Ms. Ling, 32, is the younger sister of Lisa Ling, a television journalist who reported undercover in North Korea for National Geographic in 2006.

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23 April 2009

RISING CRIME against the “upper classes” and “party officials” in North Korea’s border regions.

THAT’LL TEACH ‘EM: Behold the dreaded awesomeness of European diplomacy!

A FEW DAYS OLD, but here’s some idea of the emerging policy paralysis in the Obama Administration. I’m starting to believe that the Obama Doctrine will be, “Never make a decision.”

THE SEAL MEN of Seoul. I’d say my main question was answered:

Kim doesn’t crawl in his “off” hours. He can walk fitfully with crutches. He lives in a first-floor apartment on the outskirts of Seoul. At 7 a.m. each day, before the morning rush, a disabled friend who can drive drops Kim off at his chosen spot. He spends the next 10 hours in a rough-hewn horizontal world. “I know I look pathetic,” he says. “But if I used my crutches, nobody would give me money.”

OFF TOPIC: Eric Cartman joins the Somali pirates.

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North Korean Military Service Loses Its Luster

In Hoeryong, a group of North Korean children has been sentenced to a life of laboring on collective farms for refusing to join the army:

As a result of a first-of-its-kind refusal to sign an army enrollment petition, students soon to graduate from a middle school in Hoiryeong, North Hamkyung Province have been ordered by the Party to work on collective farms for life.

Furthermore, during this process the parents of some of the students protested after the children of government officials in Hoiryeong were granted exemptions from the same order.

The incident occurred at the Osanduk Middle School in early February. The Army Mobilization Department had urged graduating middle school students to sign the “People’s Army (KPA) Enrollment Petition,” stressing that “America and South Chosun puppets are taking provocative wartime measures. [Daily NK]

Military service used to be desirable and genuinely voluntary in North Korea. Until recently, it was seen as a meal ticket and a route to higher social status. Apparently, those days have even passed in a bleak backwater like Hoeryong.

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Telling Half the Story at Yongbyon

The Washington Post reassures us that North Korea’s threat to restart plutonium processing is mostly empty because of the current condition of its 5-MW reaction. Not only do I agree that the reactor is probably a wreck, I believe that was also true before the North Koreans sold us their scrap heap for such a high price. Funny, I don’t remember Siegfried Hecker telling us that in 2007 when the State Department was telling us what a breakthrough this deal was.

The major premise of Post’s story relies mostly on Hecker, who strongly supports any deal the North Koreans give us, and on a few like-minded others. It also focuses exclusively on one reactor in North Korea’s plutonium reprocessing program. The Post would have written a more balanced and informative story if it had started with its own archives and questioned Hecker — and some contrarian experts like Caroline Leddy or Henry Sokolski — about the 50-MW reactor nearby. I could be convinced that the 50-MW reactor isn’t really the danger the Post suggested it was in 2005, but I have yet to see any serious recent reporting on that big pink elephant in this room.

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Trouble at the DMZ

Those North-South Korea talks lasted just 22 minutes, all of them tense, and hopes that they would end with make-up sex were not realized.  It looks like there’s trouble at the DMZ:

North Korea accused South Korea of a “serious provocation” by moving a marker on their heavily guarded border, raising tensions after rare talks between the two ended without agreement.”This serious military provocation is a wanton violation of the Armistice Agreement and a deliberate and premeditated action to escalate tension in the areas along the MDL,” the North’s official news agency said, referring to the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) which marks the border.

South Korea’s military denied moving the post. “We call on North Korea to stop unnecessarily raising tension by making groundless claims,” said a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  [AFP]

The South also asked the North Koreans to release the South Korean Kaesong manager it’s been holding for several weeks now, on charges of inducing a North Korean woman to defect.  It’s now threatening to go narc to the U.N. (no! please!)   And the most delicious irony of all?  North Korea is suddenly in an activist mood about the low wages of the slave laborers at Kaesong!

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Chris Hill Slips Through; New Bills in Congress Would Roll Back His Unilateral Concessions

[Update:   I have the House bill, too.  Scroll down for the link.]

The AP is reporting that Christopher Hill is now confirmed as Ambassador to Iraq.  Having managed to inflict a slight flesh wound on Hill, we can at least claim to have alerted potential critics to some of the less desirable aspects of his character, which (I fear) will reveal themselves again in due course when he opens secret talks with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you, though I predict that eventually, some of those who voted for cloture on this debate will eventually have reason to call for Hill’s head.

I shudder at the damage Hill could do in Iraq, but as far as North Korea policy is concerned, at least he’s out of that picture.  On the other hand, Hill’s “legacy” — and of course, it’s Bush’s legacy, too — is a long series of concessions that we were assured would be strictly conditioned on North Korea meeting its disarmament obligations.  Here is what Bush said when he announced the relaxation of sanctions and North Korea’s removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism last June:

The six-party process has shed light on a number of issues of serious concern to the United States and the international community.  To end its isolation, North Korea must address these concerns.  It must dismantle all of its nuclear facilities, give up its separated plutonium, resolve outstanding questions on its highly enriched uranium and proliferation activities, and end these activities in a way that we can fully verify.

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Stand With Sam Brownback

According to my latest information, which is just short of a day old now, the nomination of Chris Hill was to go to the Senate floor yesterday, where it was expected to get more than enough votes to close debate.  Under Senate rules, Senator Brownback now has his chance to go to the floor and speak, to see if he can change a few more minds.  I’ve passed him as much ammunition as time has allowed.  Now, the rest is up to the Senate.  The odds heavily favor Hill’s confirmation today, but Brownback is prepared to go down fighting.
I often hear conservatives say that their party has run aground because it doesn’t know what it stands for.  Christopher Hill typifies the rudderless, unprincipled, and failed Republocrat foreign policy that mislabels itself as “realism.”  Brownback was the man who tried to stand in its way then, when Bush was in office, and he’s doing the same now that Obama is in office.  Plenty in the press see fit to ridicule Brownback for being principled, because they happen to disagree with the principles themselves.  History will continue to reveal that Brownback is right, and the rest of them are wrong.

I’m going to contact both of my liberal Democratic senators today, knowing full well that it’s unlikely to matter and that Hill — America’s most conspicuously unsuccessful diplomat — will probably be confirmed anyway.  If this quixotic cause matters to you, I hope you’ll do the same.  Here’s what I will be writing:

Dear Senator Mikulski, Please vote against the confirmation of Christopher Hill as Ambassador to Iraq until you have an opportunity to study Hill’s extensive record of disregard for the law, for dishonesty with Congress, and for professional incompetence in his dealings with North Korea that have made North Korea a greater danger to the United States.  Some of Ambassador Hill’s efforts to mislead Congress about his diplomatic efforts to deal with North Korea are detailed at this article:

Among Ambassador Hill’s deceptions furthered his efforts to avoid raising the issue of North Korea’s horrific concentration camps with that country’s government, which you can learn more about here:

I am also gravely concerned that Hill’s nomination results from his personal friendship with Richard Holbrooke, rather than his record or qualifications.  Ambasador Hill has no middle eastern experience and speaks no Arabic.  His prior qualifications do not suggest that he is prepared for the political, military, or cultural challenges he will soon confront.  Many other, better qualified candidates could do this job better than Christopher Hill.  I urge you to study Ambassador Hill’s record of failure carefully before voting on his confirmation.

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Banzai for Nuclear Japan!

Japan should consider possessing nuclear weapons as a deterrent to a neighboring threat, former Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa suggested Sunday.

In a speech in Obihiro, Hokkaido, in reference to North Korea’s rocket launch earlier this month that many believe was a ballistic missile test, the hawkish lawmaker said: “It is common sense worldwide that in pure military terms, nuclear counters nuclear.”

In Sunday’s speech, Nakagawa said he believes North Korea has many Rodong medium-range missiles that could reach almost any part of Japan and also has small nuclear warheads.

“North Korea has taken a step toward a system whereby it can shoot without prior notice,” he said. “We have to discuss countermeasures.”

He added that public discussions must be promoted on what has long been considered a national taboo: whether Japan should possess nuclear weapons.  [Kyodo News via Japan Today; (ht)]

I loved what came next:

Nakagawa stepped down as finance minister in February over what appeared to be drunken behavior at an international news conference in Rome.

Those of you who dread this idea should take some comfort from the word “former,” and I’m not sure that the clownish drunken man is a likely spokesman for an orchestrated trial balloon from the Japanese government.  Even the title of the article ridicules Nakagawa.  I’m guessing that Nakagawa probably speaks for himself and plenty of unstated opinion that will mostly remain unstated for the time being.  But with America increasingly perceived as an unreliable protector in Japan recently, I can understand why some in Japan are starting to think about going nuclear, and I have very good reason to suspect that South Korea has similar ideas.

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20 April 2009

THE STATE DEPARTMENT given the North Koreans a stern talking-to.  Because, you know, they’re still reeling from that U.N. presidential statement.

OH, GOODY:  North Korea wants to talk to South Korea about God-only-knows what.

IT NEVER FAILS TO AMAZE ME how North Koreans, including defectors, often continue to revere Kim Il Sung, even after the break with the system.  Don’t underestimate the ability of reverence and skepticism to coexist.

NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES you hear that the Pentagon and the ROK have agreed on USFK restructuring, disregard it.  Every agreement just marks the start of the next negotiation.


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The “Realism” Fad, Truth in Labeling, The Obama Doctrine, and Godot

Jeff Jacoby asks how many Democrats still believe in the moral superiority of democracy.  Nowadays, I wonder.  I frequently hear it said, especially by adherents of the fad mislabeled as “realism,” that nations have the “right” to choose their own way.  The problem with this argument is that invariably, “nations” really means a tiny clique of thugs and oligarchs with the keys to the helicopter gunships, who exercise that “right” by proxy and do the choosing for everyone else.  I’ve also wondered how happy the voluble chatterers who espouse this theory would be without their rights to speak freely.  This is just one level of hypocrisy away from the pederast mullahs who want to save the purity of their societies from the destructive urges of other people to hold hands.

The new crop of realists being stamped out of grad schools today reminds me of nothing so much as the shiny new neoconservatives of 2003 — enthusiastic ideologues who have been compressed by their philosophy’s basic truths, but who will in due course be unleashed with the excess that faddish views inevitably produce.  In the case of the neoconservatives, with whom I admittedly share many points of agreement, the excess was to go beyond the moral and pecuniary superiority of propogating personal freedom to support for “using U.S.

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Joining the Great North Korea Debate

I’m gratified to see that my latest New Ledger article has picked up so much linkage and circulation, including at Instapundit, Real Clear World, the Memeorandum, Pajamas Media, Rantburg, Google News, and even the Puffington Host.  I doubt that I’ve done much harm to Chris Hill’s chances of being confirmed, but it’s gratifying to see my ideas debated by people not necessarily predisposed to agree (which must be nearly everyone, given that I’ve been highly critical of Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama).  Indeed, I argue that all three presidents’ policies have all been functionally indistinguishable thus far, and even Barack Obama talked a good game until he acquired 300 foreign policy analysts.  Over at the RCW blog, there’s a good discussion going on between myself and the host about my New Ledger article.  If you drop by, please make us proud of the calm clarity of your logic.

Robert Koehler has the rare privilege of hosting a discussion between two of the people whose views about North Korea I respect the most – Andrei Lankov and B.R. Myers.  Frankly, I usually avoid TMH comment threads, but I hope this one continues (Baduk notwithstanding) because it’s such a rare privilege to see an exchange of views between two people as well informed about North Korea as these two men.

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