Several of you e-mailed me about the story of the luxury yachts that North Korea had attempted to purchase from the Italian manufacturer Azimuth-Benetti. I started a post and didn’t finish it, partially because that post became something long-winded, disjointed, and unpublishable. Meanwhile, a few more details have trickled in about the boats and the purchase. Contrary to doubts expressed in earlier reports, Italian authorities have concluded that the boats were indeed for His Withering Majesty, although you have to wonder why he’d need two, and frankly, why he’d even need one given the state he’s in now. Maybe he should have asked to have one of them equipped with a mausoleum, given his condition these days. More likely, they were to be gifts for high-ranking generals.
The boats themselves are a thing to behold, as is Azimut-Benetti’s web site. Oh, and the North Koreans were using a Chinese company as an intermediary. So much for our expectations that China is finally ready to implement U.N. sanctions in good faith:
Italian financial police said the Chinese company paid a Hong Kong business to take delivery of the vessels, valued at nearly â‚¬13 million ($18.5 million).
An investigation determined that the yachts ultimately were bound for the reclusive communist nation in violation of international sanctions barring sale of luxury goods to North Korea, the ministry said.
Col. Antonio Leone, the financial-police commander in Lucca, said “it is an irrefutable fact” that Mr. Kim was the intended final recipient, according to Reuters. “There has been a thorough investigation, partly in Austria, backed up by confessions and investigative breakthroughs,” he said.
A person answering the phone at the North Korean Embassy in Rome said no one was available to comment.
The yachts were initially confiscated by Italy’s Economic Development Ministry but have since been returned to the boatyard, which has been allowed to keep the deposit. Azimut-Benetti isn’t accused of wrongdoing and has cooperated fully in the investigation, police said. [Wall Street Journal]
Sure, you say, it’s a promiscuous squandering of money that could be better spent on sarin precursors and aluminum tubes, but it’s is no more worthless than a hideous collossus of a hotel that can’t be filled, or a fleet of Mercedez sedans that were recently gifted to North Korea’s generals. So what important lesson must we take from an incident like this one? Most importantly, that we mustn’t stereotye North Korea as a land plunged into hunger by an “evil dictator.” Or so said Christine Ahn just a month ago:
Nevertheless we persist in attributing the cause of North Korea’s famine to an “evil dictator” who must be dislodged before the country can get back on its feet. But this is far from the truth according to Theodor Friedrich, Senior Agriculturalist for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. In Pyongyang, in 2004, one of us asked him if an “evil dictator” was the cause of the famine. He responded that, to the contrary, what he observed was that because of North Korea’s exceptional centralized food distribution system and collective spirit, a great many lives were saved. [Christine Ahn, Z Net]
Note the absence of intentional parody when Ms. Ahn uses the words “collective spirit,” or this part, where she bitterly denounces Barack Hus-same Obama for being a closet neocon:
When Barack Obama was elected President, Korean Americans, Koreans on the peninsula, and all advocates for the reunification and economic justice on the Korean peninsula dared to dream that decades of enmity between the U.S. and the North Koreans would end. Sadly, the Obama administration is, so far, at least as bad as the one it replaced.
No doubt, John Feffer is already writing a dissertation on how these sanctions are starving North Korean babies. Whereas Feffer specializes in half-truths, Ahn is just a reckless liar who claims that North Korea’s food situation has stablized, that North Korea really wants to reform and engage with us, and who blames U.S. sanctions for hunger when in fact U.S. sanctions against North Korea make every possible effort to avoid hurting its food supply (caviar and lobsters excluded, of course). The World Food Program will tell you that the food situation has become less secure in recent years, and the North Korean regime itself recently refused all food aid from the United States, historically North Korea’s largest donor. There is abundant evidence that the North is trying to stamp out markets, and no recent evidence supports Ahn’s assertions about economic reform.
And yet, despite those legions of fact-checkers, some buffoon at CNN put this mendacious Kim Jong Il apologist on the air. Is it any wonder that people turn to Fox out of sheer disgust?
I’ve given long and careful thought to how a civil society ought to deal with views as offensive as real-time holocaust denial like Ahn’s and Feffer’s, and I’m sure you will agree with me that they should be caged and poked with sharp sticks.
Update: More on this.