John Choe, personifying the appellation “useful idiot” as pictured here, won’t shift U.S. foreign policy if he’s elected to represent a district in Queens in the New York City Council. Technically, Choe is correct when he evades questions about his sympathies with North Korea’s regime and demurs,
“I’m not running for secretary of state–I’m running to represent the 20th district in the City Council,” Choe said.
That is true in the same sense that David Duke ran for governor of Louisiana, not Chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. When Duke ran, he accused his opponents of unfairly raising his previous leadership of Ku Klu Klan and Neo-Nazi organizations, which he claimed were a part of his past (though Duke continued to operate an organization called the National Association for the Advancement of White People).
I make this comparison because John Choe, who has the endorsement of the Queens Democratic Party, is the co-founder of a group called Nodutdol, which, in rhetoric indistinguishable from North Korea’s, says:
The danger of war is real – during both the Clinton and Bush administrations, U.S. pre-emptive strikes were threatened over the issue of North Korea’s potentially having nuclear weapons. Currently, the U.S. has been reconfiguring its presence in South Korea, increasing the size and capabilities of bases like Camp Humphreys in Pyongtaek, south of Seoul, while the U.S., South Korea, and Japan have stepped up joint military exercises to “maintain regional stability”. The most recent just ended this March, as 26,000 U.S. forces joined the R.O.K. forces in an enormous war game, “Key Resolve/ Foal Eagle”, exercises aimed at North Korea, who condemned the actions as provocative. Then, North Korea launched a satellite in early April, which the U.S., South Korea and Japan denounced as provocative. [Nodutdol]
Choe has not repudiated Nodutdol, and Nodutdol has not repudiated Choe, whom it describes as a “former member.” Since at least 2003, when Choe was still associated with Nodutdol, Nodutdol has sponsored political pilgrimages to North Korea:
The mission of DEEP is to bring activists and socially concerned Korean Americans to the northern part of our homeland, in the only such program in this country. Because of the biased and negative portrayal of north Korea by the US government and mainstream media, most of us [even Koreans who are already committed to social justice], are poorly informed about the DPRK. This program helps to demystify the DPRK, and build person to person understanding. To organize in this collective, socialist society. Each year, DEEP organizes a fundraising drive to support the people of north Korea and uses the proceeds to bring medical supplies, books, and other materials to the DPRK. [Nodutdol]
Even this appears to be a sanitized version of what a New York Times reporter found several years ago, and you know you’re far afield when even the New York Times looks at you askance for your far-left sympathies:
It is not hard to see the worries. Nodutdol’s Web site, which is in English at www.nodutdol.com, includes a journal and photographs by Yul San Liem, 24, who presents North Korea as a harmonious place, full of happy people free of Western advertising. There is plenty of praise for the former dictator Kim Il Sung.
North Koreans, Ms. Liem writes, ”have built a nation from nothing when the Western Imperialists would have had them fall, have constructed a society in which people actually desire what is best of each other, rather than what is best for the individual self, who resist the clutches of global capitalism, who have survived such hardships and risen up alive, united and strong.”
The site doesn’t mention that North Korean citizens can reportedly be sent to the gulag for watching television. There is only a passing reference to the famine that killed an estimated 2.5 million North Koreans in the mid-1990’s, a result, many observers say, of the government’s policies. [N.Y. Times, Robert F. Worth]
Among the groups with which Notudol allies itself are the repugnant National Lawyers’ Guild, whose pro-regime propaganda has trumetped North Korea’s judicial procedure and its treatment of prisoners, and the violent, North Korean–infiltrated Korean Confederation of Trade Unions.
The graves of Hamhung
“I believe in productive and constructive criticism. There is also criticism that is meant to undermine a peaceful process. I believe if you’re gonna build a relationship you have to engage in constructive criticism.[“¦] You can’t be holier than thou, saying why aren’t you fixing this, or fixing that?[“¦] That part of U.S. policy is currently being reviewed by the Obama administration. The unilateralism that the U.S. has pushed around the world hasn’t been very productive,” said Choe. [….]
In regards to human rights violations, Choe criticized the former military government of South Korea, especially their National Security Law, which he said led to the “restricted free speech and freedom of conscience, [and] allowed the authorities to detain, torture and sometimes kill their political opponents whether they were professors, poetry, labor activists. “If a similar system is in place in North Korea, I would also oppose it,” said Choe. [Queens Tribune]
It is a strange variation of Holocaust denial that “opposes” what it still refuses to acknowledge. But the horrors that are there for anyone to see, or to hear the victims describe. The number of people murdered or allowed to starve by North Korea’s regime exceed by at least a hundredfold the worst abuses of South Korea’s old right, to which Choe attempts to redirect his response.
Choe wasn’t so circumspect in a 2006 speech, which he has not repudiated:
Korea is at the front line of the liberation struggles against imperialism,” Choe was quoted as telling a conference here in May 2006 on “Preparing for the Rebirth of the Global Struggle for Socialism.”
“From the very beginning, when the US intervened and occupied Korea, the Korean people have been resisting and struggling. And I urge all of you here to help us in our dark days trying to win back freedom and independence from the United States and its military.” [David Seifman, New York Post]
If a moral distinction can be made between the Nazi regime and North Korea’s, it certainly isn’t in degrees of cruelty so much as the number of victims the regimes could access. When David Duke sought and won the Republican primary while running for governor of Louisiana in 1988, Ronald Reagan recorded radio spots to endorse his corrupt Democratic opponent. That is because we have made the national decision to drive those who sympathize with the perpetrators of genocide from polite society. Yet too many “progressives” seem untroubled by sharing their movement with those who traffic in one of the world’s most illiberal ideologies. Perhaps the Queens Democratic Party endorsed Choe while ignorant of his views, but by now, it cannot be unaware of them. If the Democratic Party has made the decision to create a space within its ranks for the advocates of genocide, then by all means, it should stand by that endorsement.
After all, the Nazis meant well, too.
Related: Notwithstanding there being some sort of rule against this, I also question the patriotism of Wilfred Burchett.