Wow. Those Hostages Eat a Lot.

I didn’t say much about Yu Song Jin during his 137 days as a guest of Kim Jong Il, mainly because I really didn’t care that much about the predicament in which he placed himself. Yu, a South Korean employee at the Kaesong Industrial Park, was accused of attempting to infect one of the hand-picked North Korean factory slaves with his thoughtcrimes — an offense that, if true, might have endangered her life. I’m no great fan of North Korea profiting by crossing the line from the arbitrary cult-enforcement that passes for law there to outright hostage-taking, but Yu’s case never caused me the conflict or angst that the case of Euna Lee and Laura Ling did. I have little sympathy for anyone stupid and amoral enough to willfully accept employment at Kaesong, nor do I accept the self-serving “arbeit macht frei” lies used to justify it. A South Korean at Kaesong assumes at least some small portion of the risks the North Korean slaves there live with every day of their lives.

Today, we learn some of what it cost Hyun Jeong-Un, the Chairwoman of Hyundai Asan Corporation, to get Yu back, in addition to a set of jammies and some health books. There’s no confirmation as to whether “Final Exit” was among them, but let’s not forget that Hyun became Chairwoman of a company that lives or dies with Kim Jong Il’s whims after her husband flung himself from a skyscraper after being implicated for making illegal payments to North Korea. Hyun’s late husband thus acted as one of the bag men who helped Kim Dae Jung buy his Nobel Prize with the embezzled money of South Korean taxpayers and shareholders, and with the involuntary servitude of North Koreans.

Today, we learn that the North Koreans billed Hyundai Asan for $20,000. Mind you, insurance will cover the cost, which is itemized as room and board at $115 a night for 137 days, not ransom.

Duly noted.

How Hyundai Asan or South Korea justify this payment under UNSCR 1874 is beyond me, which may be why Kim Jong Il was satisfied that he’d won a significant victory by extracting even this modest sum (U.S.S. Pueblo lawyers, take note). The lesson? Doing business with the North Koreans is always more expensive than it would initially seem, and it eventually demands the corruption of everyone who partakes, though Ms. Hyun initially offered token resistance.

For their part, the North Koreans sound glad to be rid of Mr. Yu. The ingrate even had the temerity to burden his hosts with repeated requests for more rice and complaints about the side dishes. Yu should thank the deity or fetish object of his choice that the North Koreans didn’t add a ten-year sentence in Yodok to his troubles.

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