Open Sources, June 22, 2012
AP WATCH: Uh oh, I see that Jean Lee is back in Pyongyang. So what will it be this time? An exclusive report on how 100% of shoppers at the Kwangbok Area Supermarket blame America for the shortage of Cartier jewelry, an exhibit of oil paintings proving that there are no concentration camps, or Pak Won Il’s feature story about a darling five year-old girl who has learned to hit Uncle Sam’s hooked beak with a real AKS-74 at 460 meters? (What, you missed? No corn cake today!) I can only beseech a kind and loving Zeus to spare us from anything too dreadful, and I’ll call it a small victory if He does.
Update, 25 June 2012: Wow. I guess we have our answer, don’t we? Disclaimer: the AP is not giving me advance copies of its stories. I swear!
For North Koreans, the systematic indoctrination of anti-Americanism starts as early as kindergarten and is as much a part of the curriculum as learning to count.
Toy pistols, rifles and tanks sit lined up in neat rows on shelves. The school principal pulls out a dummy of an American soldier with a beaked nose and straw-colored hair and explains that the students beat him with batons or pelt him with stones — a favorite schoolyard game, she says. [AP]
All this time I’ve been blogging, I could have Jayson Blaired my very own Pyongyang Bureau and raked in thousands in subscription fees from gullible editors.
One thing I can’t say about this story is that it presents a sanitized image of North Korea (ergo there is a Zeus, and He intervenes in earthly affairs). But like the AP’s other reports from Pyongyang, it’s barely newsworthy, it’s a leash-and-collar recitation of the official propaganda, and it views North Korea though the same privileged Pyongyang soda straw, which means it isn’t very enlightening about the other 98% of North Korea.
There are also missing disclaimers and unanswered questions. Lee’s story references “three journalists, including an American,” but the story carries only Lee’s byline and tells its readers nothing about who those other “journalists” are. So are they North Koreans, and if so, why is the AP hiding that from its readers? And if these North Koreans are absolutely, positively not minders, why doesn’t their contribution to this story merit a credit? The report also references visits to multiple schools in North Korea, yet it only tells us where one of them was (Pyongyang, of course).
Hat tips to a whole bunch of you.
A U.N. COMMITTEE will soon accuse China of 21 violations of its Security Council sanctions against North Korea related to sales of luxury goods and weapons. If past practice holds, China will try to block the report.
THIS YEAR’S STATE DEPARTMENT REPORT on human trafficking is out, and North Korea (pdf) is still at Tier 3, the worst level, where it has been since at least 2005. The report talks about the forced labor — including forced labor of children — in political prison camps, but also devotes considerable attention to the North’s rental of slave labor to foreign employers:
There were also credible reports that these workers faced threats of government reprisals against them or their relatives in North Korea if they attempted to escape or complain to outside parties. Workers’ salaries are deposited into accounts controlled by the North Korean government, which keeps most of the money, claiming fees for various “voluntary” contributions to government endeavors. Workers reportedly only received a fraction of the money paid to the North Korean government for their work.
It then says, “North Korean workers at joint ventures with foreign investors within the DPRK are employed under arrangements similar to those that apply to overseas contract workers,” but does not mention Kaesong by name, which is disappointing, and a change from previous years.
The report for South Korea says that “[s]ome men and women from Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Colombia, Mongolia, China, the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, North Korea, Vietnam, Japan, and other Southeast Asian countries are subjected to forced labor,” but also fails to specify whether State is talking about Kaesong or not.
PROGRESS: South Korea’s far-left United Progressive Party now accepts that defending North Korean atrocities, or completely ignoring them, is too much of an embarrassment, so it’s trying to shift to a policy of just not emphasizing them:
One thing that stands out in the plan is the proposal for a forward-thinking reexamination of the country’s North Korea policy, alliance with the US, and conglomerate policy. The committee said that progressives are “opposed to the human rights situation, hereditary transfer of power, and nuclear program in North Korea.” It also said, “There is no need to fear that a basic expression of position will lead to a breakdown in inter-Korean relations, and North Korea should recognize this as a diplomatic reality.” These are on-point observations. Viewing Pyongyang as a party to diplomatic negotiations is a separate matter from one’s basic position on North Korea. A progressive party that seeks to ensure universal human rights should first make its Pyongyang policy clear to the public. [The Hankyoreh]
The UPP is a small fringe party that’s more-or-less the successor of the Democratic Labor Party. It’s currently riven by a schism between a pro-North Korean faction and an anti-anti-North Korean faction.
“Villages in remote mountains can resort to slash-and-burn farming to survive, but in lowland areas where there are only cooperative farms, 30 to 40 people in each village starve to death every year,” said Choi Myong-chol (not his real name), who used to handle crop harvests in Haeju, South Hwanghae Province. “The reason is that their entire harvest is confiscated,” he told the activist website NK Reform.
On a related note, Marcus Noland and Stephan Haggard have written a must-read post debunking claims by North Korea and its apologists that weather is the reason why North Koreans starve. Money quote:
[T]he importance of weather can be exaggerated, and has sometimes been used politically, as means to sidestep concerns about North Korean policy and instead move directly to attributing food shortages to acts of God. This misdirection is most notable with respect to the famine of the 1990s, where some supporters of aid to North Korea consistently frame that episode as a result of floods and other natural disasters, when it is quite obvious that the famine emerged before the disasters, which though surely destructive, were subsequently exaggerated in magnitude by the regime.
The AP’s coverage takes another hit there, too, and that wasn’t even one of their worst reports. This post is also well worth reading.
I SPEND A LOT OF TIME BITCHING about the State Department, among other things, but on rare occasions, they do things that make me proud. This is one of them. Our policy toward Syria looks about right to me, assuming that the people we’re arming are capable of squeezing out the extremists among them and replacing the current government with something marginally better.
In fact, our current Syria policy is about what our North Korea policy should be next year, though if it were, you’d be stunned by how quickly China would get serious about enforcing U.N. sanctions and generally pressuring North Korea to disarm. Those who think North Korea’s nuclear program isn’t amenable to outside pressure should offer some other explanation for why North Korea still hasn’t gone through with that nuke test.
LEVITY! The man who threatened the creators of South Park is about to hear what his prison sentence will be, and from the coverage of his case, we learn that he tried to go to Somalia to fulfill his delusions of outlaw grandeur … just like Fatbeard.