Open Sources, August 21, 2012

SO PARK GEUN-HYE HAS WON THE NOMINATION, as we knew she would all along. I wish Ms. Park the best of luck. This isn’t because I’m an especially great fan; Ms. Park has shown an authoritarian mindset and a lack of vision about achieving unification, as opposed to maintaining deterrence. It’s because Ms. Park is smart, tough, and would be an effective executive if — if — she can resist the temptation to overreach, and because the alternatives are so goddamn atrocious.

One bad sign for Ms. Park is that she’s running on issues like income inequality and engaging North Korea. If that’s what Ms. Park’s pollsters say the voters really care about this year, she can’t outcompete the Democratic Party on those issues, and she certainly won’t win an election that becomes a referendum on Lee Myung Bak. What I infer about Park’s polling is not only a bad sign for her, it’s also another sign that the current U.S.-ROK alliance is past its sell-by date. It certainly seems illogical to me that so many South Koreans blame Lee Myung Bak for the deterioration in relations with the North — each step in that direction is attributable to some North Korean outrage — but unfortunately, between 30 and 50 percent of South Koreans are pathologically incapable of holding North Korea responsible for anything. Fair enough. It’s their country to throw away, although I doubt Park would let things come to that if she’s elected:

“I, Park Geun-hye, will not tolerate any action that damages our sovereignty or threatens our safety. We won’t be content only with maintaining peace but we will work to establish a new framework for sustainable peace on the Korean peninsula and cooperation in North Asia,” she said.

Fortunately for Ms. Park, South Korea’s election won’t be decided on big issues that concern readers of this site, because she shows no sign of a vision for addressing them. Unfortunately for Ms. Park, the election will be decided on small things that shouldn’t decide elections, but usually do — Dokdo, gaffes, the relative balance of scandals, or an isolated act of idiocy by a soldier who (as we’ll learn after the fact) shouldn’t have had off-post pass privileges at all.


IS KCNA CITING A MADE-UP NEWSPAPER? Here’s how a recent story from KCNA, the world’s least credible news service, begins:

Ro Kil Nam, representative of an Internet paper of Koreans in the U.S. “Minjok Thongsin”, released an article on the 59th anniversary of the victory of the Korean people in the great Fatherland Liberation War.
The article said:

It is known to world people that the Korean War was ignited by the U.S. imperialists. The U.S. imperialists have committed all sorts of crimes in south Korea since they divided the Korean nation into two parts. [KCNA, Aug. 3, 2012]

So having searched in vain on the interwebs for “Ro Kil Nam” and “Minjok Thongsin,” I’m coming up with bupkes. Maybe one of you can enlighten us with your superior research skills and find something other than multiple references to this cryptic source by KCNA. Or — just thinking out loud here — maybe some well-funded international news service that harbors a close relationship with KCNA can ask a KCNA editor or correspondent to enlighten us!


NORTH KOREAN PERESTROIKA WATCH: Kim Jong Un hands out medals to North Korean gunners for shelling a South Korean fishing village. I’m sure that must be Lee Myung Bak’s fault somehow, so it needn’t interfere with the narrative that North Korea is reforming.  Why, according to some of our most brilliant diplomats and analysts, North Korea has been totally stoked about reforming and opening itself to the world since 2003, and just look what a difference it’s made!


I SEE THAT ROBERT HAS BEATEN ME TO linking this great piece by Andrew Salmon, but I agree that it’s well worth a read. Still, it gives me some pause that Chris Green doesn’t invest much confidence in the claims of Kim Young-Hwan, who claims to have contacted an underground democratic organization inside North Korea. Maybe Chris will enlighten us?


SEVERAL NORTH KOREAN WORKERS HAVE DISAPPEARED in China, according to the Chosun Ilbo. The North Korean regime sent the workers to China, probably as part of a labor-rental arrangement under which the regime keeps a large share of the workers’ wages. The workers sent abroad under such arrangements are typically members of the elite with family members left behind in North Korea, under the state’s watchful eye. North Korea was recently reported to have scaled back or ended a program that rented loggers to timber companies in Siberia because of a rash of defections.