Open Sources, December 19, 2012

IN SOUTH KOREA, THEY’RE COUNTING THE BALLOTS in a neck-and-neck contest between “bad” and “dreadful.” This ill foreboding I feel comes from South Koreans’ tendency to react to North Korean threats with votes for appeasers, and because both candidates are selling one form of appeasement or another, so there’s no way I’ll be embarrassed by this prediction. (A likely plurality of voters in democratic societies have been singing various stanzas of “Make the World Go Away” for most of the last decade, but South Korea has been singing that tune much longer.)

Update:  Huzzah, bad beats dreadful!

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NORTH KOREA’S FINEST NEWS SERVICE: North Korea’s KCNA has fallen for an online hoax that Kim Jong Un was named Time magazine’s Man of the Year. As of last evening, KCNA’s article, despite being confirmed as a hoax perpetrated by 4Chan pranksters, was still online:

These sorts of errors become inevitable when real “news” services actually do participate in adulatory propaganda for North Korean dictators, and also, when KCNA is reporting pretty much anything. The result is yet another bad week for the credibility of the AP’s North Korean partner in journalism. Please join me in raising a glass to the 4Chan pranksters behind this. I wonder if the AP will tell them.

Unlike the editors of KCNA, I stopped to ask myself whether this story could plausibly be true. I’d have said “no” were it not for the fact that I lived in South Korea (and the D.C. suburbs) where I’ve met many Koreans who were absolutely, positively convinced that Americans care deeply about Tokdo.

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SPEAKING OF ILL-FOUNDED ASSUMPTIONS, a lot rides on South Koreans’ assumption that Americans would rally behind the defense of South Korea if North Korea invaded. A recent poll, however, suggests that that support is soft. A majority is actually opposed unless a U.S. contingent is part of a U.N. force, and when you give a moment’s thought to who holds a veto on the Security Council, the implausibility of that expectation becomes apparent. I wonder how these numbers have shifted since the story of Psy’s anti-Americanism broke.

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THESE ARE NOT THE SAGACIOUS MANDARINS OF TOM FRIEDMAN’S COLUMNS after all, but ham-handed, tactless doofuses who managed to drive Vietnam into the arms of the United States, remilitarize the Philippines, make allies of the U.S. and India, and rearm Japan.

The most recent example? A Chinese aircraft overflew Japanese waters and, when challenged, responded, “This is Chinese airspace,” causing Japan to scramble 8 F-15s. This impeccably timed campaign didn’t achieve any of China’s territorial ambitions, but did manage to get right-winger Shinzo Abe elected as Prime Minister of Japan, along with a mandate to rearm and join an anti-Chinese coalition. I have to think the ChiComs are too smart to really think that this sort of behavior would actually yield any territorial gains. Like “experts,” I’m baffled when people with great responsibility give the outward appearance of being inept and adolescent.

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YEAH, THAT WHOLE ‘CHICKENS COMING HOME TO ROOST’ THING CERTAINLY GOT WARD CHURCHILL AND JEREMIAH WRIGHT NOTICED. I cannot, for the life of me, imagine that this screed could possibly persuade any rational person of anything, except that James Church (not his real name) is talentless and repellent. This is just bad on so may levels — lazy writing, ill-reasoned, unoriginal, disjointed, outdated, premised largely on vague North Korean inducements, and packaged in the offensive language from which pariahs spring from wombs of their own making.

I haven’t felt quite this combination of revulsion, pity, and guilty pleasure since my son and I laughed our way through Captain EO in a mostly empty theater at Epcot as the Supreme Ajumma scowled and shushed us.  (It still saddened me to realize that I was watching the artistic bankruptcy of Francis Ford Coppola in 3-D.)

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IF NORTH KOREA DOESN’T CARE ABOUT U.N.S.C. RESOLUTIONS, it’s hard to see why it will care about a non-binding resolution in the U.S. Congress.

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NORTH KOREA USES HUNGER AS CROWD CONTROL:” I don’t agree with all of Robert Park’s actions, but I do agree with his conclusion. There’s no question that North Korea’s regime could feed its people if it chose to.  Seeing the famine as an atrocity vastly multiplies the scale of North Korea as a human rights crisis.

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SOUTH KOREA HAS JAILED A NORTH KOREAN SPY for a plot to assassinate Kim Jong Il’s first son, Kim Jong Nam. North Korea was removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism on October 11, 2008. Discuss among yourselves.

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