AMPONTAN (AKA BILL SAKOVICH) HAS DIED. Often, when he hear of the loss of someone, our reaction is, “But I just saw him!” Ampontan’s wonderful Japan blog is actually still posting timed entries posthumously, but Bill gave me one of the final links of his life, and for that, I’m honored, grateful, and saddened for his family, who lost him during a season when they should have been enjoying his company in happier circumstances. RIP, Bill.
SELIG HARRISON, CALL YOUR OFFICE:
Evidence that the North has been carrying out parallel uranium enrichment efforts at undeclared sites may not come as a surprise in Washington and Seoul, but it will cause concern as it would dramatically enhance the regime’s nuclear weapons capabilities.
“According to satellite images jointly analysed by South Korea and the US, such activities have been spotted around (uranium enrichment) facilities,” a senior defence official told South Korea’s Yonhap News.
The regime’s activities are also being closely monitored for indications that another underground nuclear test is imminent. [Daily Telegraph]
Yet newspapers are still printing op-eds by a certain ex-diplomat and academic who once ridiculed the idea of “a building somewhere with a secret door they can open and find a group of scantily clad women enriching uranium.”
I HOPE YOU HAD A GREAT CHRISTMAS. I certainly did. I hope you’ll take a moment to consider a few of those who didn’t.
The regime has stepped up the campaign against Christians in recent years. It trains police and soldiers about the dangers of religion and sends agents posing as refugees into China to infiltrate churches. Sometimes the agents even set up fake prayer meetings to catch worshipers, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Kim Jong Eun’s announcement last month of a nationwide effort to crack down on “rebellious elements” undoubtedly targets Christians, among others.
Why does the regime fear Christianity? Eom Myong-hui, who escaped from North Korea a few years ago, became a pastor in South Korea and is now living in the U.S., says that it is because Christianity points the way to freedom: “In my view, Christianity is about the individual, about accepting responsibility.” That is anathema to Pyongyang, which wants to control every aspect of its citizens’ lives. [….]
Being a Christian in North Korea isn’t just dangerous. It is also lonely. An American who has made frequent visits to North Korea recalls a secret prayer meeting with a local Christian. Tell the world “that we are part of the body of believers,” the North Korean pleaded. “Don’t forget us.” [Melanie Kirkpatrick, Wall Street Journal]
That’s funny. Lately, the newspapers have been telling us that Kim Jong Un is a reformer and a man of the people.
PARK GEUN-HYE IS NOT ONLY the first female to be elected President of South Korea; via Sung Yoon Lee, writing at the N.Y. Times, we learn that once inaugurated, she will also become “the first elected female leader anywhere in the Confucian civilization.” Lee writes —
Yet the mark she puts on history will not be determined by her gender, or even by the domestic policies she campaigned on. It will depend on how successfully she can address the greatest moral challenge to the Korean nation: alleviating the tremendous suffering of fellow Koreans in North Korea, who are perhaps the most systematically oppressed people in the world today.
Lee points to some quotations by Ms. Park in support of his view that she intends to make that mark, but I continue to believe that the mark she makes will be determined by factors beyond her control, and that her actual North Korea policy will be very different than the one she intends to have now. What I suspect Ms. Park intends is a variation of the same kind of appeasement that three American presidents and three South Korean presidents have tried, without any measurable success.
The fact that Ms. Park’s national security team includes such prominent Roh Moo Hyun alumni as “Yun Byung-se, who … served as deputy foreign minister and senior presidential secretary for foreign and security policy during the 2003-2008 Roh administration” and “Kim Jang-soo, who … served as the last defense minister under Roh” indicates that there is a certain sincerity behind Ms. Park’s mealy-mouthed Sunshine-Lite triangulation. I hope Prof. Lee is right. Perhaps the Bush years made me too cynical, but Ms. Park seems to playing on just about everyone’s wishes to project the policies they favor. I don’t doubt that Ms. Park would like to alleviate the suffering of North Koreans, of course; I just doubt she’d sacrifice her standing in the polls for it. Ms. Park keenly understands that she was elected to govern a nation that is as obsessed with the atrocities of the past as it is apathetic about he atrocities of the present.
My last hope for Ms. Park is my belief — I adhere to it against my better judgment — that underneath the carefully scripted policies is a woman with enough character to show some spine when the circumstances demand it, as they inevitably will. Ms. Park (seen here as a young woman) carries herself with poise, grace, and feminine confidence — she was and is rather fetching in a way that’s much more than skin-deep. Logically, none of that should matter, yet somehow, it does. It may be because I married someone with that same poise and grace, and I’ve learned how stubborn such women can be when you try to push them.