Open Sources, Feb. 21, 2013

NORTH KOREA PERESTROIKA WATCH:

Funny, as of 3 p.m. on Inauguration Day 2009, the Nobel Committee seemed so sure our enemies would all love the guy.  How could so many distinguished European humanitarians be so wrong?

President Bush removed North Korea from the list of state sponsors on October 11, 2008 for verifiably dismantling its nuclear weapons programs, renouncing terrorism, making peace with South Korea, returning its Japanese abductees, and closing down its concentration camps.  Unlike President Obama, however, President Bush has not been awarded a Nobel Peace Prize yet.

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A STUDY OF INCOME DISTRIBUTION IN NORTH KOREA based on the self-reported income of defectors finds that it is has one of the world’s least equal distributions.  No surprise there.

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THE MORE THINGS CHANGE:  Russia opposes new sanctions against North Korea, while Europe tightens — slightly — its own tepid sanctions.

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FRANCE’S LE MONDE HAS CREATED its own web page on the camps, in a style very much like the one I created here, except that theirs looks a lot nicer.  Hopefully, this will get the word out to the francophone countries.  There’s no question about it — global understanding of the camps has skyrocketed this year.

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THERE’S PROBABLY A METAPHOR IN THERE:  North Korea’s nuke test is said to have damaged homes as far away as Hyesan, and the Daily NK also conveys reports of radiation sickness among uranium miners, and birth defects in their kids.

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COME ONE, COME ALL and witness my smackdown of unethical Swiss businessman Felix Abt, who feebly cites Klaus Bender’s wacky conspiracy theories to defend North Korea against the charge of counterfeiting supernotes.  It all leaves me wondering how a man who can’t do research or string together a coherent argument should expect us to believe that he’s doing due diligence in his business transactions with North Korea.

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PYONGYANG: THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH, or so says KCNA, reporting that more foreign tourists are visiting these days.

The increase is fueled by many attractions.  Eye-catching achievements made by the country in the effort for building a thriving socialist nation in recent years are one of the attractions.  Some of the tourists introduce their good impressions of the country through media and websites.

Yes, I think they may just actually believe this, to the degree that many South Koreans believe that Americans care deeply about Dokdo.  And given that many visitors to Pyongyang probably self-select for obedience, docility, low self-esteem, and even some latent masochism — what person in his right mind wouldn’t just go somewhere fun, and without having to carry so much ethical baggage? — I don’t doubt that plenty of Western visitors to North Korea tell their minders exactly what they think their minders want to hear.

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RESTORING DETERRENCE:

South Korea and the United States will have working-level defense talks to explore all possible measures to deter growing nuclear threats from North Korea in light of its third atomic test, Seoul’s defense ministry said Wednesday.

The Korea-U.S. Integrated Defense Dialogue, the first such meeting since the North’s recent nuclear test, will be held from Thursday to Friday in Washington to discuss ways to step up intelligence efforts and prepare measures to deter North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and further provocations, the ministry said.  [Yonhap]

Even if this weren’t a case of closing the barn door after the horse has already left, I wonder if either government has (a) the creativity, or (b) the will to attack North Korea’s points of vulnerability.  I’d say the continued existence of Kaesong would be a good test of that.

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