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NORTH KOREA LAUNCHES A NEW CRACKDOWN on Christians: “A Pyongyang source explained the details. ‘Having sent 30 people off to prison camps, I am told that a total of around 100 more residents have been taken in for questioning by the Department of State Security. Among them there are some who went to China this year, but others were last there between five and eight years ago.’”
In February, The Daily NK reported that the regime had eased up on religious belief, but in retrospect, that was probably either a false dawn or a temporary priority shift. We later heard a rumor that 33 Christians were about to be executed for having contact with South Korean missionaries.
Needless to say, none of these reports can be confirmed. If only some big, responsible corporation had a news bureau right there in Pyongyang to investigate this, I’m sure it would get to the bottom of it.
Update: More here. North Korean security forces reportedly lured some of those arrested back from China. Update 2: And there’s this report that the regime has launched a campaign of anti-Christian ideological education in Pyongyang. It’s interesting that these reports are focused on North Korea’s capital, which is ostensibly a reserve of the loyal elite.
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THE RODONG SINMUN KEEPS IT CLASSY with more sexism about Park Geun-Hye. The English version of the Rodong Sinmun is publishing denunciations of President Park as a “bitch,” and more:
The three-part series, which ran in the official newspaper Rodong Sinmun on Wednesday, describes her as a lunatic, idiot and “cold-blooded animal”. But it also stresses the fact she has never married or had children and claims she “jabbers like a little girl”, in a string of insults presented as quotes from ordinary North Koreans. The subtitle of one piece reads: “Old cat groaning in her sickbed”. [The Guardian]
This may or may not be worse than KCNA’s previous characterization of Park as a “political prostitute,” but probably isn’t as bad as the Korea Central News Agency’s calls to slit the throat of “rat-like” ex-President Lee Myung Bak.
Now, I don’t want to be another pedantic know-it-all who tries to defend North Korea from its own English translations — a unicorn is just as mythical as a unicorn-lion, after all — but I was curious enough to track down the original Korean version to see what word the Rodong’s translators derived the b-word from. The original version doesn’t translate to a single whole word, but uses the suffix “nyon.” This requires some explanation. The Korean language uses a complex system of honorifics, most often tacked onto nouns and verbs as suffixes, to connote a person’s age and social position. “Nyon” is a suffix of dishonor, used exclusively against women. It isn’t exactly profanity, but it’s a fighting word, and fairly described as sexist, especially when used against the president of a country.
Either way, if this is a “charm offensive,” it’s more the latter than the former. I wonder if any self-described feminist could still sympathize with such a regime. Oh, wait ….
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CHILD ENDANGERMENT: Christine Ahn has been blessed with an adorable little girl, but Ahn’s adorable little girl has not been blessed with a very sensible mother. Writing in the Huffington Post, Ahn informs us that despite her sister’s appeals to better judgment, rising tensions with South Korea and the United States, State Department warnings about the risk of “arbitrary arrest and detention,” and the existence of a U.S. Embassy web page warning Americans about the severe air quality risk in Beijing in the winter, she brought her two year old girl to Pyongyang, one of the world’s unhealthiest places, to use her as an accessory for her next political argument. Which, apparently, is that air pollution in China and bad state-run medical care in North Korea (remember, this was Pyongyang) are the fault of Yankee imperialists who blocked the offshore bank accounts of the DPRK Institute of Atomic Energy.
Ahn writes that her little girl got sick from the air pollution in Beijing and struggled to breathe the night after they arrived in Pyongyang. Ahn woke her minders, who rushed them both to a hospital, where the lights (naturally) went out. Ahn’s experience with North Korea’s medical system appears to have fallen short of Margaret Chan’s.
Ahn then writes of sitting in the darkness, crying about her little girl and also, about how the people of North Korea were suffering because, you know, America. She does not recall crying about millions of North Koreans who may have starved to death because of choices made by Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un, the obscenity of spending $300 million on a ski resort and other amenities instead of hospitals (or back-up generators to power them), or upon reflection on her choice to bring her toddler to such a place. The most remarkable thing about this is that as her own child struggled to breathe in a dark hospital room, Ahn’s mind still wanders off to politics. In the end, she never even bothers to tell us if her little girl recovered.
Update: A reader points out that, buried in Ahn’s long-winded article, is the fact that her little girl recovered. That’s wonderful news. Let’s all hope for the day when more North Korean parents can experience the same sense of relief.
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FELIX ABT ACCUSES NORTH KOREA OF RUNNING GULAGS: Because I get occasional visits to this site from Pyongyang, I wish to denounce this capitalist war-monger for spreading vicious lies about the DPRK’s dignified socialist system. Also, if I get an extra meat ration for turning Felix in, can I claim it without going to North Korea?
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THE U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL VOTES to endorse the report of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry.
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SOMEHOW, I DON’T THINK THE CHICOMS are really all that agonized about it:
Daniel Russel, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said Beijing is still struggling between two priorities in terms of its North Korea strategy — stability and denuclearization. “One is the maintenance of stability on its border,” he said during a conference call hosted by the Asia Society. “The other is ending North Korea’s quest for nuclear weapons capability.” And China is confronted with the daunting task of reconciling what appear to be “two contradictory imperatives — stability and denuclearization.” [Yonhap]
He forgot the part about keeping Korea weak and divided, and maintaining North Korea as a strategic distraction for U.S. forces.
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GORDON CHANG in the World Affairs Journal: “Replace Failed Diplomacy with Sanctions on North Korea.” Chang aptly summarizes the policy vacuum the Obama Administration has left us by failing to articulate or execute a coherent North Korea policy that lays out a plausible path to a realization of our national interests. Gradual, incremental pressure isn’t going to get us there, because Pyongyang can always adapt to and circumvent incremental pressure.
(Separately, Keith Koffler argues that this President often fails to articulate coherent policies because he’s naive and just plain disinterested in foreign affairs. Similar suspicions have crossed my mind, too.)
On the other hand, I’m not opposed to diplomacy — even with North Korea — under the right circumstances. I’m just opposed to diplomacy before we accumulate enough leverage to negotiate from strength, and I’m opposed to throwing away that leverage before we achieve enough of our essential interests to ensure that North Korea has ceased to be a threat. Unlike our State Department, I can’t envision a North Korea that continues to be a threat to its own population that isn’t also a threat to us, and to our allies. Also unlike our State Department, I’d rather induce the collapse of North Korea than lift sanctions before we achieve our objectives.
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NORTH KOREA PERESTROIKA WATCH: In Pyongyang, the regime continues to enforce its previous order to turn in and exchange foreign currency. This is a uniquely North Korean solution to the gap between rich and poor, imposing a more equal distribution of misery.
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IN CHINA, A HIDDEN CAMERA CATCHES what it claims are North Korean officials partying with bar hostesses, although the video is too blurry for me to see any evidence that the customers are North Koreans.
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ACCORDING TO THIS SURVEY, far more South Koreans believe their news media are censored than citizens of any other nation surveyed, including China and Pakistan. Are South Koreans uniquely conspiratorial and distrustful, or are Chinese and Pakistanis just afraid to answer honestly?
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A REFUGEE DESCRIBES FUNERALS in North Korea. Many of the customs sound similar to those in South Korea, including staying up all night and drinking together, but the logistics are much more complicated in a place where it’s hard to get travel passes, transportation, and burial sites.
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I’VE LONG ADVOCATED MORE SUPPORT for certain rebel groups in Syria, but at this late stage, and given the extensive radicalization of the opposition, giving them man-portable surface-to-air missiles sounds like a very bad idea. Wouldn’t 40- or 57-millimeter guns be a far safer, less terrorist-friendly alternative?