Roh Moo Hyun’s ex-campaign manager just hates it when politicians exploit tragic isolated incidents

The good news is that Ambassador Mark Lippert has been released from the hospital, and is recovering well.

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[Joongang Ilbo]

Give the South Koreans credit for making lemonade from lemons — the news coverage here has been filled with images of well-wishers greeting Lippert, or expressing regret for the attack on him. The greetings look both staged and sincere,* but because of that reaction, most Americans will see Kim Ki-Jong as one small turd in a vast, sweet, fizzy bowl of gachi gapshida.

lippert 2

I’m not sure I quite agree with that image now, and I certainly wouldn’t have agreed with it nine years ago. In today’s environment, however, I’d guess that Kim’s actions, Lippert’s obvious gift for public diplomacy, and the imagery of the pro-American reaction will shift public opinion in a more anti-anti-American direction, at least until something shifts it back. But as we’ll also see in a moment, the reactions of other Koreans seem oddly conflicted.

Lippert’s assailant, Kim Ki-Jong, has been charged with attempted murder. The Men in Blue have established that Kim visited North Korea not six, not eight, but seven times between 1999 and 2007. Which does raise a rather obvious question:

“We are investigating whether there is any connection between the suspect’s visits to North Korea and the crime committed against the U.S. ambassador,” Yoon Myeong-seong, chief of police in Seoul’s central Jongno district, told reporters. [Reuters]

It’s hard for me to believe that North Korea ordered a hit on the U.S. Ambassador, but then, I never thought they’d order a hit on a South Korean warship or build a nuclear reactor in Syria, either (or get away with both of those things, but I digress). It’s still the sort of thing you expect the police to investigate when someone slashes a foreign ambassador, especially when the assailant’s preferred country-of-destination publicly approves of the attack.

The police are doing a forensic analysis of Kim’s hard drive, and looking at what his phone and financial records say about any accomplices or foreign sponsorship. They’re also going through his library, and have concluded — to the astonishment of no one with any sense at all — that it has some pro-North Korean content.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t want the police to investigate a man’s political views. I don’t believe it should be illegal to hold any political belief, but as we’ve established, Kim Ki-Jong fits the American legal definition of a terrorist, and the motives of a terrorist have to be probative of something in a criminal investigation. Not that there should be much question, based on Kim’s words, actions, target, and timing, that Kim was a North Korean sympathizer. Right?

Opposition leader Moon said that he expressed his appreciation to Lippert as his calmness and online messages helped the alliance remain on a firm footing.

“I believe Lippert’s attitude helps enhance the alliance, but if this incident is politically used (by the ruling party), which claims pro-North Korean followers are behind it, such a move will rather hurt the Seoul-Washington ties,” Moon said. [….]

The liberal NPAD says the attack was an “isolated incident” committed by an extremist nationalist, urging the Saenuri Party not to use the case politically. [Yonhap]

That’s right. Roh Moo Hyun’s former campaign manager and successor party earnestly hope that conniving politicians won’t exploit emotions arising from a tragic-yet-isolated incident for political gain.




Because that could hurt the alliance. Nice of him to warn us about that.


Also, does anyone else see anything off about Moon passing judgment on the attitude of the guy who just had 80 stitches? Couldn’t he have at least waited for Lippert to come home from the hospital before deconstructing the sensitivity of his tweets? In what sense is “the alliance” responsible for Korean politicians doing what politicians do? And why, by contrast, is Moon so rigidly non-judgmental about Kim Ki-Jong’s motives? He isn’t even waiting for the police to finish their investigation to rule out the McCarthyist smear that Kim Ki-Jong, who slashed the face of the American Ambassador while shouting, “The two Koreas must be reunified!” and protesting joint military exercises, might just maybe have been a North Korean sympathizer.

With this risible statement, Moon not only opened the door to rebuttal about Kim’s views, he opened the door to questions about his own grasp of reality.

Before you get too worried that Moon’s election to the presidency would be the second coming of Roh Moo-Hyun, at least take comfort in the fact that it would be a terrific opportunity to withdraw two brigades from South Korea and put the OPCON handover on a six-month timetable. And if you think hard enough about the insecurity and dependency from which Moon’s attitudes grow, you’ll start to see why that would be a healthy thing for South Korea’s sense of nationhood, self-reliance, and sense of responsibility for its own policies. I’d prefer to see our alliance with Korea become more like our alliance with Israel.

Oh, and since Kim Ki-Jong lawyered up, he now denies having ever been to North Korea, that (in Reuters’s phrasing) his actions were “connected in any way with North Korea,” or that he intended to kill Lippert. Not that I have any great interest in the success of Kim Ki-Jong’s legal defense, but it’s a hard thing to stand by and watch legal malpractice. So, as a man with some experience defending criminal suspects, I’ll offer this gratis consultation to Mr. Kim’s lawyer: get your client under control and shut him the f**k up.

Below the fold, for your enjoyment, I’ve posted excerpts from the delectable inter-Korean dialogue that has broken out over the question of whether slashing Ambassador Lippert’s face was the moral equivalent of Korean patriots resisting the Japanese occupation. (Yes, Pyongyang is doubling down on that one.) I can’t imagine that in the 1930s, a popularly elected Korean government (had one existed) would have lobbied Tokyo to stall the transfer of OPCON back to Seoul. I see that Marcus Noland also found that analogy objectionableWhat I did not see is where Moon Jae-in did. Anyone?

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* A regular reader, based in Seoul, and with strong connections to conservative groups there, writes in to say that the pro-Lippert demonstration shown in this photo was not staged by the Korean government, and describes the organizer as “a grass-roots, pro-US conservative” woman.

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“(The government) strongly criticizes North Korea for distorting the true nature of this incident and supporting it,” ministry spokesman Lim Byeong-cheol said, reading out the statement at a press briefing.

The North should stop “irrational propaganda” activities and think about what it has to do for the development of inter-Korean ties and peace on the peninsula, Lim said. [Yonhap, Mar. 6, 2015]

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CPRK Hits S. Korean Regime for Anti-DPRK Campaign over Attack on U.S. Ambassador

Pyongyang, March 7 (KCNA) — Lippert, U.S. ambassador to south Korea, was reportedly attacked by a south Korean resident in the heart of Seoul on March 5.

South Korea witnessed fierce anti-U.S. actions in the past, but it is the first time that the American ambassador, governor-general of the U.S. colony, suffered a knife-wielding attack.

In this regard, the Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) issued its information bulletin No. 1085 Saturday.

The attack is a reflection of the south Korean people’s mindset against the U.S. fanning up a war crisis on the Korean Peninsula through dangerous joint military drills in south Korea, and an expression of their resistance to it, the bulletin says, adding:

What matters is that the south Korean puppet regime is branding the attack as an “act by the forces following the north” in a desperate attempt to link the case with the DPRK.

The DPRK reported about the case, regarding it as a punishment to the U.S. by justice and an expression of the people’s mindset against it. However, the puppet regime criticized this report as “support for terrorism,” “distortion of the truth about the case” and “senseless remarks self-admitting that it is a group of terrorists and human rights violators.”

Even the police and conservative media of south Korea joined the regime in attempting to link the case with the DPRK. They claimed that the attacker visited the DPRK in the past and that it welcomed him when he made a brick attack on the Japanese ambassador. Meanwhile, the regime let old ultra-right conservatives defame the dignity of the DPRK supreme leadership and its flag, creating a terror-ridden atmosphere.

Such moves are prompted by a vicious intention to save itself from the present awkward position and eliminate the pro-reunification patriotic forces with the case as a momentum and intensify an anti-DPRK smear campaign worldwide.

In particular the south Korean regime’s ulterior intention is to egg its American master on to re-list the DPRK as a “sponsor of terrorism” and strengthen the collusion with the U.S. and the international cooperation against the DPRK.

To incriminate its resident protesting the U.S. keen on war exercises will only show the true colors of the south Korean regime as the special-class sycophant and traitor more clearly. -0-

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North Korea on Sunday slammed South Korea for falsely linking Pyongyang to Kim’s actions, accusing Seoul of trying to eliminate pro-unification forces in the South.

Pyongyang had called the attack on Lippert a “deserved punishment” of the U.S.

A statement by the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said South Korea is “branding the attack as an act by the forces following the North in a desperate attempt to link the case with North Korea.

“In particular, the South Korean regime’s ulterior intention is to egg its American master on to re-list the DPRK as a ‘sponsor of terrorism’ and strengthen the collusion with the U.S.,” it said. [Yonhap. Mar. 8, 2015]

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Rodong Sinmun Denounces S. Korean Authorities’ Hysteric Racket of Eliminating “Followers of the North”

Pyongyang, March 9 (KCNA) — The south Korean authorities are branding the recent attack on the U.S. ambassador in Seoul as an “act by the forces following the north”, kicking off another round of confrontational burlesque to do harm to the DPRK.

They kicked off the racket for eliminating the “forces following the north” without reflecting on their treacherous acts. This is no more than a wicked trick to pass the buck for the incident to the DPRK, says Rodong Sinmun Monday in a commentary.

It goes on:

The sinister intention of the puppet forces is to calm down the mounting anti-U.S. spirit, suppress and obliterate the pro-reunification patriotic forces in south Korea by linking them with the DPRK and, furthermore, intensify the international anti-DPRK confrontational cooperation.

The puppet authorities are building up public opinion over the case to help the U.S. create a pretext necessary for branding the DPRK as a “sponsor of terrorism”.

They are trying to curry favor with their master through such a sleazy method, an act that can be committed only by those lost to shame.

If they label the righteous action opposing a war and supporting the peace and reunification on the Korean peninsula as “terrorism”, this means the anti-Japanese patriotic deed of martyr An Jung Gun can be taken as “terrorism”.

The country’s reunification, the desire of compatriots, is becoming more distant owing to such traitors who have not an iota of national self-respect.

It is shame on the colonial puppet forces as they bring charges against those who take the nation dearer than outside forces and take part in the righteous resistance for the nation.

Tragedy is that they do not feel ashamed of those acts. -0-

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The government “can’t contain deep regret” about the North’s comparison of the attack on Lippert last week to a fight against Japan’s colonial rule of Korea in the early 1900s, said the ministry.

It was responding to an “information bulletin” issued hours earlier by the Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK), Pyongyang’s organ tasked with dealing with inter-Korean affairs.

The CPRK accused the South of trying to connect the incident with the North.

“What matters is that the South Korean puppet regime is branding the attack as an ‘act by the forces following the North’ in a desperate attempt to link the case with the DPRK,” it said, using the acronym for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

It reiterated Pyongyang’s claim that the attack is a “reflection of the South Korean people’s mindset against the U.S.,” which is escalating a war crisis on the peninsula by holding joint military drills with South Korea on the peninsula. [Yonhap. Mar. 8, 2015]


  1. I’m not keen on re-characterized crime — there’s no crime called terrorism, or hate crime or war crime or genocide. There is instead the basic common law concept of murder, multiple murder, assault and battery. Keeping these basic ideas in mind prevents the government from distorting and magnifying a criminal act for political purposes.

    There are then common law concepts of accessories before and after the fact, and conspirators. That is when one begins to look into motive, and what caused the actual perpetrator to act as he did. But it’s still a limited hunt.

    Finally, there are the legally unpunishable stimulators: we face this in ordinary life with the problems of children committing suicide under peer pressure. There’s no acceptable legal doctrine for the punishment of clique of kids, just as there isn’t any acceptable legal punishment for the faceless men of North Korea who stimulate knife attacks. That’s not legal: it’s political, and only political solutions can work.

    But I must say you’ve been on a roll this last month with some really outstanding views and comments.


  2. While I share your concerns about hate crime laws from a First Amendment perspective, there is a crime called terrorism. You’ll see multiple variations on it in Chapter 113B of Title 18. The most important of those for this discussion is material support, really three statutes 18 USC 2339A to 2339C, that swallow most of the common-law inchoate offenses.

    There are also other statutes that prescribe administrative (rather than criminal) consequences for terrorism, such as international sanctions and immigration-related consequences.


  3. I’m gay, but but the notion that a “hate crime” is worse than an “ordinary” crime has given me pause. I almost came down against the concept, but then, isn’t intent an important component of any criminal judgement? If a death occurs as an accident, it’s manslaughter. First degree murder, if I understand it correctly, only comes when it has been established that the murderer intended to kill. So shouldn’t an intent to terrorize and abuse a victim before death be considered? – Next, the political aspect. Joshua has already noted that terrorism has been dealt with, to some degree, in the legal code. What about “treason?” Treason is a political concept, can it be a legitimate crime?


  4. Sean, I’ve actually done a great deal of thinking about that very same question, and I’m not quite sure I’ve worked out the answer for myself. Here’s something in the Criminal Code that backs me away from my opposition to hate crimes:

    §1111. Murder
    (a) Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Every murder perpetrated by poison, lying in wait, or any other kind of willful, deliberate, malicious, and premeditated killing; or committed in the perpetration of, or attempt to perpetrate, any arson, escape, murder, kidnapping, treason, espionage, sabotage, aggravated sexual abuse or sexual abuse, child abuse, burglary, or robbery; or perpetrated as part of a pattern or practice of assault or torture against a child or children; or perpetrated from a premeditated design unlawfully and maliciously to effect the death of any human being other than him who is killed, is murder in the first degree.
    Any other murder is murder in the second degree.

    Doesn’t that kinda seem to link the punishment to the defendant’s political views? I can’t easily see the distinction there. Control-F your way through Title 18 searching for “treason,” and you’ll see a lot of constitutionally suspect things.

    Having said that, I think you’re confusing two concepts — intent, which is an element of specific-intent crimes, and motive, which may be evidence of guilt or used to enhance or mitigate a sentence. But I see your logic and its merit.

    Treason is one of the few crimes that’s dealt with directly by the Constitution, in Article III, Section 3:

    Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

    The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

    There is also a crime of treason in the Criminal Code, and it clearly needs updating:

    §2381. Treason
    Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

    Seriously — $10,000?


  5. Treason is an ideal example of the problem of making a political act into a crime. The US Constitution is incredibly twisted in how it addresses treason: at least two mutually incompatible provisions, and possibly three…just as Congress messed up with the Sedition Acts. As the history of the Sedition Acts makes clear, making terrorism statutory doesn’t make it so.

    Crime is crime. Intent is important, but it is a limited intent: the intent to do the act, not the reasons for doing the act. That is “motive” which, while a staple of detective novels, really is not a component of common law criminality.

    The “terror” component of terrorism is motive, part of a political statement (albeit by ignorant savages) and should be disregarded. Giving them a pulpit for publicity underwrites their behavior, rather than defeating it. For instance, I would have tried the Boston boy Tsarnaev for the humiliating and invidious panicked felony-murder of his brother, two years ago, rather than engaging in the hoopla of a quasi-political trial where he gets to defend himself on specious grounds that our troops are brutal too.

    There’s no real answer to my point and I am decidedly on the losing side at present, where every crime seems to be magnified into some form of hatred: but the circle will close again. Violent criminals are, almost by definition, good haters, and unfocussed hatred is what stirs them on. That’s different from a dictatorship, which is self-stimulating: the violence there is directed, coldly, almost analytically, to deter. That’s political.


  6. A question to David – are you saying that we should have passed on prosecuting the marathon bombing altogether? …And I think you are saying we could prosecute that crime only if we removed the terrorism charge. By using only a charge of murder, etc., we would prevent the trial from become a theater for political propaganda. Did I get that right?