Archive for The Fifth Column

Breaking: Leftist S. Korean lawmaker gets 12-year sentence for pro-N. Korean sabotage plot

Yonhap is just reporting that a court in Suwon has handed down a 12-year sentence against leftist fringe lawmaker Lee Seok-Ki. Ouch. That’s a very tough sentence for South Korea, whose judicial system compensates for its loose rules of evidence (and the error rate that implies) with light and fluffy sentencing. When I was an Army Judge Advocate serving in Korea, I saw people get less than that for murder. On the other hand, prison conditions in South Korea are, shall we say, spartan.

For background on the strange case of Lee Seok-Ki, click here and here. I’m the last one to defend the fundamental fairness of South Korea’s legal system, but based on the recordings that were played in court, and the defense’s shifting explanations for the incriminating words caught on tape, it doesn’t sound like any miscarriage of justice was done here. Given the outrageous violence of what Lee and his confederates were convicted of, twelve years is probably light by U.S. standards today, and they’d stand a good chance of serving it at Supermax.

This is not the only time in recent years that South Korean courts have convicted a cell of North Koreans spies, and individual arrests have become fairly routine.

Most people in South Korea will barely notice this because of a horrible tragedy at a resort in Gyeongju, that may have killed dozens of young South Koreans who were celebrating their acceptance into a university. Keep them, and their families, in your thoughts.

Update: Here’s a screenshot I took a few months ago from Urimijokkiri, North Korea’s analogue to Der Stürmer.

NK loves Lee Seok Ki, from Uriminzokkiri

One thing that absolutely no one will say about Lee Seok-Ki is, “Him? Really? He’s the last guy I’d have suspected of something like this!”

In South Korea, a political realignment

When President Park speaks of reunification as a “jackpot,” she is seizing an issue that the left had “owned” for at least a dozen years. Ten years ago, the left could draw crowds of candle-carrying thirty-somethings to swoon about reunification, at least in the abstract. The dream was qualified, complicated, and hopelessly unrealistic, but it intoxicated them. The DMZ would have become a “peace park,”* the disputed waters of the Yellow Sea would have become a “peace zone,” and both systems would have evolved toward some sort of neutral confederation. (What a long, strange trip!) In concrete terms, however, the Roh Administration wasn’t so eager for reunification. It certainly didn’t want North Korean people, thousands of whom had a far better grasp on the practical distinctions between the two systems. It didn’t even seem to want North Korea itself, except as a tourist or investment venue, and more generally as a money pit. Above all, it avoided challenging the North’s political system. And as I noted here, it’s all so 2003 now.

You could say that the confederation was already taking shape in some disturbing ways. Maybe the most disturbing was the Roh administration’s willingness to suppress speech that Pyongyang objected to. It muzzled the press and tried to censor reporting critical of North Korea. Activists who protested visiting North Korean officials were followed by police, stopped and frisked, confined to their homes, or had pamphlets seized from them. The political output of the subsidized South Korean entertainment industry was almost monolithically anti-American and sympathetic to North Korea. Government officials reportedly demanded changes to the script of a play, written and produced by a North Korean refugee, and set in a North Korean concentration camp. It arrested activists who attempted to launch leaflet balloons into North Korea. A 2005 survey found that “[n]ineteen percent of [North Korean] escapees who had criticized the South Korean government, the North Korean regime, or Kim Jong Il … received a warning or threat by administration officials.”

Some of the censorship was vicarious or passive. The left-wing government gave financial subsidies to pro-North Korean unions and “civic groups” that engaged in violent protests against the U.S. military presence. In 2005, shortly after Radio Free North Korea began broadcasting, repeated anonymous threats forced its landlord to evict it from its leased space. (With the election of Lee Myung Bak, the end of the subsidies, and a sexual assault scandal, the KCTU’s street power waned.) As late as 2011, leftist union goons disrupted a North Korean human rights film festival in Seoul. There must be many cases of speech that was chilled by these tactics that we’ll never know about. Certainly it had an impact in shaping South Korean perceptions about North Koreans and reunification.

The consequence of this is that South Koreans, despite their physical and cultural proximity to North Korea, are almost a decade behind the rest of the world in their understanding of how most North Koreans really live. It has been a slow awakening, but since 2008, there has been a modest shift in how South Korean society views North Koreans. Cha In-Pyo was already a big star in South Korea that year, when he starred in “Crossing,” a story about a North Korean refugee and his son. The Chosun Ilbo produced “On the Border,” a brave and ground-breaking series of documentaries about North Korean refugees and smugglers, and how they were changing their homeland. The 2012 film “48Mportrayed the wretchedness of life inside North Korea and the brutality of its regime’s measures to prevent escape. Today, “On My Way to Meet You” is a popular variety show featuring fetching North Korean women who sometimes describe their lives in the North or comment on newsworthy events there. This is a change for the better, but with the latter exception, none of these works were popular or had a great cultural impact. More South Koreans still see North Koreans as a ravenous horde of ignorant bumpkins than as human beings and fellow Koreans.

A few die-hards still hold out on ideological islands of their own creation. One of these, Daegu University law professor Yoon Jae-man, recently tweeted, “I hate these North Korea defectors more than pro-Japanese groups. North Korean defectors, who once conspired to destroy liberal democracy, should be put to death just like France killed people who engaged with the Nazis.” Last year, former North Korean propaganda star Lim Soo-Kyung, now a Democratic Party lawmaker, unloaded a drunken tirade on a North Korean refugee in Seoul, saying that “[d]efectors who have no roots should just shut their mouths and live quietly,” and “should not talk back to a Republic of Korea National Assembly lawmaker.” Referring to a fellow lawmaker and human rights activist, Lim said, “You work with that Ha Tae Kyung right, on that North Korean human rights stuff? Ha Tae Kyung that turncoat I’m going to kill him with my own bare hands.”  Lim isn’t part of any fringe party. She represents the “mainstream” Democratic Party (DP), which is now trying to present a more moderate image.

And lately, it seems that another North Korean spy is unmasked in the South every month.

~  ~  ~

It was inevitable that shifts in the information landscape and public opinion would eventually force political changes, even in South Korea’s hyper-polarized and doctrinaire environment. The DP, the successor to Roh’s left-wing Uri Party, is now shifting toward the center to avoid being tagged as soft on North Korea. A few years ago, there would have been no need to worry about that.

The immediate catalyst for the shift was the announcement by politician Ahn Cheol-Soo that he’s forming a third party to compete in elections across South Korea. This has sown panic on the left. The Hankyoreh, its flagship newspaper, recently called the DP “pathetic,” and the DP leadership admits that it is “compet[ing] with Ahn in political innovation” as Ahn targets the DP’s base in Cheolla, emphasizing local autonomy rather than old-fashioned leftist ideology. Ahn flirted with running for mayor of Seoul — a position currently held by the DP — but later denied any interest in the job. More worrisome for the DP are recent polls suggesting that it is “surrendering second place to” Ahn’s party. If that is true, it is almost certainly a short-lived novelty reaction to a new brand. The real danger for the DP is that Ahn’s party will act as a spoiler against its candidates. That is forcing the DP, whose ranks still contain some extreme pro-North Korean ideologues, to back away from extreme views that, not so long ago, were dominant within the ranks of the old Uri Party.

Within weeks of Ahn’s announcement, the DP’s leader, Kim Han-Gill, promised to help create a North Korea policy based on “national unity.” A majority of DP lawmakers polled by the Joongang Ilbo agreed that “its North Korea policy should be upgraded to reflect the times and the changes in the public’s perspective.” Next, Kim did a photo op at a monument to service members killed by the North Koreans on Yeonpyeong. (By contrast, former President Roh Moo Hyun had downplayed remembrances of the six crewmen of the Chamsuri 457, who were killed in a 2002 naval battle with North Korea, to avoid offending North Korea’s sensibilities. This so angered the widow of one officer that she emigrated to the United States.)

Kim even committed his party to supporting a North Korea human rights law. The reversal seemed to end nine years of DP obstructionism, based on a fear of offending North Korea, of a bill that “seeks to improve human rights, political rights and the right to freedom” of North Koreans, and “includes the establishment of a special envoy (for North Korean human rights), a documents archive and a North Korean Human Rights Foundation.” The bill would also provide financial support to private human rights advocacy groups and groups helping North Korean defectors.

A few days later, however, the DP’s floor leader said that his party wasn’t really committing to any of that, it was committing to “supporting South-North cooperation and providing humanitarian aid” — in other words, cash for Kim Jong Un. Evidently, the DP’s hard-left wing had pushed back. GNP floor leader Hwang Woo-Yea, who had exerted himself heroically for this bill for years, responded that a human rights bill ought to be about promoting and improving human rights:

“A bill on North Korean human rights should literally be a bill for the improvement of North Korea’s human rights situation,” Hwang said. “The specific ways of supporting (North Korea) are contained in a separate law on supporting North Korea, so they should be handled by that law.” [Yonhap]

If the DP’s concession does nothing else, it will turn the national debate toward the question of why a human rights bill is necessary at all, and it shows which side of the debate has momentum. The ruling Grand National Party hopes to put the bill to a vote this month, but the two parties show no signs of agreeing on substance. If there is a vote, it will be divided, and it will give us a clearer idea of how much the DP’s rank-and-file has evolved.

~  ~  ~

Part of the DP’s problem is that President Park projects competence. The economy is doing well, and the conservative press can make a credible case that Park has been effective in promoting Korea’s interests abroad, even if only in the largely symbolic contest against Japan. Park also showed toughness and effectiveness in negotiating with the North Koreans to reopen Kaesong (thus, successfully achieving a second dubious objective).

Another part of the left’s problem is that is has been damaged by the excesses of its extreme element. Lee Seok-Ki, a lawmaker for the far-left Unified Progressive Party, was recently stripped of his parliamentary immunity and arrested for leading a Fifth Column group called the “Revolutionary Organization” that plotted violent attacks against South Korean infrastructure, in support of a North Korean invasion — over a tapped phone line, with 130 people (including kids and drunks) in attendance.

In one of the meetings, which lasted till 2 a.m. on May 13 at a religious retreat in the South Korean capital, Seoul, Mr. Lee, 51, said war could be imminent on the divided Korean Peninsula and his followers should prepare themselves for a “revolution” against “the world’s most powerful American imperialists” and achieve “a new reunified fatherland,” according to the National Intelligence Service’s charges against him. At one point, he said the manual for making the pressure cooker bomb used in the Boston Marathon attack was available on the Internet. [....]

Another follower, Lee Sang-ho, suggested attacking South Korea’s communications, oil, train and other crucial facilities in case of war, the charges said. But Mr. Hong also called the idea of buying sniper rifles and using hacking skills to attack military radar facilities “outlandish.” [N.Y. Times]

Here is what one of Lee’s co-conspirators said in a recorded conversation that the prosecutors recently played in court:

“We have our support groups in the country. In an emergency, we must organize them in a timely manner … If we mobilize them to spark a protest just like the massive protests against mad cow disease [in 2008], it will damage the Park Geun-hye government,” he said. “Some important facilities are installed in U.S. garrisons. Not just army bases but radar installations or electric facilities. We need to amass [information about] them.” [Joongang Ilbo]

Prosecutors are now seeking a 20-year prison term for Lee. We haven’t heard the court’s verdict, but some “progressives” insist that Lee’s trial is a witch hunt to restore a right-wing dictatorship. I can believe a number of arguments that Park has an authoritarian streak, but not this one. The UPP had initially offered a dizzying range of explanations, including, “He was just joking.” Eventually, Lee settled on the minimally plausible story that he was really preparing to defend South Korea against an attack by the United States.

The UPP and the DP are two different parties, of course, but it isn’t completely unfair of voters to associate Lee’s ideology with a DP that still includes the likes of Lim Soo-Kyung. The DP’s Chairman, Kim Han-Gill, supported Lee’s arrest on charges of plotting a violent insurrection, but roughly two dozen of its members opposed it.

If the left wanted to make a more convincing argument that Park Geun-Hye is behaving like an authoritarian, it could criticize her for dissolving political parties, decertifying labor unions, or prosecuting people for praising North Korea. Park might be able to justify these actions if those groups — as opposed to certain individuals or factions within them — had conspired to commit violent acts or act as covert agents of a hostile foreign government, but that is not true of any of the cases I linked above. (Lee Seok-Ki’s pro-North Korean faction does not represent the entire UPP. One faction of the UPP holds views similar to European democratic socialists. To dissolve an entire political party because of the actions of some of its members is overbroad and authoritarian.) I was horrified when the Army shot a man for trying to defect to North Korea last September, although I appear to be the only one who felt this way.

You don’t have to sympathize with the targets of these actions to see that the government’s tactics will backfire, eventually. For now, South Korean voters care more about security and economics, and they’re weary of the left’s extreme ideology. It’s also clear that the left has lost its talent for dissent. Yes, it has offered some legitimate criticism of Park’s troubling attacks on freedom of speech and association, but it also squandered its credibility defending Lee Seok-Ki.

The point of which is, isn’t it sad that Korean governments find it so much easier to censor opposing views than to argue the issues on their merits?

(* President Park revived that proposal recently. I’m all for it, by the way. I don’t think Park Geun-Hye is interested in lowering South Korea’s defenses; I think she’s trying to triangulate for the voters, and a “peace park” would effectively become another border North Korea couldn’t seal, and a direct route for north-to-south defections. That’s why North Korea would never agree to this.)

Fifth Column Watch

The arrest of Lee Seok-Ki and his merry band of fifth column plotters is also uncovering a lot of the United Progressive Party’s publicly funded rackets:

The ministry cited the Suwon Self-Support Community Center as an example. The center’s job is to support people receiving government welfare; it received 1.7 billion won ($1.6 million) from the city government this year. But this center also urged its clients to join the Unified Progressive Party (UPP) and demanded that workers at the center make donations to the party.

The Joongang Ilbo also publishes the results of a poll, finding that most South Koreans approve of the arrest and interrogation of fifth-columnist Lee Seok-ki, and most approve of disbanding his party (which I don’t, by the way). But of course, arrest by itself by or may not be vindicated by a court’s judgment; it is simply the state’s first use of its power to gather a suspect into the legal process that passes judgment. The disbanding of a party without formal judgment is even harder to endorse. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to ask people whether they favor the vote for Lee’s arrest, or his prosecution?

Besides which, what I really want to know is whether a majority of South Koreans would approve of sentencing Lee (if convicted) to be escorted across the DMZ, permanently.

National Assembly approves arrest of Lee Seok-Gi

South Korea’s National Assembly has voted to revoke leftist fringe party lawmaker Lee Seok-Gi’s parliamentary immunity and allow his arrest for sedition and “praising North Korea.” This makes it all sound like something a banana republic would charge an opponent with, but in fact, Lee really stands accused of leading something called the Revolutionary Organization and “conspir[ing] to storm firearms depots to secure weapons, destroy oil-storage and communication facilities and assassinate unspecified figures.” The leadership of the main left-opposition Democratic Party, which contains some figures whose rhetoric (if not their concrete plans) can sound just as extreme as Lee’s, has announced its support for the arrest.

[Update: Lee is now under arrest.]

Lee denies the charges, calls them a fabrication, and insists that “democracy” will only grow stronger after the NIS fails to suppress sympathizers of that eerie-emerald-green-shining beacon of democracy known as the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea. The beacon itself is also accusing South Korea of suppressing dissent. (Dissent flows freely from the left-side faucet of Pyongyang’s many convenient corner fountains. Don’t turn the right-hand faucet, whatever you do. All you’ll get is kalbittang.) This is my cue to remind you that the Korean language has a word for “chutzpah.” Say it with me: mak-moo-KA-nae.

As they say, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, so I’m reserving final judgment until the NIS plays the recordings and people familiar with Lee’s voice identify it. Whatever the truth is, however, it must involve breathtaking incompetence by someone.

One possibility is that the National Intelligence Service, which is already in the middle of one political scandal, made this whole thing up, because what every spy agency really needs at a time like this is to trump up a red-scare plot, assume that everyone will just take their word for it, fail to back their charge up with solid evidence, and ultimately elevate the alleged plotters from fringe loonies to hallowed dissidents and martyrs. For democracy. This is an extraordinary claim.

The other possibility is that Lee Seok-Gi was the most reckless, sloppy, careless would-be terrorist-slash-politician-slash-spy in human history. By day, he used his position in the National Assembly to obtain documents “primarily related to the armed forces in South Korea and their military facilities and strategies,” including U.S. and South Korean plans to respond to North Korean attacks. By night, he plotted a hopelessly quixotic (but potentially destructive) fifth-column sabotage campaign. On a conference call. Alger Hiss, this is not.

Of the two claims, I find the latter alternative to be less extraordinary than the former. For one thing, it’s not as if anyone is saying, “Lee Seok-Gi? Really? Last guy I’d have suspected!” For another, Lee’s rhetoric isn’t really an outlier when you compare it to other pro-North Korean or anti-American rhetoric we’ve heard from figures on Korea’s political left. Nor is this the first time that members of the Korean political left, including political party officials and union leaders, have organized into cells working in concert with North Korean intelligence officers. It shouldn’t surprise us that all of this implicitly violent rhetoric would eventually produce at least one explicit plan for violent action.

Also, a spokeswoman for Lee’s party certainly is talking like someone who knows the NIS has it all on tape (“It was just a big joke!”). But these people aren’t usually known for their levity.

If there’s a weakness in the NIS’s case, it’s the lack of evidence that Lee and his co-plotters had any imminent intention to act on their plans. Because Lee is alleged to have plotted to aid a North Korean attack, revealing this part of the plot might also reveal evidence of imminent hostile intent by North Korea. Which would also be extraordinary.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions also gets an honorable mention here. The KCTU is justly infamous for its anti-Americanism, pro-North sycophancy, and frequent use of premeditated street violence. This time, a KCTU official allegedly was recorded saying that the movements of U.S. civilians should be watched, in the context of plotting a terror-and-sabotage campaign in collaboration with a North Korean invasion. Assuming the recordings corroborate the transcript, I wonder if an investigation will eventually reveal whether these were the words of a rogue local leader, or whether the KCTU has made a corporate decision to get into the business of orchestrating terrorist attacks against U.S. civilian targets.

[Update: See Robert's comment here. He thinks a different interpretation is more likely, although neither of us is really sure.]

The point being: South Korea’s far left (and its far right) are much more extreme than their American counterparts. It’s something to keep in mind the next time you hear someone associated with South Korea’s far left hold up the term “McCarthyism” like some sort of amulet.

Leftist South Korean lawmaker sought for pro-North insurgency plot

No, as a matter of fact, it would not surprise me in the least if leftist fringe National Assemblyman and alleged Chosun Workers’ Party member Lee Seok-Gi was actively plotting to support a North Korean invasion by organizing violent fifth-column attacks in South Korea. Duh, he’s already been featured in a “fifth column watch” post.

The UPP members allegedly had a plan to blow up infrastructure in the country, including communication networks, a district court official said, quoting court-issued warrants for the three officials.

“They are facing multiple charges, such as plotting to blow up national infrastructure, forming an organization that threatens national security, praising North Korea and conspiracy to stage a rebellion,” the Suwon District Court official said. [Yonhap]

Just for fun, give the Hanky about four days to hyperventilate about the restoration of the Park dictatorship, Yushin Constitution, et cetera and then play the tapes on national television. Because it’s not like doing that would prejudice potential jurors, right?

Shortly after becoming a lawmaker in the April 2012 general election, Lee attended a meeting of the Gyeonggi Dongbu Alliance in early May in Seoul, the sources said.

“When the decisive time comes, we should initiate a nationwide general strike and armed rebellion at the same time,” Lee was quoted as saying at the meeting. “We must gain control of the broadcasting and public facilities and disable communications and fuel facilities.”

He was also accused of telling members of the Gyeonggi Dongbu Alliance to prepare by securing firearms.

“We should gain control of a progressive political party in the South and make aggressive efforts to enter the National Assembly to prepare for a decisive moment,” the code of conduct of the Gyeonggi Dongbu Alliance was quoted as saying by the sources. “When the time comes, we will support [the North] through armed rebellions.”

The Gyeonggi Dongbu Alliance is a regional chapter of the Association for Democracy and Reunification of Korea, established in 1991 by members of the National Liberalization Group, the largest faction inside the UPP. They are mostly former left-wing student activists who support North Korea’s juche (self-reliance) ideology. [Joongang Ilbo]

Surely they have wiretaps in Korea. Surely it occurred to them to get one and record the conversations. Surely the NIS, which is already embroiled in political controversy, will not expect transcripts to overcome the inevitable conspiracy theories. Surely the NIS knows better than to take on a sitting lawmaker without having him dead-to-rights, stone-cold, knackered.

So … roll tape.

If this is true, it would be another example of North Korea’s characteristic tactical genius and strategic idiocy.  Assuming they could pull off an invasion of the South, they could never digest it politically, socially, or economically. Really, how could North Korea possibly improve on what it had going in 2005–a prosperous, Finlandized, left-wing government subsidizing its nukes, its high living, and its power structure, and effectively blocking any possible U.S.-led sanctions or military action?

This would not be the first time Lee’s party, the UPP,* has come under suspicion (including from its own members) for the pro-North Korean sympathies and allegiances of some of its members. Nor would it the first time that a pro-North conspiracy was found to have reached into left-wing parties and unions in South Korea.

* I’m including the UPP’s predecessor, the Democratic Labor Party, which is mostly the same people, the same supporters, and the same factions under a different name.

Fifth Column Watch

I haven’t really had time to follow the story of the United Progressive Party as carefully as I’d have liked; South Koreans who are avowedly pro-North are a constant source of fascination to me. In South Korea, political parties break up, re-form, and re-brand every election season. During the most recent National Assembly election, the far left was represented by the UPP, which occupies approximately the same position as the former Democratic Labor Party.

The largest UPP faction is openly sympathetic to North Korea, and perhaps not surprisingly, that faction has a thuggish streak. For example, UPP Representative Kim Sun-dong, “who detonated a tear gas canister inside the National Assembly’s main chamber to protest the ratification of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement last November,” is a member of the pro-Pyongyang faction and wants to be his party’s Floor Leader. South Korea’s pro-North faction is numerically small, but has gained disproportionate influence within South Korea’s classrooms, labor unions, and society. Read more

Being a Fascist Still Shouldn’t Be a Crime

Next time you see press coverage that characterizes the “Reverend” Han Song Ryol as a “liberal” or “peace activist,” his own words will add to your insight about just how tortured the words “liberal” and “peace” have been at the meaty hands of some correspondents. How does one apply such words to an avowed supporter of the world’s most belligerent and least liberal regime?

“Our land and people in the North are armed with weaponry far more powerful than nuclear weapons – solid unity, self-containment, and revolutionary optimism fuelled by the Juche ideology,” Han said.

Cozying up to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, he said, “I genuinely respect, love and desire to obey you. He also attacked the findings of a multinational investigation on the sinking of the Cheonan, calling it the “pinnacle of Lee Myung-bak’s pack of lies. He blamed President Lee for sending the sailors to their deaths. [Joongang Ilbo]

Han Song Ryol is a fascist, not a liberal. Aijalon Gomes is a liberal. Even “Reverend” is difficult to allow. Han worships Kim Jong Il, but if that qualifies Han as a cleric, then you must allow that Juche is a religion, in the same sense that the Peoples’ Temple and Al Qaeda’s brand of Wahhabism are religions. The evidence that Han worships a higher God is far less clear.

Han Song Ryol is a charlatan, a traitor, and a fool. But this does not justify the South Korean government’s ham-handed decision to arrest and make a martyr of him. Indeed, I take issue with the Joongang Ilbo’s editorialists mixing these two issues:

What’s more disheartening is that there are people who applaud Han’s stunt. Some 150 members of a local branch of the progressive Democratic Labor Party held a ceremony to welcome the pastor back home. Some civilian activist groups based in North Jeolla Province also protested against his arrest. These groups should declare what side they’re on. What part of Han’s actions do they approve of? Are they followers of the North Korean regime, too?

If you hold a ceremony to welcome Han Song Ryol back home, you’re either a paid-up member of the Fifth Column or willfully ignorant of facts that would make any reasonable thinker want to dissociate himself from Han. Not that this should surprise us in the case of the Democratic Labor Party, whose North Korean influence was so brazen that it resulted in criminal convictions during the Roh Administration and split the party itself.

I’m also cynical enough to suspect that in practice, the same probably also applies to those who bothered to protest Han’s arrest publicly, though I also protest the fact of Han’s arrest for his words, and I can’t remember the first or last time anyone accused me of being a follower of the North Korean regime. The South Korean government’s prosecution of repellent ideas has only glorified those ideas (and in due course, we’ll also learn that North Korea’s suppression of dissent was less successful than we tend to estimate).

Far better for South Korea to have simply denied Han reentry into South Korea. It would more than suffice as Han’s punishment to let him live by what he preaches, and he could hardly complain about spending the rest of his life in a place he mischaracterizes as a paradise. Wouldn’t life in North Korea be punishment enough for any fool? Certainly it would be a fascinating thought experiment. I suspect it would be just a matter of time before Han would misspeak, be reported by a neighbor, and vanish into a Peace Forest one night. When that time comes, who in the Democratic Labor Party do you suppose will stand up for his right to free speech then?

Sit Down for This One: 9/11/05 Riot at MacArthur Statue Was a North Korean Job

I know this probably stuns you as much as it stuns me:

Seoul police arrested two pro-Pyongyang activists on charges of starting a campaign to remove a statue of U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur from a park in Incheon under orders from North Korea.

According to the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, two leaders of the Korean Confederation Unification Promotion Council were arrested on charges of receiving directives from a North Korean agent from 2004 to 2005 to stage a series of violent, illegal rallies from May to September 2005, demanding the removal of the MacArthur statue. The North also told them to organize an alliance of progressive civic groups to demand the withdrawal of U.S. forces from South Korea.

Police said 12 additional members of the council are to be investigated in the case. [Joongang Ilbo]

Readers will recall that the demonstrators, many from the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and the Korean Teachers’ and Educational Workers’ Union, marched to the statue 4,000-strong with bamboo poles and “fucking USA” signs in hand. Naturally, they proceeded to attack the police, resulting in some unknown number of injuries (photos here). Hate and violence notwithstanding, Chang Young-Dal, a member of the standing committee of the then-ruling Uri Party praised the fifth columnists who led the rally for their “deep ethnic purity,” which is true in the same sense it might have been for Ernst Rohm in the 1920′s.

Inspired, no doubt, by the class, tact, and sensitivity they displayed on September 11, 2005, other leftist South Korean groups with a history of bleating out North Korea propaganda have followed the on-the-spot guidance of the Star of Mount Paektu and the Lodestar of the Nation.

The Korean Confederation Unification Promotion Council, formed in 2004, promotes North Korea’s philosophy of unifying the two Koreas in a confederation. In 2005, it staged a 69-day protest inside the park to demand the statue’s removal, which turned violent on September 11, 2005, when 4,000 protesters clashed with police.

Yup. No real surprise there.

Police now say that the rallies began on orders from North Korea. (Since the first protest in 2005, North Korea has publicly lauded the rallies in statements through its state-run media.) [....]

Police said the two arrested activists traveled to China in 2004 to meet a North Korean agent, who gave them orders to organize the rallies against the statue and U.S. troops in the South. “North Korea normally gives a direction in a larger framework, and pro-Pyongyang activists in the South come up with specific implementation plans,” said a security official.

Police and prosecutors said nine pro-Pyongyang groups held a meeting in 2005 to discuss how to implement the orders and formed a special committee to demand the withdrawal of U.S. Forces Korea. A team was also formed under the committee to campaign for the removal of the statue.

Another security official said the MacArthur statue was targeted because of the North’s loathing of the American general, who stopped North Korea from taking over the entire peninsula.

A consultation with the OFK archives confirms that, this news isn’t entirely new. In November of 2006, the Chosun Ilbo reported that one Kang Soon-jeong, the former vice chairman of the South Korean chapter of the Pan-Korean Alliance for Reunification, was arrested for providing “national secrets” to North Korea. At the time of the 2006 arrest, Kang was on parole after serving a 4 1/2 year term for … yes, that’s right, spying for North Korea. Kang also played a role in organizing violent protests against the Korea-U.S. free-trade agreement and the expansion of Camp Humphreys. There is other evidence that the anti-MacArthur movement took its philosophical inspiration from Pyongyang as well.

“The campaign to remove the statue is the symbol of the anti-American movement,” said another security official. “There is no actual gain for the North even if the statute is removed, but it will send a strong message to its people and solidify the network of pro-Pyongyang activists in the South.

Lim Soon-hee, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute of National Unification, agreed. “The campaign will fuel ideological conflicts within the South and taint the image of South Korea for Americans.

Well, then, consider that operation a success. Were this wave of anti-Americanism (a) peaceful and (b) confined to the fringes of society, we’d have dismissed it. But in fact, it was neither of those things. Both the beef idiocy and the Cheonan conspiracy idiocy show us that it’s far from over.

Sage Advice from Michael Breen: Ignore These Fools

This made me want to stand up and cheer:

The political activist who last weekend violated a travel ban to go to North Korea claimed that he “risked his life” for the sake of peace and unification. If the government applies the full force of the law against him on his return, he may be right. And that would be unfortunate because people who try to upstage the democratic South by embracing the Nazi North need to be seen for the ideological nincompoops that they are, not turned into nationalist heroes. [Michael Breen, Korea Times]

Now, by some reports, a prosecution is rather unlikely, as it should be. But what Breen is saying is substantially similar to a conversation I had last night with a professor from Seoul National U., who also asked a similarly sensible question: why do South Korean conservatives insist on giving these buffoons so much free press coverage? Do you see the 9-11 truthers hitting page one of the New York Times here? Of course not. We ignore them because they’re neurotic imbeciles. The same applies to PSPD’s conspiracy allegations about the Cheonan — what technical, scientific, or political qualification justifies giving so much media attention to a zany band of Peace Studies drop-outs?

The only qualification I offer to this is that the South Korean authorities ought to be looking into who is funding these groups, exposing them publicly, and using the legal tools available to freeze those assets and prosecute anyone involved in funneling foreign money to them.

Psyops Updates

Kim Jung-Wook, the Joongang Ilbo’s Washington Correspondent, thinks that the Cheonan Incident has revived the U.S.-Korea alliance, but frankly, the end result may well be the exact opposite. No, the incident didn’t raise tensions in a way that makes obvious the many conflicts in the two states’ interests, and yes, President Obama has shown more backbone than the North Koreans probably expected. The problem with this theory is that so far, there has been no significant response to the attack from either South Korea or the United States, which means that the military deterrence of North Korea has reached a critical point of failure. If the two governments fail to implement an effective response to the attack that deters the next one, you’ll begin to see a lot of Koreans ask exactly what security benefit the alliance confers on South Korea anyway.

But then, the alliance is about creating the illusion that we might use conventional military force, and the best that the threat of conventional military force can hope to accomplish is to preserve a degrading stasis. It is political and psychological warfare that are the keys to the initiative in Korea, and which will determine the outcome of the Korean War. South Korea is flunking its opportunity to win through psychological warfare because it doesn’t get this, and because it has already lost the loyalty of so much of its own population. North Korea has the ability to mobilize millions of South Korean voters, activists, and union members — directly and otherwise, with their knowledge and otherwise — because it does get this.

And yet South Korea seems lacking in the will to do anything that would reach ordinary North Koreans:

“We completed the first round of loudspeaker installment June 9, but haven’t decided on when to resume the propaganda broadcasts,” said a South Korean military official who asked for anonymity. “We’ll make that decision after seeing what progress is made at the UN Security Council.

The official said that setting up the loudspeakers is just the first step toward putting pressure on the North’s military, which has threatened to shoot down the loudspeakers if the broadcasts are resumed. [Joongang Ilbo]

Let’s hope the South Koreans give more thought to message and media alike, because I suspect that because of North Koreans’ puritanical programming about sex, messages like this, however much appeal they have for sweaty middle-aged white guys, will backfire on the small North Korean audiences they actually reach.

Frankly, if you want to know what messages will persuade North Koreans, I suggest asking a North Korean. Michael Gerson, writing in the Washington Post, talks about Radio Free North Korea, the potential of psyops, and the opposition it has attracted from “unification activists”:

It is a risky, lonely task. Defectors are living reminders of heroic, dangerous struggles that prosperous, comfortable South Koreans would sometimes prefer to ignore. “Korean socialist groups,” says Kim, “held demonstrations, forcing us to move from location to location. In the mail, we got axes covered in blood. North Korea sent spies. Hackers attacked our Web site. At some point, all of us started carrying Tasers for self-protection. Even now there are two policemen waiting downstairs who protect me.”

One day, the files of the Reconnaissance Bureau of the Chosun Workers’ Party will make for very interesting reading for some, and very embarrassing reading for plenty of South Koreans.

North Korean Spy Ring Infiltrated ROK Army, Obtained War Plans

Andy Jackson talks about that South Korean general under investigation for spying for the North. Oh, and apparently, he gave the North Koreans their own copy of the best parts of OPLAN 5027.

A government official told the JoongAng Ilbo that the investigation will likely expand because more suspects were linked to the case. “Aside from Park and Kim, there were at least five people involved,” the source said. “The authorities are looking closely at them and some will soon face a formal probe.

None of the additional suspects were in active service, the official said, but were all related to the military directly or indirectly, hinting at a possibility of a retired military officer’s involvement.

Another government official confirmed the complexity and magnitude of the case. “It’s not as simple as we first thought,” he said.

More here. This is why I’m not especially keen on selling the South Koreans advanced systems like the F-15, Patriot missile, and Global Hawk UAV. Sure, I’d like South Korea to have an independent defense and let us leave, but the more stories like this I read, the less I trust them with our state-of-the-art systems.

Kim Jong Il Has a Vote, Too

It’s election day in South Korea. The South has retreated, for the moment, from its plans to use psyops to influence public opinion in North Korea, but the converse certainly isn’t true. North Korea has a well developed, firmly rooted cadre of sympathizers, fifth columnists, spies, and the occasional hit team in South Korea, and the National Intelligence Service thinks they were actively campaigning on election day:

A South Korean intelligence officer on Tuesday said Pyongyang is posting articles on major websites denying all accusations. “The North used stolen residence registration numbers and IDs of South Koreans,” he said. The posts are broadly the same as a statement from the North’s National Defense Commission, its top policy body. It was uploaded on the state-run North Korean website Urimizokkiri.

This isn’t North Korea’s first foray into South Korean politics. Recall that North Korea once had the Democratic Labor Party so thoroughly infiltrated that its agents within the party tried to throw the Seoul mayoral election to the ruling Uri Party by getting the DLP candidate to withdraw at the last minute.

It wouldn’t bother me a great deal if the South Korean government shelved forever those plans to turn on propaganda loudspeakers and electric sign boards at the DMZ. It’s unlikely they’d have much effect anyway, and they raise a real risk that the North Koreans would start shooting across the DMZ. Far better to put up some tall cell phone towers on the mountains overlooking the DMZ, flood the North with cheap phones, and set up a call center where South Korean operators can locate long-lost relatives for North Korean callers.

Related: CNN has more on the North Korean refugees who are determined to subvert the political system under which they could not live.

North Korean Milfspionage Takes a Scary Turn

boris_natasha_fearless.jpgWhat is it with the North Korean spy agencies’ recent proclivity for using “women of a certain age” to target horny South Korean men? First, there was Won Jong-Hwa, who seduced, inter alia, a young South Korean army captain for classified information, and possibly a lieutenant as well, assuming that both officers weren’t actually the same person.

Now, there is the story of Kim Soon-Nyeo, whose targets included a 29 year-old college student, two travel agency workers, and her grand sugardaddy, a former executive of the Seoul Subway system.

You may thank the OFK Editorial Board in the comments for the many available metaphors it deemed unfit to print, as this discussion is about to become very serious.

The spy collected “confidential” information about the subway system from Oh, information about local universities from the student, and a list of names of high-ranking police and public officials from the travel agents.

Oh maintained extramarital relations with the spy since his first encounter with her in China in May 2006, and transferred nearly 300 million won ($252,000) to “help” her cosmetics business. In June 2007, he became aware that she was a North Korean spy, but continued the relationship.

“What Oh handed over to the spy included contact information of emergency situation responses and other not-so-important internal data,” Kim Jung-hwan, a Seoul Metro spokesman, told The Korea Times, dismissing concerns that it could be used in possible acts of terrorism here by the North. Kim retired from his post in 2008. [Korea Times]

I shudder at the thought of why the North Koreans want to know these things. That is why, as much as I like Richard Halloran’s writing and analysis, I don’t think he has quite grasped the worst case scenario when he calls for the bombing of North Korea’s artillery sites. Yes, I can imagine a circumstance in which we or South Korea might face a provocation or a threat so serious that we have to do something more dramatic, in which case what Halloran calls for might have to be our first step. But I’m not there yet, because I fear that North Korea’s most dangerous weapons are already inside South Korea. Nor do I share Halloran’s confidence that North Korea’s front line troops are poorly trained, or that they would “stand down” if attacked.

On the contrary, I advocate the (admittedly also risky) gradualist approach of constricting the regime economically and subverting it politically because the last thing I want to do is force a stroke-addled tyrant to make sudden “use it or lose it” decisions. I want to create the conditions for a favorable power shift about when that tyrant goes off to his meat locker mausoleum.

By comparison, John Bolton’s recommendations seem sedate and reasonable, although the part about China supporting a One Free Korea policy is implausible until we make North Korea China’s problem. Think: nukes for Taiwan and a shiny embassy for the Dalai Lama on Connecticut Avenue (or, just to make it even more fun, exactly the opposite!). Here in Washington, we spend a great deal of thought and worry about our relationship with China, but hardly anyone ever has to worry about China’s relationship with us. Hail ants!

I recently noted North Korea’s tendency to give its spies on the job training in China, whose government allows North Korean spies to operate as they hunt down defectors and send them back to the gulag (or a firing squad).

Someone remind me again why human rights is a distraction from the bigger issues.

Hankyoreh “Experts:” North Korea Sank the Cheonan, But It’s Still South Korea’s Fault

I expect the Hanky and its fellow travelers to be committed 24/7 tools of North Korea, but for God’s sake, people, your country is in mourning. Is this really the time?

People’s Solitary for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) General Secretary Kim Min-young offered his diagnosis of the situation, saying, “If the government had faithfully executed the existing agreement between North Korea and South Korea for the peaceful use of the waters near the Northern Limit Line in the West Sea, things would not have escalated into a confrontation scenario.

Implicitly, this is an agreement that the North Koreans did it, even as it argues that they did it because President Lee forced them to. What the “General Secretary” is really saying is that the responsibility for what he assumes to have been a deliberate attack lies with the South Korean government for protecting its territory rather than surrendering it. He is justifying a sneak attack just off the shores of an island North Korea explicitly ceded in the Korean War Armistice agreement. One could not make such an argument on the day South Korea buried 40 of its sailors without having lost sight of how the needless theft of their lives has profoundly aggrieved thousands of people who loved them, people who will spend the rest of their lives missing them.

Following the 2007 Inter-Korean Summit, late President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il made an agreement to establish a “˜special West Sea zone of peace and cooperation,’ including the establishment of joint fishing zones and peaceful waters and the construction of a special economic zone. But the Lee Myung-bak administration has effectively refused to respect or implement the October 4 2007 Summit Declaration that includes this agreement. Former Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun said, “They need to reconsider how to carry out policy for the stable management of the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

And what would any Hankyoreh editorial be without a choice quote from Cheong Wook-Sik, possibly Kim Jong Il’s most brazen South Korean apologist and stooge? The fact that the Hanky describes this marionette as an “expert” really tells you all you need to know about the Hanky’s more common tactic of citing “experts” without even telling you who they are:

Some experts expressed concern that the Lee government and the public are placing too much weight on “keeping the peace” by strengthening the alert against North Korea or building up military forces. Peace Network representative Cheong Wook-sik said, “If this incident simply leads South Korea to focus on simplifying its rules of engagement and beef up its aggression and forces, the situation of military confrontation between North Korea and South Korea could worsen as this combines with the North Korea’s response.

Got that? He’s worried about South Korea “beef[ing] up its aggression.”

I’ll let you read the rest on your own and decide for yourself if you can actually believe you’re reading this, much less reading it while the country is in mourning over the murder — yes, I said it — of 40 of its sailors.

For North Korean Spies, Sending Refugees to the Gulag Is Entry Level Work

While most of my allotted blogging time has been consumed by following the Cheonan Incident, several other k-blogs covered the story of one “Kim,” a South Korean, who volunteered in 1999 to work for North Korean intelligence, hunt down and rat out defectors hiding in China, and send them blissfully off to death, or a fate worse than. He also agreed to spy on activists helping the refugees, and on the South Korean military. “Kim” has since been arrested by the South Korean authorities in Seoul:

Mr Kim, 55, was recruited by North Korea during an illegal visit to China in the late 1990s, Yonhap quoted prosecutors in Seoul as saying. He received espionage training in Pyongyang in 2000 before being sent to China as an agent to hunt defectors, they said. But he left China after an accomplice was jailed there. He was arrested as he arrived back in South Korea. Officials said the case was being investigated to see whether Mr Kim had any further accomplices engaged in spying.

Seoul prosecution spokesman Oh Se-in told AP news agency Mr Kim had denied the charges. Mr Oh said Mr Kim had violated South Korea’s National Security Law, which prohibits nationals from engaging in activities which could benefit Pyongyang or having unauthorised contact with North Koreans.

This AP report contains more interesting details about “Kim:”

The 55-year-old man, who was arrested last week and who denies the charges, is accused of taking up the spy job after meeting a female North Korean agent in 1999 in China’s eastern Shandong province, where he was believed to be engaged in drug trafficking, the official said on condition of anonymity because an investigation was ongoing.

The man, surnamed Kim, allegedly traveled to Pyongyang in 2000 for 15 days of spy training and received US$10,000 (S$13,904) and 2 kilograms of narcotics from the North, the official said.

The suspect was sent back to China and started abducting South Korean activists who were helping North Koreans defect from their impoverished, authoritarian homeland. The kidnapped Koreans were sent to the North in cooperation with the female agent, the official said.

The man also kidnapped North Korean defectors hiding in China and forced them back to the North. He also tried to gather information on South Korean intelligence officers operating in Chinese towns near North Korea, the official said.

“Kim” is only the latest of several North Korean spies known to have worked on Chinese soil, some of them more openly than others. The Ilshimhue spy ring, which penetrated to unknown depths into South Korea’s former leftist goverment, met its North Korean handlers in a safe house at 3089 Dongxuhuayuan, 18 Shuangqiaodong-lu, Zahoyang-qu, on the outskirts of Beijing.

It stands to reason that North Korea isn’t repatriating all those refugees across Chinese territory by itself; China must be complicit in permitting the North Korean spies to operate on its soil. Certainly North Korean spies couldn’t have abducted Rev. Kim Dong Shik, who was confined to a wheelchair, and transported him across the Chinese-North Korean border without the Chinese authorities knowing. Certainly the reference to “Kim” “abducting South Korean activists” suggests that he could be a third suspect in Rev. Kim’s abduction, an issue that even captured the sadly ephemeral interest of President Obama.

The abduction of Rev. Kim is now the object of a multimillion-dollar lawsuit in a U.S. federal district court. Thus far, one North Korean agent has been convicted in a South Korean court of taking part in Rev. Kim’s abduction, and another was being questioned on suspicion of involvement before this story broke. (The latter suspect, apparently a North Korean native who went rogue and defected, does not appear to be the same person as “Kim.”)

These three are not the only North Korean agents who’ve worked in China, only to turn up in South Korea later. There is also Ma Young Ae, who became the object of controversy among other defectors, who questioned her truthfulness when she applied for asylum in the United States in 2006, claiming persecution by South Korea’s then-leftist government. Ma, an admitted “former counterintelligence agent” for North Korea, has told the New York Times that “she did undercover work in China before she defected in 1999.” That’s a year too early to know about Rev. Kim’s abduction, but not too late to describe the North Korean agents’ modus operandi, or to have met “Kim,” the spy.

Ma continues to be a controversial figure today. This blog post identifies Ma as one at least two accusers who claim that the Rev. Chun Ki-Won attempted to coerce sexual favors from her (more here, at TMH). Frankly, given all of the baggage with Ms. Ma’s reputation and her admitted links to North Korean intelligence, I can only say that someone is lying. Rev. Chun may be a hero who has, for obvious reasons, become the target of a regime-orchestrated smear campaign. He may be a scoundrel using his position to gain fame and sexual satisfaction, but if he is, he’s certainly chosen a strenuous and dangerous way to get what’s easily available in any South Korean city for a modest and negotiable fee, and virtually no risk of arrest or prosecution. Rev. Chun could also be both of those things — a hero and a scoundrel. Chun does have a reputation as showboat, but no one but Rev. Chun and his accusers knows the truth about the other accusations. Chun is also a survivor who has outlasted plenty of other activists who got caught. This implies a personality attracted to risk, but it also implies one that doesn’t make stupid mistakes, either. Knowing the good that Rev. Chun has demonstrably done for many other people, I’m inclined to ask for more credible evidence than Ma Young-Ae can offer before I deny him the benefit of the doubt. I profess no knowledge about the credibility of the other accusers, but as a defense attorney, I’ve seen multiple accusations against a single subject dissolve under cross-examination.

Finally, there is the case of Won Jong-Hwa, who was arrested in 2008 after sexually seducing and collecting information from male South Korean officers:

Won Jong Hwa, 35, is suspected of collecting information, including photographs and locations of key military installations and weapons systems, partly by offering sexual favors to military officers. One of her lovers, identified as a 26-year-old army captain, was detained for offering classified information to Won even after he found out she was a North Korean spy.

After obtaining information in South Korea, Won handed it over to North Korean agents in China. She frequently traveled to China and delivered to North Korean intelligence agents there the name cards of more than 100 South Korean officers, whose e-mail accounts are said to have been hacked into from China.

Won was first dispatched to China, where she was commissioned to kidnap North Korean refuge-seekers in China for repatriation, and South Korean businessmen to the North.

In a bid to reach Seoul, Won married a South Korean worker in China, disguising herself as a Korean resident in China. She divorced her husband immediately after entering the South in October 2001, and falsely reported to Seoul’s authorities that she was a defector from the North, according to investigators.

I blogged about Won’s case at the time of her arrest and conviction, and when a lieutenant who became one of her lovers was sentenced. Won was recruited by the North Korean regime at a time when she was facing a potentially harsh punishment for stealing zinc. In 1999, she also got her start working in China spying on refugees until she was reassigned to South Korea. At that point, she claimed to have had a change of heart and defected to the South.

Via Andrei Lankov, North Korea has a very long history of spying on and abducting its enemies. One of the lessons from the case of “Kim” and others like it is that North Korea’s ideology continues to appeal to a hard core of sympathizers in South Korea. Another is that not all who claim to be defectors are what they represent themselves to be. It’s not a reason to stop accepting defectors, but it is a reason to vet them carefully and remain open to following the evidence in some convoluted directions.

How Will Chung Dong Young Answer a Truth and Reconciliation Committee?

After years of unproductive debate, the South Korean National Assembly’s Unification and Foreign Affairs Committee finally approved a bill on improving human rights conditions in North Korea last week, on a vote divided along party lines:

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) said the overall budget for its activities in 12 categories was cut by 5.38 percent on-year to 4.63 billion won (US$4 million) for the 2010 fiscal year. Funding for research into North Korean defectors and human rights conditions in the socialist state remained unchanged, however, at 331 million won, the independent commission said. The North Korea-related budget is far larger than 140 million won that the commission initially asked for, indicating that the government is putting an emphasis on the issues.

The North Korea budget will be used to fund local and overseas surveys of defectors from the North and human rights conditions there, as well as to host an international symposium and domestic forums, and to publish and purchase books. [Yonhap]

Yet the vigorous and outspoken South Korean press informs us that the idea that North Koreans ought to be able to read anything but the pablum spat out by the state’s propaganda mills is “controversial.” Got that? The South Koreans are having a vigorous debate about whether North Koreans also have an equally inalienable right to have vigorous debates. Equally controversial is the idea that South Korean humanitarian aid should be monitored as a safeguard against the regime stealing it from hungry kids and diverting it to the army by the trainload:

The tentatively-called “North Korean Human Rights Act” calls for, among other things, strictly regulating humanitarian aid with respect to delivery and distribution, making even the provision by private groups far more difficult than now. It also stipulates the establishment of a human rights foundation under the unification minister, which will likely hinder the ministry’s conduct of its foremost duty of improving inter-Korean relationships with a broader perspective.

Although the bill stresses the need for actively supporting private organizations engaged in promoting human rights in the North, critics point out these are the groups mainly involved in instigation and subversion activities by dropping anti-Pyongyang leaflets from balloons or planning organized defection.

Supporters of the bill may refute that mere criticisms and expressions of anger will be of little help to bringing about real changes. True, there will be clear limitations to sharply improving human rights situations without a fundamental change in their one-person rule and collective leadership.

But this is why it is more important to induce the reclusive regime to gradually change its system and join the rest of the world through ceaseless dialogue and the improvement of ties. [Korea Times]

You say these like they’re bad things.

When advancing this particular idea, the Times would do well to point out a single measurable accomplishment derived from the billions of dollars in unconditional aid to Kim Jong Il … that is, aside from financing Kim Jong Il’s acquisition of a bona fide nuclear weapons capability and a vastly improved missile arsenal to aim at Seoul. And the human rights policy pursued by men like Roh Moo Hyun and Chung Dong-Young was to say and do as little as possible to help North Koreans. Starving refugees were told to die in place, South Korea abstained from supporting even meaningless U.N. resolutions asking North Korea to moderate its mass murder, and the “quiet diplomacy” it claimed to be pursuing turned out to be a complete sham when revealed in practice.

Their own bankruptcy of ideas reveals the disgraceful cynicism of Roh and Chung’s political progeny. If we are to accept the legitimacy of retroactively purging and punishing collaboration with fascism — I don’t, but the South Korean political system has — this ought to be fine fodder for some Truth and Reconciliation Committee ten years hence. The Democratic Party’s view here is laid out by its mouthpiece, the collaborationist Hankyoreh:

The Democratic Party voiced strong opposition, saying it plans to take committee Chairman Park Jin to the National Assembly Ethics Committee for ignoring their objections. In its statement, the DP condemned the law, and criticized the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) for railroading the law through the committee. The DP is saying the law would not contribute to improvements in North Korean human rights, rather, they are saying it is an “Anti-North Korean Citizens Law,” and the North Korean government, who views the law as a threat to their government, could repress the actual human rights of North Koreans by strengthening its controls over them. The DP also says the law bans humanitarian aid to North Korea by strictly limiting humanitarian assistance and is a “New Right Support Bill” to support groups that send balloons and pamphlets to North Korea under the guise of promoting North Korean human rights.

DP Lawmaker Chung Dong-young said the current administration is setting as its departure point the Basic Agreement of 1991, signed during the Roh Tae-woo administration, but the law clashes with the spirit of the agreement, which calls on both countries not to slander or commit libel against the other country’s government. Chung asked whether the administration could hold an inter-Korean summit with this law in effect.

You can always count on Chung to set a new low for breathtaking stupidity. I’d ask whether these people read the Rodong Sinmun if the answer weren’t so obvious. You can say “sticks and stones” to most of this, but you’d think that if Chung possessed an ounce of civic and patriotic regard for the interests of his own country, he’d at least ask the North not to use its official state media as an instrument of terrorism, for example, by threatening civilian airliners at Incheon Airport.

Civic groups also slammed the law. Koo Kab-woo, head of the People’s Solidarity for a Participatory Democracy’s (PSPD) Center for Peace and Disarmament, said it is possible to address the North Korea human rights issue under the Inter-Korean Relations Development Law passed by the ruling and opposition parties in December 2005, and he does not understand why it was necessary to unilaterally pass the North Korean Human Rights Law at this time. Suh Bo-hyuk, research fellow of the Korea National Strategy Institute, said there is concern that by making the Ministry of Unification the primary body to handle North Korean human rights policy, the law could weaken the ability of the ministry to negotiate with North Korea and have an adverse effect on the development of inter-Korean relations and bringing about substantive improvements in North Korean human rights. [The Hanky]

If this opposition were interested in a sincere regard for the lives of the North Korean people rather than servility toward Kim Jong Il, don’t you suppose the South Korean Left would actually have bothered to formulate a human rights policy for North Korea? It’s their intellectual bankruptcy and their complicit silence during their years in power and ever since that are the most telling.

Another South Korean Professor Caught Spying for the North

A South Korean university lecturer accused of spying for North Korea since the early 1990s has been indicted on espionage charges, prosecutors said Thursday. The suspect, identified by the surname Lee, was charged with giving North Korea confidential information, including the locations of key South Korean military facilities and an army operations manual, prosecutors in Suwon, south of Seoul, said in a statement. [MacLeans]

They could have waited a few years and gotten it all from Google Earth. Anyway, if you wonder why South Korea’s extreme left can fill the streets with brainwashed legions of pubescent anti-American zombies, just have a gander at who their teachers are. In terms of political demographics, South Korea and North Korea often seem to be racing toward collapse. This is why South Korea has ceased to function as an ally, and why we should redeploy the Eighth U.S. Army to a place where its presence will serve American interests:

The 37-year-old man, who taught politics at a South Korean university, was arrested on Sept. 11 and indicted Tuesday for violating South Korea’s National Security Law, the statement said. If convicted, he could face the death penalty. [....]

Lee began spying for North Korea in 1992 after meeting North Korean agent Ri Jin Woo while studying at the University of Delhi in India, prosecutors said. He stored “vast amounts of confidential military information” on compact discs, portable drives and laptop computers, which he relayed to Ri during meetings in China, Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand and elsewhere, they said.

Lee gathered the information while working as an army officer, an adviser to the presidential National Unification Advisory Council and at the government-run Education Center for Unification, prosecutors said. He also joined North Korea’s Workers’ Party in 1994 after making a secret trip to the North, they said.

I wonder if Lee is the same Blue House advisor — or perhaps, one of those other government employees — who fell under suspicion when the Ilshimhue spy ring was uncovered during the final days of the Roh Administration, and whose string of revelations was truncated by the sacking of the head of the National Intelligence Service, and his replacement by a loyal party hack.

Hat tip to Robert Neff at TMH, who has more on the history of commie professors infiltrating South Korean colleges, but omits Prof. Kang Jeong-Ku, no doubt among many others.

Defector: Naver Infiltrated by NorkBots!

Hmmm. I wonder if we’ve seen some of those types around here?

Writer Jang Shin-Jung (former employee of the United Front Department), a North Korean refugee, testified that North Korea’s United Front Department has adopted a new propaganda strategy against South Korea by operating a new internet commenting team to reflect South Korea’s change in media culture. [....]

Jang conjectured that about 30 team members at contact station 101 were cultural experts of South Korea. He described their proficiency in the latest slangs as proficient while posting among the South Korean online community. It was to the point that when Jang knocked to enter the team’s office, the reply would be in South Korean slang.

The teams post on contentious South Korean societal issues on varieties of well-known portal sites, such as Daum and Naver. They also comment on these issues to amplify criticisms. The goal is the same as the number 1 goal of all media propaganda strategies against South Korea, to increase the power of pro-North Korean factions within South Korea. Jang agreed, saying “I saw psychological warfare such as posts insisting that North Korean nuclear weapons are in reality beneficial for South Korea. [Open News]

If this is true, and it seems plausible to me, it would be a completely legitimate tactic. Bring it on, just bring on some counterspeech to correct the record. In fact, I wish our government would train a few bloggers to read, write, and post in Chinese, Pashto, Arabic, and German to argue against all of the urban myths that pass for serious political discourse in what the dumbest among us sometimes refer to as a Global Village.

The problem with this, of course, is that for North Korea, speech is warfare by other means, not a way for people to find their own way to a better life. Stated differently, it’s not a two-way street:

As foreign information flows into its society in the form of smuggled goods from China and interaction with other states, the North Korean authorities have once again emphasized that people should reject capitalist culture and stick with the North Korean system.

Minju Chosun (Democratic North Korea), a publication by North Korea’s cabinet, claimed on Saturday in a commentary piece, “We should never be attracted by the scent of capitalism,” and that, “The imperialists are penetrating us with all kinds of rotten bourgeois lifestyles, using the nature of our sensitive young generation on a massive scale. [Daily NK]

I wonder if it ever occurred to the North Koreans that if their propaganda were less snicker-inducing, literally dozens of adolescent losers in this country might write pro-North Korean blog comments, if only as a vehicle to spite their parents.

It went on to claim that in the former Socialist Bloc the young generation had been rendered psychologically disabled by the touch of capitalism.

Minju Chosun emphasized, “Capitalist elements including America continue to viciously blow a sweet capitalist scent into our country in order to devastate our political and ideological position. Therefore, it is very important work to educate our young so they will not be dazzled by that capitalist wind and to save their fate and guarantee the bright future of the nation.

The publication urged, “Once they are paralyzed by the sweet capitalist wind, they will fall into corruption, ignore the revolution and focus on individual pleasures, so we have to be awake to the enemies’ strategy.

In September, Rodong Shinmun also emphasized the ideology of the younger generations in an editorial. It asserted that harboring any illusion about capitalism is the same as drinking poison, and that blocking the capitalist wind is more important than war with guns.

Surely a country with our ability to put technology into the hands of ordinary people can find a way to give internet access to the North Korean people, though I think the propaganda may overstate the power of free speech. Its reference to the danger of “individual pleasures” brings to mind an army of 1.2 million suddenly rendered incapable of operating any weapon requiring the use of both hands.