The good news is that Ambassador Mark Lippert has been released from the hospital, and is recovering well.
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.
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:
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“We are investigating whether there is any connection between the suspect’s visits to North Korea and the crime committed against the U.S.
Yonhap and The Washington Post are reporting that North Korea’s official “news” agency, the Korean Central News Agency or KCNA, has expressed its support for an extremist’s slashing of U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert yesterday, calling it “a just punishment.” You won’t find those words in the English version of KCNA’s report, whose headline is a dry, “U.S. Ambassador Attacked by S. Korean,” although you will see that KCNA spelled the Ambassador’s name “Report.” The Korean-language headline of the same article, however, translates to something like, “Act of just punishment for war-crazy America.” Here’s a screenshot of the original Korean.
KCNA has as bad a reputation for malware infections as Tijuana has for infections of other kinds, but if you’re willing to risk it, here’s a link. You’ve been warned.
The linguistic disparity looks like another case of KCNA code-switching for Korean- and English-speaking readers, in the same way it chose not to translate its most racist attack on President Obama. KCNA must assume that English speakers won’t notice, and that Korean speakers won’t care (which says a lot about what kind of Korea KCNA believes in). I’ve pasted the full English-version KCNA article below the fold. Here are some excerpts:
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Kim Ki Jong, representative of the Uri Madang, a civic organization demanding peace against war, suddenly stormed with a knife Mark, shouting the south and the north must be reunified and he is opposed to a war. [….]
He didn’t stop shouting slogans opposing war and the U.S.-south Korea joint military exercises, being walked away by police.
Here’s a link to the story, and here’s a picture:
Hat tip to Sung Yoon Lee. More to follow, but initial word I’m hearing suggests a political motive.~ ~ ~
Update 1: AFP’s report has more details
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Seoul (AFP) – The US ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, was injured in an attack by a razor-wielding assailant Thursday in Seoul, police and television reports said. The YTN news channel, citing police sources, said a man with a razor blade concealed in his right hand had attacked Lippert as he was attending a breakfast function in central Seoul. The channel carried a picture showing the bleeding ambassador holding his right hand to his right cheek, with his left hand smeared with blood. Lippert, 42, was taken to hospital, but his injuries were reportedly not life-threatening. The assailant, who was immediately taken into custody, reportedly shouted an anti-war slogan as he lashed out at the envoy, who only took up his post in Seoul last October. The United States and South Korea launched annual joint military exercises this week, triggering a surge in tensions with North korea.
As much as I agree that the National Security Law is overbroad and prone to abuse, cases like this show that parts of it remain necessary for the protection of South Korean citizens, including refugees from the North.
A North Korean defector was sentenced to two years behind bars on Friday for trying to pass on information about fellow defectors in South Korea to Pyongyang authorities.
A local court in this southeastern city said it found the 45-year-old woman, identified only by her surname Kim, guilty of gathering information on about 20 defectors in South Korea and attempting to send it to the North.
She was indicted on charges related to South Korea’s strict National Security Law that bans South Koreans, including North Korean defectors, from having contact with the North. [Yonhap]
Miss Kim told the judge that after her defection, she changed her mind, decided to return, contacted the North Korean Continue reading »
Embassy Consulate in Shenyang, and volunteered to become a spy to earn the right to return. It seems rather more likely that Miss Kim was sent South by the Reconnaissance Bureau of the Workers’ Party to collect intel on others. It seems unlikely that Miss Kim learned the sources and methods of espionage while already in South Korea.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. [Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19]
In America, we have grown accustomed to a political polarity in which we associate “left” with “liberal.” Whatever the merits of that correlation here, it’s useless to any understanding of politics in South Korea, where very few people on either side of the political spectrum can be described as liberal, and the only real candidate for that description — at the least the only candidate I can offer — is a member of the “right” Saenuri Party. For the most part, the Korean right has never overcome the authoritarian reputation Park Chung-Hee and Chun Doo-Hwan gave it, and the arrival of democracy did not mean the end of the old right’s use of an overbroad National Security Law to censor nonviolent speech that wiser men would have held up to ridicule and criticism instead.
Meanwhile, the Korean left seems to have dedicated itself to justifying the continued need for the National Security Law, and to making its own criticism of the NSL, however legitimate in isolation, seem hypocritical in the broader context. Continue reading »
stopped suddenly when it reached the door of Roh Moo Hyun’s Blue House. See also my post from the time of the conviction, and follow the links if you care to read more.
I heard somewhere that Michael Jang, the group’s convicted ringleader and a former USFK soldier, has completed his sentence and is now a “unification” activist in L.A. Can anyone confirm that?
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On Nov. 22, a day before the third anniversary of North Korea’s shelling of the South Korean border island of Yeonpyeong, the Rev. Park Chang-shin made comments during a Mass while criticizing President Park Geun-hye that it was natural for Pyongyang to attack the island because the South and the U.S. held military exercises near its sea border. [Yonhap]
This was followed by a helping of Cheonan conspiracy theory.
I don’t agree with summoning people for police questioning over political speech. If the state’s suppression of North Korean ideology is all that stands between Seoul and Kim Il Sung City, then Seoul is a lost cause anyway. In fact, I’d like to see speech like this publicized creatively. Wouldn’t it be delightful if someone began following the “Reverend” Park to every public event, holding a placard emblazoned with that quote over his head? I wonder who’d still want to stand next to him.
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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. Continue reading »
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. Continue reading »
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. Continue reading »
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. Continue reading »
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?
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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.
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.
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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. Continue reading »
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. Continue reading »
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? Continue reading »
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. Continue reading »
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.
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