A Sickening Scene

What can I add to something like this? After the glorious day when Kim Jong-Il kicks away his miserable little existence at the end of a hangman’s rope, we will have video of indescribable horrors. Without video, you can’t get media attention; raw facts and numbers don’t seem to matter. Thus, to a shallow mind, countries that let the press run free (Israel) look worse than places like China or North Korea.

In Afghanistan, when the Russians were deliberately targeting civilians and killing two million of them, they had a fat bounty on any journalists killed or captured. One can see that North Korea learned from the best.

Continue Reading

A Sickening Scene

What can I add to something like this? After the glorious day when Kim Jong-Il kicks away his miserable little existence at the end of a hangman’s rope, we will have video of indescribable horrors. Without video, you can’t get media attention; raw facts and numbers don’t seem to matter. Thus, to a shallow mind, countries that let the press run free (Israel) look worse than places like China or North Korea.

In Afghanistan, when the Russians were deliberately targeting civilians and killing two million of them, they had a fat bounty on any journalists killed or captured. One can see that North Korea learned from the best.

Continue Reading

OK, He’s Gone! Pack Everything Up!

Kudos to Instapundit for making the apt comparison between Walter Duranty, the NYT reporter who got a Nobel Prize for his rosy–and completely false–reporting on the (lack of) famine in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, and flood of ink from the Washington Post’s Glen Kessler on North Korea recently. Kessler was led by the nose to a North Korean Potem-K-Mart and reported on the bounty of vibrancy of the commerce there. Kessler must have missed this report from Amnesty International; otherwise, he might have wondered how things are outside Pyongyang, where, despite apparent mass-starvation, the government has kept out all foreigners, especially those distributing food aid. The story revealed little suspicion that the market tour was a mendacious little dog-and-pony show, designed to show that economic pressure against Pyongyang would never work. Kessler dutifully filled his story with money quotes from the now-dismissed Undersecretary for Appeasement, Jack Pritchard, like this gem:

“Pritchard said the visit indicated that change is occurring in one of the world’s most closed societies, even during a crisis over its nuclear ambitions, and that North Korea is far from economic collapse. . . . ‘Time is not on the U.S. side.'”

The real problems with this story are (1) the WP Post printed it four different times; (2) it doesn’t say much about about the food situation for anyone except those Kim Jong-Il trusts and who keep him in power–ie., the people who are allowed to live in Pyongyang; and (3) it’s based on a false premise–the idea that Kim Jong-Il can stay in power without outside help. In fact, better reporting elsewhere gives us a pretty good breakdown of where the regime gets its money.

Continue Reading

OK, He’s Gone! Pack Everything Up!

Kudos to Instapundit for making the apt comparison between Walter Duranty, the NYT reporter who got a Nobel Prize for his rosy–and completely false–reporting on the (lack of) famine in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, and flood of ink from the Washington Post’s Glen Kessler on North Korea recently. Kessler was led by the nose to a North Korean Potem-K-Mart and reported on the bounty of vibrancy of the commerce there. Kessler must have missed this report from Amnesty International; otherwise, he might have wondered how things are outside Pyongyang, where, despite apparent mass-starvation, the government has kept out all foreigners, especially those distributing food aid. The story revealed little suspicion that the market tour was a mendacious little dog-and-pony show, designed to show that economic pressure against Pyongyang would never work. Kessler dutifully filled his story with money quotes from the now-dismissed Undersecretary for Appeasement, Jack Pritchard, like this gem:

“Pritchard said the visit indicated that change is occurring in one of the world’s most closed societies, even during a crisis over its nuclear ambitions, and that North Korea is far from economic collapse. . . . ‘Time is not on the U.S. side.'”

The real problems with this story are (1) the WP Post printed it four different times; (2) it doesn’t say much about about the food situation for anyone except those Kim Jong-Il trusts and who keep him in power–ie., the people who are allowed to live in Pyongyang; and (3) it’s based on a false premise–the idea that Kim Jong-Il can stay in power without outside help. In fact, better reporting elsewhere gives us a pretty good breakdown of where the regime gets its money.

Continue Reading

OK, He’s Gone! Pack Everything Up!

Kudos to Instapundit for making the apt comparison between Walter Duranty, the NYT reporter who got a Nobel Prize for his rosy–and completely false–reporting on the (lack of) famine in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, and flood of ink from the Washington Post’s Glen Kessler on North Korea recently. Kessler was led by the nose to a North Korean Potem-K-Mart and reported on the bounty of vibrancy of the commerce there. Kessler must have missed this report from Amnesty International; otherwise, he might have wondered how things are outside Pyongyang, where, despite apparent mass-starvation, the government has kept out all foreigners, especially those distributing food aid. The story revealed little suspicion that the market tour was a mendacious little dog-and-pony show, designed to show that economic pressure against Pyongyang would never work. Kessler dutifully filled his story with money quotes from the now-dismissed Undersecretary for Appeasement, Jack Pritchard, like this gem:

“Pritchard said the visit indicated that change is occurring in one of the world’s most closed societies, even during a crisis over its nuclear ambitions, and that North Korea is far from economic collapse. . . . ‘Time is not on the U.S. side.'”

The real problems with this story are (1) the WP Post printed it four different times; (2) it doesn’t say much about about the food situation for anyone except those Kim Jong-Il trusts and who keep him in power–ie., the people who are allowed to live in Pyongyang; and (3) it’s based on a false premise–the idea that Kim Jong-Il can stay in power without outside help. In fact, better reporting elsewhere gives us a pretty good breakdown of where the regime gets its money.

Continue Reading

There Must Be a Better Way

Advocates of getting tough on North Korea over food aid are getting their way. Donations are down, and the World Food Program is cutting back the list of those who will be fed this year. The problem, of course, is that the food wasn’t going to the hungry; most of it probably went to help Kim Jong-Il reward those who keep him in power. Still, some must have found its way to those who needed it, even if only through the black market. The decision is agonizing. Aid or no aid, this winter, many North Koreans will expend what little energy they have hacking away at the frozen earth to bury people they love.

All of which brings us to the bitter truth–Kim Jong-Il probably wants a few thousand (or million) more “surplus” people to die this winter–that is, those in the classes deemed politically “wavering” or “hostile.” Why, then, must we recognize the North Korean government’s right to decide who eats and who starves? Why must we accept the classic U.N.-think that invests all rights in governments, no matter how illegitimate, no matter how lacking in the consent of the governed or compassion for their suffering?

The question then becomes how to save lives without starting a war. Chris at FreeNorthKorea.net correctly notes that feeding people without the permission of the government means you need an airlift. No one is under any illusion that you can save many people without the heavy-lift capacity of an air force. Could this be done without provoking a war? Put differently, the question is whether Kim Jong-Il, knowing that war means the loss of his pleasure squad, his fine brandy, and his collection of Daffy Duck cartoons, would see a humanitarian airdrop as a causus belli. I venture that he would not. What he lacks in compassion for those who would die in a war, he makes up for in cold, rational selfishness. War is not in his personal interest unless it poses a direct and immediate threat to his personal lifestyle.

Of course, no government has decided to carry out such an airlift, and none of the countries within easy range of North Korea has the chutzpah to lend us an airfield. Doug Shin and Norbert Vollertsen have tried using balloons to carry a few radios, but they are well aware that they are mostly delivering media attention. Another quixotic idea that Doug Shin has discussed–and which I believe could actually work on a limited basis–would be using simple, inexpensive, GPS-guided UAVs to carry substantial amounts of humanitarian supplies to specific destinations. Other organizations, like Helping Hands Korea, smuggle small amounts of food into North Korea from China.

It is a tragedy that North Korea’s heartlessness has forced us to this point. But it’s inexcusable that we have no plan to help the North Korean people in spite of this.

Continue Reading

There Must Be a Better Way

Advocates of getting tough on North Korea over food aid are getting their way. Donations are down, and the World Food Program is cutting back the list of those who will be fed this year. The problem, of course, is that the food wasn’t going to the hungry; most of it probably went to help Kim Jong-Il reward those who keep him in power. Still, some must have found its way to those who needed it, even if only through the black market. The decision is agonizing. Aid or no aid, this winter, many North Koreans will expend what little energy they have hacking away at the frozen earth to bury people they love.

All of which brings us to the bitter truth–Kim Jong-Il probably wants a few thousand (or million) more “surplus” people to die this winter–that is, those in the classes deemed politically “wavering” or “hostile.” Why, then, must we recognize the North Korean government’s right to decide who eats and who starves? Why must we accept the classic U.N.-think that invests all rights in governments, no matter how illegitimate, no matter how lacking in the consent of the governed or compassion for their suffering?

The question then becomes how to save lives without starting a war. Chris at FreeNorthKorea.net correctly notes that feeding people without the permission of the government means you need an airlift. No one is under any illusion that you can save many people without the heavy-lift capacity of an air force. Could this be done without provoking a war? Put differently, the question is whether Kim Jong-Il, knowing that war means the loss of his pleasure squad, his fine brandy, and his collection of Daffy Duck cartoons, would see a humanitarian airdrop as a causus belli. I venture that he would not. What he lacks in compassion for those who would die in a war, he makes up for in cold, rational selfishness. War is not in his personal interest unless it poses a direct and immediate threat to his personal lifestyle.

Of course, no government has decided to carry out such an airlift, and none of the countries within easy range of North Korea has the chutzpah to lend us an airfield. Doug Shin and Norbert Vollertsen have tried using balloons to carry a few radios, but they are well aware that they are mostly delivering media attention. Another quixotic idea that Doug Shin has discussed–and which I believe could actually work on a limited basis–would be using simple, inexpensive, GPS-guided UAVs to carry substantial amounts of humanitarian supplies to specific destinations. Other organizations, like Helping Hands Korea, smuggle small amounts of food into North Korea from China.

It is a tragedy that North Korea’s heartlessness has forced us to this point. But it’s inexcusable that we have no plan to help the North Korean people in spite of this.

Continue Reading

(De)Nile River Flows Through South Korea–Who Knew?

Today, the Korea Times carried this story; a popular South Korean actress is embarking on a guided tour of North Korea, complete with state chaperones–sorry, journalists. The subject of this prop-a-mentary? North Korean food. Once you can watch the North Korean government talk about cooking skills with a straight face, you have officially been swept away by the currents of denial. So while South Korea gulps down more of North Korea’s Kool-Aid about the bounty of North Korea’s feast, four million of Kim Jong-Il’s less-favorite subjects are starting another long, hungry winter. Amnesty International isn’t fooled by the apparent inconsistency here. Quite obviously, it’s no accident that in North Korea, some people live very well, while others don’t live through the winter. Thanks to Chris at freenorthkorea.net for bringing this to light.

Continue Reading

(De)Nile River Flows Through South Korea–Who Knew?

Today, the Korea Times carried this story; a popular South Korean actress is embarking on a guided tour of North Korea, complete with state chaperones–sorry, journalists. The subject of this prop-a-mentary? North Korean food. Once you can watch the North Korean government talk about cooking skills with a straight face, you have officially been swept away by the currents of denial. So while South Korea gulps down more of North Korea’s Kool-Aid about the bounty of North Korea’s feast, four million of Kim Jong-Il’s less-favorite subjects are starting another long, hungry winter. Amnesty International isn’t fooled by the apparent inconsistency here. Quite obviously, it’s no accident that in North Korea, some people live very well, while others don’t live through the winter. Thanks to Chris at freenorthkorea.net for bringing this to light.

Continue Reading

(De)Nile River Flows Through South Korea–Who Knew?

Today, the Korea Times carried this story; a popular South Korean actress is embarking on a guided tour of North Korea, complete with state chaperones–sorry, journalists. The subject of this prop-a-mentary? North Korean food. Once you can watch the North Korean government talk about cooking skills with a straight face, you have officially been swept away by the currents of denial. So while South Korea gulps down more of North Korea’s Kool-Aid about the bounty of North Korea’s feast, four million of Kim Jong-Il’s less-favorite subjects are starting another long, hungry winter. Amnesty International isn’t fooled by the apparent inconsistency here. Quite obviously, it’s no accident that in North Korea, some people live very well, while others don’t live through the winter. Thanks to Chris at freenorthkorea.net for bringing this to light.

Continue Reading

A Crackpot Conspiracy Theory Goes Mainstream

My main site is still one of the first to accuse North Korea of falsely declaring a famine to cover up its political cleansing of its own population. Others are now joining in this stunning conclusion. Amnesty International is now accusing North Korea of depriving those in the “wavering” and “hostile” classes of food. Those caught stealing food are shot in front of schoolchildren. It’s a chilling read, but not a new tactic. Stalin killed ten million unwanted people the very same way in the 1930s. It’s all documented in Robert Conquest’s Harvest of Sorrow. Of course, inquiring minds have been wondering why North Korea had ten consecutive years of unprecedented natural disasters, every one of which somehow either missed or barely grazed South Korea.

Continue Reading

Guess Chosun Ilbo Won’t Print This One!

The Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s largest newspaper, has gone out of the business of printing angry letters from angry Americans–that much is apparent if you scroll through its “letters” page. In spite of the paper’s “conservative” reputation, it has not gone out of the business of printing columns taking unfair digs against the United States. This column by Kim Dae-Joong (similar name, different guy, no relation) blames the breakdown in the U.S.-Korea relationship on American “callousness.” I served three tours and four years in Korea, all voluntary, so I felt the need to respond. Since they won’t publish it, I will:

**************
The general theme of Kim Dae-Joong’s recent column, America Is Changing, Too, was correct; Korea has chosen to be “independent” of the United States, and the manner in which South Korea made that choice has made it a certainty by alienating the American people. But Mr. Kim then makes the stunning accusation that the deterioration of the U.S.-Korean alliance is the result of American “callousness” and self-interest. On the contrary, we are paring back the alliance because we can see that Korea does not want it, and because we do not wish to impose it. I wonder if Mr. Kim can answer the following questions, which have been on many American minds lately:

1. Why do Koreans consider the United States–which has wanted to withdraw its forces since the 1970s–to be a greater threat to them than North Korea, which keeps a million-man army and a forest of artillery just north of Seoul? Are they not intimidated by its admitted possession of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, its infiltration tunnels, its missiles, or its vast network of concentration camps, which hold 200,000 people today? Isn’t it at least slightly scary to live next to a country that sets boxes of newborn babies in the cold to die, tests biological weapons on female prisoners, kills Christians by pouring molten iron over them, and shoots people in front of young children for stealing food? How can you seek common ground with Kim Jong-Il after he starved two million of his people to death and forced his people to resort to cannibalism to survive, all while he diverted millions of dollars and tons of food aid to his military and his luxurious lifestyle? What kind of mind can forgive this? Or ignore it? Or deny it, in the face of all the evidence? (click here for more links to published stories on these topics)

2. Koguryo is dead; 300,000 North Korean refugees in China are still suffering. Why do the same South Koreans who fly into a rage over Koguryo display complete apathy when China sends thousands of refugees back to a living hell (and probable death) in North Korea, or when it imprisons brave South Koreans like Choi Bong-Il for trying to help them?

3. Why does South Korea unleash its bitterest emotional bile on a country that gave up 34,000 young lives and billions of dollars to make it free and prosperous? Have South Koreans forgotten that the United States saved the life of Kim Dae Jung three times–once from North Korea, and twice from South Korea itself?

4. Why was America called a capitalist exploiter when the IMF bailed out South Korea’s economy in 1997, but demanded the adoption of basic sound economic and accounting practices? Did Korea realize that although the money was mostly American, the man in charge was French? Why is South Korea not a capitalist exploiter for moving its factories to North Korea, where workers earn just a few cents an hour, can’t organize unions, can’t even think about demanding more pay or better working conditions, and would probably be shot for breathing the word “strike?”

5. Does Korea expect us to subject our soldiers to trials in a legal system that even Koreans know is primitive, corrupt, politicized, and unfair? Do Koreans think our government fails to realize that Korean police torture suspects, even to death on occasion? Don’t South Koreans think they deserve such rights as the right to trial by jury, the right to competent legal representation, the right to confront and cross-examine a witness in court, or the right of a defense counsel to at least see the prosecution’s files before trial? Are these simply “Western” values, and if so, then why is Japan considering adopting them? Do Koreans expect us to believe that the same judges who express “understanding” for violent attacks on our military bases can give our soldiers a fair trial? What about the fact that in Korea, it’s perfectly legal for many businesses not to allow Americans through their doors, or even to put “No Americans Allowed” signs in their windows? Or the fact that those who stab, spit on, or attack our soldiers on the streets are seldom prosecuted? Which part of this suggests that our soldiers will be treated fairly in your legal system? (webmaster’s note: I spent four years as an Army judge advocate in Korea, both as a prosecutor and defense attorney; I interacted extensively with the Korean legal systems, and to a lesser extent, the Japanese system.)

5. Why do Koreans have the right to burn our flag, particularly just before an election, but risk arrest if they burn the North Korean flag? Why restrict the right to burn either one? Why does South Korea ban publications that criticize Kim Jong-Il? Why did its police join forces with both pro-North Korean thugs and North Korean secret police (masquerading as journalists) to beat and arrest Norbert Vollertsen, who tried to peacefully protest the horrific human rights situation in the North? Is that a preview of the new vision for unification?

6. Why does the value of human life increase so dramatically when there is an American to blame? Why does a tragic accident that cost two lives bring angry mobs into the streets, while Koreans remain ignorant, apathetic, or endlessly forgiving of the fact that North Korea starved two million of its own people to death? Where were the angry mobs after the first million died, and when the second million could have been saved? Where are they now, when they could still save the third million, or the fourth? Why do dozens of South Korean accident victims go unnoticed by the media every week, unless the driver of the other vehicle is American?

7. Why does Korea accuse us of being a colonial occupier at one moment and plead for us to keep our troops there the next?

8. Why should we suffer this expense, discrimination, violence, abuse, and hate for the sake of South Korea’s tax rates, share prices, and investment climate?

The problem with America’s perception of South Korea is not callousness; it is an excess of love for our soldiers and compassion for the suffering people of North Korea. It is fatigue that our sacrifices have earned no appreciation and much inexplicable hatred. It is confusion that you can ignore, dismiss, or forgive the hellish crimes being perpetrated against your northern countrymen today, and which openly wishes to devour you tomorrow. It is, ultimately, the realization that we were never working from a single, common set of values. Americans cannot understand the illogical double standards that favor the most repressive regime on earth over South Korea’s most loyal benefactor. Like an adolescent who has lived too long in his father’s basement, South Korea needs to become independent to learn to make sound decisions with the knowledge that bad ones will have real consequences. We do not wish for Seoul to become Kim Il Sung City, but we have realized that Korea will not mature until it assumes responsibility for itself.

Joshua Stanton
Washington, D.C.

Continue Reading

A Crackpot Conspiracy Theory Goes Mainstream

My main site is still one of the first to accuse North Korea of falsely declaring a famine to cover up its political cleansing of its own population. Others are now joining in this stunning conclusion. Amnesty International is now accusing North Korea of depriving those in the “wavering” and “hostile” classes of food. Those caught stealing food are shot in front of schoolchildren. It’s a chilling read, but not a new tactic. Stalin killed ten million unwanted people the very same way in the 1930s. It’s all documented in Robert Conquest’s Harvest of Sorrow. Of course, inquiring minds have been wondering why North Korea had ten consecutive years of unprecedented natural disasters, every one of which somehow either missed or barely grazed South Korea.

Continue Reading

Guess Chosun Ilbo Won’t Print This One!

The Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s largest newspaper, has gone out of the business of printing angry letters from angry Americans–that much is apparent if you scroll through its “letters” page. In spite of the paper’s “conservative” reputation, it has not gone out of the business of printing columns taking unfair digs against the United States. This column by Kim Dae-Joong (similar name, different guy, no relation) blames the breakdown in the U.S.-Korea relationship on American “callousness.” I served three tours and four years in Korea, all voluntary, so I felt the need to respond. Since they won’t publish it, I will:

**************
The general theme of Kim Dae-Joong’s recent column, America Is Changing, Too, was correct; Korea has chosen to be “independent” of the United States, and the manner in which South Korea made that choice has made it a certainty by alienating the American people. But Mr. Kim then makes the stunning accusation that the deterioration of the U.S.-Korean alliance is the result of American “callousness” and self-interest. On the contrary, we are paring back the alliance because we can see that Korea does not want it, and because we do not wish to impose it. I wonder if Mr. Kim can answer the following questions, which have been on many American minds lately:

1. Why do Koreans consider the United States–which has wanted to withdraw its forces since the 1970s–to be a greater threat to them than North Korea, which keeps a million-man army and a forest of artillery just north of Seoul? Are they not intimidated by its admitted possession of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, its infiltration tunnels, its missiles, or its vast network of concentration camps, which hold 200,000 people today? Isn’t it at least slightly scary to live next to a country that sets boxes of newborn babies in the cold to die, tests biological weapons on female prisoners, kills Christians by pouring molten iron over them, and shoots people in front of young children for stealing food? How can you seek common ground with Kim Jong-Il after he starved two million of his people to death and forced his people to resort to cannibalism to survive, all while he diverted millions of dollars and tons of food aid to his military and his luxurious lifestyle? What kind of mind can forgive this? Or ignore it? Or deny it, in the face of all the evidence? (click here for more links to published stories on these topics)

2. Koguryo is dead; 300,000 North Korean refugees in China are still suffering. Why do the same South Koreans who fly into a rage over Koguryo display complete apathy when China sends thousands of refugees back to a living hell (and probable death) in North Korea, or when it imprisons brave South Koreans like Choi Bong-Il for trying to help them?

3. Why does South Korea unleash its bitterest emotional bile on a country that gave up 34,000 young lives and billions of dollars to make it free and prosperous? Have South Koreans forgotten that the United States saved the life of Kim Dae Jung three times–once from North Korea, and twice from South Korea itself?

4. Why was America called a capitalist exploiter when the IMF bailed out South Korea’s economy in 1997, but demanded the adoption of basic sound economic and accounting practices? Did Korea realize that although the money was mostly American, the man in charge was French? Why is South Korea not a capitalist exploiter for moving its factories to North Korea, where workers earn just a few cents an hour, can’t organize unions, can’t even think about demanding more pay or better working conditions, and would probably be shot for breathing the word “strike?”

5. Does Korea expect us to subject our soldiers to trials in a legal system that even Koreans know is primitive, corrupt, politicized, and unfair? Do Koreans think our government fails to realize that Korean police torture suspects, even to death on occasion? Don’t South Koreans think they deserve such rights as the right to trial by jury, the right to competent legal representation, the right to confront and cross-examine a witness in court, or the right of a defense counsel to at least see the prosecution’s files before trial? Are these simply “Western” values, and if so, then why is Japan considering adopting them? Do Koreans expect us to believe that the same judges who express “understanding” for violent attacks on our military bases can give our soldiers a fair trial? What about the fact that in Korea, it’s perfectly legal for many businesses not to allow Americans through their doors, or even to put “No Americans Allowed” signs in their windows? Or the fact that those who stab, spit on, or attack our soldiers on the streets are seldom prosecuted? Which part of this suggests that our soldiers will be treated fairly in your legal system? (webmaster’s note: I spent four years as an Army judge advocate in Korea, both as a prosecutor and defense attorney; I interacted extensively with the Korean legal systems, and to a lesser extent, the Japanese system.)

5. Why do Koreans have the right to burn our flag, particularly just before an election, but risk arrest if they burn the North Korean flag? Why restrict the right to burn either one? Why does South Korea ban publications that criticize Kim Jong-Il? Why did its police join forces with both pro-North Korean thugs and North Korean secret police (masquerading as journalists) to beat and arrest Norbert Vollertsen, who tried to peacefully protest the horrific human rights situation in the North? Is that a preview of the new vision for unification?

6. Why does the value of human life increase so dramatically when there is an American to blame? Why does a tragic accident that cost two lives bring angry mobs into the streets, while Koreans remain ignorant, apathetic, or endlessly forgiving of the fact that North Korea starved two million of its own people to death? Where were the angry mobs after the first million died, and when the second million could have been saved? Where are they now, when they could still save the third million, or the fourth? Why do dozens of South Korean accident victims go unnoticed by the media every week, unless the driver of the other vehicle is American?

7. Why does Korea accuse us of being a colonial occupier at one moment and plead for us to keep our troops there the next?

8. Why should we suffer this expense, discrimination, violence, abuse, and hate for the sake of South Korea’s tax rates, share prices, and investment climate?

The problem with America’s perception of South Korea is not callousness; it is an excess of love for our soldiers and compassion for the suffering people of North Korea. It is fatigue that our sacrifices have earned no appreciation and much inexplicable hatred. It is confusion that you can ignore, dismiss, or forgive the hellish crimes being perpetrated against your northern countrymen today, and which openly wishes to devour you tomorrow. It is, ultimately, the realization that we were never working from a single, common set of values. Americans cannot understand the illogical double standards that favor the most repressive regime on earth over South Korea’s most loyal benefactor. Like an adolescent who has lived too long in his father’s basement, South Korea needs to become independent to learn to make sound decisions with the knowledge that bad ones will have real consequences. We do not wish for Seoul to become Kim Il Sung City, but we have realized that Korea will not mature until it assumes responsibility for itself.

Joshua Stanton
Washington, D.C.

Continue Reading

Guess Chosun Ilbo Won’t Print This One!

The Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s largest newspaper, has gone out of the business of printing angry letters from angry Americans–that much is apparent if you scroll through its “letters” page. In spite of the paper’s “conservative” reputation, it has not gone out of the business of printing columns taking unfair digs against the United States. This column by Kim Dae-Joong (similar name, different guy, no relation) blames the breakdown in the U.S.-Korea relationship on American “callousness.” I served three tours and four years in Korea, all voluntary, so I felt the need to respond. Since they won’t publish it, I will:

**************
The general theme of Kim Dae-Joong’s recent column, America Is Changing, Too, was correct; Korea has chosen to be “independent” of the United States, and the manner in which South Korea made that choice has made it a certainty by alienating the American people. But Mr. Kim then makes the stunning accusation that the deterioration of the U.S.-Korean alliance is the result of American “callousness” and self-interest. On the contrary, we are paring back the alliance because we can see that Korea does not want it, and because we do not wish to impose it. I wonder if Mr. Kim can answer the following questions, which have been on many American minds lately:

1. Why do Koreans consider the United States–which has wanted to withdraw its forces since the 1970s–to be a greater threat to them than North Korea, which keeps a million-man army and a forest of artillery just north of Seoul? Are they not intimidated by its admitted possession of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, its infiltration tunnels, its missiles, or its vast network of concentration camps, which hold 200,000 people today? Isn’t it at least slightly scary to live next to a country that sets boxes of newborn babies in the cold to die, tests biological weapons on female prisoners, kills Christians by pouring molten iron over them, and shoots people in front of young children for stealing food? How can you seek common ground with Kim Jong-Il after he starved two million of his people to death and forced his people to resort to cannibalism to survive, all while he diverted millions of dollars and tons of food aid to his military and his luxurious lifestyle? What kind of mind can forgive this? Or ignore it? Or deny it, in the face of all the evidence? (click here for more links to published stories on these topics)

2. Koguryo is dead; 300,000 North Korean refugees in China are still suffering. Why do the same South Koreans who fly into a rage over Koguryo display complete apathy when China sends thousands of refugees back to a living hell (and probable death) in North Korea, or when it imprisons brave South Koreans like Choi Bong-Il for trying to help them?

3. Why does South Korea unleash its bitterest emotional bile on a country that gave up 34,000 young lives and billions of dollars to make it free and prosperous? Have South Koreans forgotten that the United States saved the life of Kim Dae Jung three times–once from North Korea, and twice from South Korea itself?

4. Why was America called a capitalist exploiter when the IMF bailed out South Korea’s economy in 1997, but demanded the adoption of basic sound economic and accounting practices? Did Korea realize that although the money was mostly American, the man in charge was French? Why is South Korea not a capitalist exploiter for moving its factories to North Korea, where workers earn just a few cents an hour, can’t organize unions, can’t even think about demanding more pay or better working conditions, and would probably be shot for breathing the word “strike?”

5. Does Korea expect us to subject our soldiers to trials in a legal system that even Koreans know is primitive, corrupt, politicized, and unfair? Do Koreans think our government fails to realize that Korean police torture suspects, even to death on occasion? Don’t South Koreans think they deserve such rights as the right to trial by jury, the right to competent legal representation, the right to confront and cross-examine a witness in court, or the right of a defense counsel to at least see the prosecution’s files before trial? Are these simply “Western” values, and if so, then why is Japan considering adopting them? Do Koreans expect us to believe that the same judges who express “understanding” for violent attacks on our military bases can give our soldiers a fair trial? What about the fact that in Korea, it’s perfectly legal for many businesses not to allow Americans through their doors, or even to put “No Americans Allowed” signs in their windows? Or the fact that those who stab, spit on, or attack our soldiers on the streets are seldom prosecuted? Which part of this suggests that our soldiers will be treated fairly in your legal system? (webmaster’s note: I spent four years as an Army judge advocate in Korea, both as a prosecutor and defense attorney; I interacted extensively with the Korean legal systems, and to a lesser extent, the Japanese system.)

5. Why do Koreans have the right to burn our flag, particularly just before an election, but risk arrest if they burn the North Korean flag? Why restrict the right to burn either one? Why does South Korea ban publications that criticize Kim Jong-Il? Why did its police join forces with both pro-North Korean thugs and North Korean secret police (masquerading as journalists) to beat and arrest Norbert Vollertsen, who tried to peacefully protest the horrific human rights situation in the North? Is that a preview of the new vision for unification?

6. Why does the value of human life increase so dramatically when there is an American to blame? Why does a tragic accident that cost two lives bring angry mobs into the streets, while Koreans remain ignorant, apathetic, or endlessly forgiving of the fact that North Korea starved two million of its own people to death? Where were the angry mobs after the first million died, and when the second million could have been saved? Where are they now, when they could still save the third million, or the fourth? Why do dozens of South Korean accident victims go unnoticed by the media every week, unless the driver of the other vehicle is American?

7. Why does Korea accuse us of being a colonial occupier at one moment and plead for us to keep our troops there the next?

8. Why should we suffer this expense, discrimination, violence, abuse, and hate for the sake of South Korea’s tax rates, share prices, and investment climate?

The problem with America’s perception of South Korea is not callousness; it is an excess of love for our soldiers and compassion for the suffering people of North Korea. It is fatigue that our sacrifices have earned no appreciation and much inexplicable hatred. It is confusion that you can ignore, dismiss, or forgive the hellish crimes being perpetrated against your northern countrymen today, and which openly wishes to devour you tomorrow. It is, ultimately, the realization that we were never working from a single, common set of values. Americans cannot understand the illogical double standards that favor the most repressive regime on earth over South Korea’s most loyal benefactor. Like an adolescent who has lived too long in his father’s basement, South Korea needs to become independent to learn to make sound decisions with the knowledge that bad ones will have real consequences. We do not wish for Seoul to become Kim Il Sung City, but we have realized that Korea will not mature until it assumes responsibility for itself.

Joshua Stanton
Washington, D.C.

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A Marmot in the Ghetto

No, not really, but it fits nicely into an exchange I’ve had with The Marmot over which of us has the goofier conspiracy theory (his, mine) or links to the more dubious stories about what’s going on in North Korea these days. I say we both lose, but I think I’m having more fun. Me, I’m not worthy of journalistic angst. I don’t link stuff I think is crap, I just link stuff I think will interest the readers and stimulate thought.

Oh, and I’m pretty open about my agenda.

There’s no denying that both of us have caved in to the temptation of Kremlinology, and we’re both probably one unnamed source away from bending the trajectory of Oswald’s bullet again. At this post, I kidded Marmot for suggesting that the CIA was behind some of the reports. Now, he’s not promoting his theory as fact anymore than I am with mine, but he takes me to task for calling some of the reports out of NoKo “reasonably credible,” notwithstanding my weasel-word (no pleasing some people!). Here’s what Marmot says:

I’m not sure if much of what we’ve been reading so far can be fairly characterized as “reasonably credible.” I mean, it MIGHT be credible, but given some of the sources — defectors, the Japanese press (the Sankei in particular), Cho Gap-je and the Wolgan Chosun (or the regular Chosun, for that matter, which tends to reprint stories run in the Sankei), nameless sources in China, etc. — credibility questions do come into play. Don’t get me wrong — I’d like to believe some of the stuff coming out of North Korea as of late is true. Some of it certainly is — the removal of the portraits has been confirmed, even by North Korea itself (even if it later went back on this admission). Some of the other stuff, well, I just don’t know. Ultimately, you are right of, course — this is ultimately Kim’s fault for running a complete information block..

As for this being all CIA and stuff, again, I don’t think it all is. Some of the stories are probably legit, and some of the ones that aren’t might be just the Japanese and Korean press being the Japanese and Korean press. I do get the feeling though that some of the stuff coming out is being manufactured/spun in a way that’s not accidental, and should that be the case, I’d have no problem with that at all. The North Koreans play mind games all the time, especially with the South Koreans, and if the CIA were playing “spook the Nork,” more power to them. If creative story telling starts planting doubts in the minds of the North Korean leadership as to their own stability and/or gives some NPA officers the belief that KJI could be taken out, well, tell away. ““The Marmot

Fair enough. His subtitles read, “He’s guessing,” and so do mine. We’re both guessing because we can’t not guess, and of course, we can’t actually verify any of this stuff. But guess we do:

Hey–me too! And he’s not representing this as fact, so all it does is get a good discussion going.

Reasonably credible? Depends on the context. Let’s back away and look at this story in its own context. We’re Korea bloggers, which means we do this stuff from our homes in our hamboks (rather than pajamas). We report a little, but mostly, we comment on what others report. This is a story about what’s happening in North Korea, which means (1) it’s of interest to our readers, who can click the links and judge for themselves, and (2) we’re not talking about a courthouse in Modesto, so ironclad confirmation isn’t coming. We still don’t know what happened in Ryongchon. We have what we have, which is a lot of mostly unverifiable Kremlinology we’re feeding to fairly sophisticated consumers. The consumers of this blog, for example, include folks who’ve been to North Korea fairly recently and were able to largely discredit the story about the Kim Jong Il pins. The blogosphere is a big, happy, dysfunctional, self-correcting family.

And then again, there are some things about this story that most people would consider credible enough to print:

1. The before/after pictures, with “after” having no KJI.

2. The reports of foreign diplomats, including one who went on the record. Admittedly, other travelers saw nothing unusual, but that’s the old “absence of evidence v. evidence of absence” argument.

3. There is something to be said for cumulativeness. Could it be an excellent example of the “Big Lie” theory in action? Maybe, but a lot of different sources telling (hopefully) competent reporters the same thing enough times gives the proposed fact more weight.

Back to speculating on the facts–there’s also a sense of fair play here. The New York Times is speculating. All the papers are speculating. Why not us, too? Just because we’re smart enough not to believe most of it doesn’t mean we should deprive ourselves the pleasure of positing credible theories and sticking on the appropriate warning labels. I say embrace the pleasure, just don’t embrace any of the swirling theories any longer than you’d embrace the Chinese ambassador’s trophy wife at the big embassy dance.

A bookI kid Marmot (What ever possessed him to choose that name?) for his CIA conspiracy theory while openly hoping that it’s true. In fact, his theory and my favorite-by-a-nose–and neither of us is representing them as anything more than that–are not mutually exclusive. What I don’t like about his theory is that some of the reports do indeed appear to be true, plus the fact that this is also the mainstream Pyongyang version.

What I do like about it is that sowing panic can work wonders against closed regimes. My favorite “panic and rumor” story takes place in Buon Me Thout, South Vietnam, in 1975. The North Vietnamese Army started its dry season offensive with an attack on the city, a dirty little town set in beautiful hill country near the Cambodian border–still, I’ll always have an affectionate memory of any town that reeks of plump sacks of inky black coffee as much as Pyongtaek reeked of decomposing brine shrimp–the SVN government decided to announce an “orderly strategic pullback” to more defensible areas. That made military sense, but at the time, the SVN press was tightly controlled and widely distrusted, and rumors spread like grassfires. Worse, the ARVN troops all had their families with them. “Strategic retreat” became “panic, rout, massacre, and collapse” almost instantly.

You know how that one ended, right?

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North Korean Human Rights Symposium

북한인권
왜 중요한가? 의미가
무엇인가?

어떻게 북한 인권상황을 개선할수 있을것인가
북한 인권에 관한 국제 심포지엄
11월27일 (토) 9:30- 16:30
연세대학교 새천년관(국제학대학원)대강당

참가신청 및 문의 linkseoul@gmail.com 02-732-6710
알림

링크LiNK (Liberation in North Korea)와 남북자유민주청년회는 “˜ë¶í•œ 인권에 관한국제 심포지엄’을주최하며, 한국의시민단체와대학생들을초청합니다.

이번 행사는 27일하루동안에 북한문제를 전문적으로연구하는 전문가들,북한의 상황에 관심이있는 운동가, 그리고북한 정치범 수용소출신 탈북자들과북한, 남한, 미국, 중국유학생 등을초청하여 발표와토론의 형식으로진행됩니다.

이번 행사의참여단체로는세계시민기구,정토회, 좋은벗들,북한인권시민연합,북한인권정보센터,북한민주화운동본부와 “˜í‰í™”포럼’ 등이있습니다.

세부계획

10:30 기조 연설: 곽영훈평화 운동가/수석건축가- 서울 올림픽공원, 올림픽 경기장,올림픽 평화의 불, DMZ 통일평화시 설계

Part I: 북한 인권 위기에대한 증언

11:00 북한의 기아:좋은벗들강제 노동 수용소증언: 강철환(북한민주화운동본부)탈북자: 김상헌 TIME Asian Hero 2003(북한인권정보센터이사장)

Part II: 북한 인권위기에의 대응

1:30 토론회: 북한인권의의미와 접근방법토론자:자유민주남북청년회박일환 대표원재천 교수 (한동대국제법율대학원)북한인권시민연합참여연대 박정은 간사좋은벗들; 이승용평화인권부장

3:00 북한인권을 위한국제대학생 연대LiNK (미국, 캐나다, 영국의대학생 모임)대표 Adrian Hong (예일대학생)자유민주남북청년회(북한의 자유를 위한남북한 대학생모임)대표 박일환 (고려대법학과 탈북자)

4:00 Seoul Train 서울 기차 상영(한글자막)중국에서 고생하는탈북자의 모습을 다룬다큐멘터리

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