March 23, 2007
The North Korea riddle

This site has many clever readers. So I have a puzzle that needs explaining: why is North Korea so fixated over the US$25 million sitting in a Macanese bank? I understand that on principle they want their money back etc., but the Yanks have basically said they can have it and are working through the motions. So why did the Norks walk out of the latest nuclear talks, embarassing themselves and more importantly China too? Is the place that desperate for foreign exchange that US$25 million makes all the difference? Is it a trust issue? Or is it simply pretext?

Outside of the obvious observation that the Norks are not rational, any other explanations?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 14:24
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March 08, 2007
Fake is the new real

While the US Secret Service spends its time fighting counterfiet notes, Justin Mitchell and Catherine Jiang easily find Noth Korean Supernotes, buy one and find out who's better at telling fake from real: man or machine?

A good read.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 18:52
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October 28, 2006
When China Got the Bomb, 1964

It seems that in this hour of fear, when the last remaining Marxist-Leninist autocracy has gotten the bomb, that we may want to revisit the history books to see the justifications the last time such a state exploded one. This link I found illuminating and puts the geopolitics against America into perspective.

I think of course there are differences between China and North Korea in their motivations for getting the bomb - but perhaps what has changed more in the last 42 years is the United States. From a country that grimly accepted the possibility of apocalyptic nuclear disaster during the Cold War, the US would certainly not entertain any such cataclysm being a potential scenario resulting from escalation with North Korea, probably not even if it did not take place in its own country.

Does the phrase 'paper tiger', written by a Maoist hand in 1964 with reference to the deterrent power of the US nuclear arsenal still have relevance today, when North Korea is prepared to suffer losses of its people and the US is not? I wonder.

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[boomerang] Posted by HK Dave at 19:16
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September 12, 2006
Korean notes

There's three observations I have to make about Korea:

1. Everyone and everything smells of garlic.

2. At lunch today I delicately brought up the topic of North Korea, especially given it is about 4 minutes missle time from downtown Seoul. My Korean counterpart told me that most South Koreans aren't worried about the North doing anything "stupid" because that "wouldn't make sense", "why would they ruin something so successful as here" and finally that "Koreans don't hurt Koreans". When I pointed out that plenty of Koreans (and Chinese) hurt plenty of Koreans (and Americans) and vice versa, that was batted away with "it's just not logical for the North to do anything to the South. They don't like America, not us." I asked if this implied that Kim Jong Il is rational and logical? My friend simply smiled and repeated that it wouldn't happen. I don't want to extrapolate one person's view to an entire country - I wonder if this is a popular viewpoint in Korea? And if so, what the hell are they smoking here?

3. Eagle FM, the US armed forces radio network, had a station break where I think I heard the announcer say "It doesn't matter if you're Navy, Air Force, Marine or Army, sometimes civilians have to realise we can blast the f#ck out of them." I'm really hoping I didn't hear that properly.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 17:12
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June 15, 2006
Rumpus About Spicy Food

Fare thee well friends, co-contributor to HK Dave has been caught in temporal limbo. My body clock, despite my valiant attempts to resist it by succumbing to influenza, etc, is now gradually settling into Central European Time thanks to the feast of football available.

Now as my wife is Korean, I have a great deal of sympathy for the Korean team. This was magnified tenfold by the incredible welcome I got from the citizens of Cheju as I was visitor there at the last World Cup. I was therefore on the Seoul Times website looking for interesting stories about the football. And that's when I stumbled upon the picture (faintly NSFW).

The caption for the picture accompanying this article purports to be about spicy Sichuan cuisine offered up at the Seoul Hilton's Taipan restaurant.

I remember when reading James Clavell's Noble House, one character said that in Cantonese 'taipan' means 'brothel-keeper' instead of 'boss'. It seems appropriate - I knw Sichuan food is supposed to be spicy, but this seems to go entirely too far!

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[boomerang] Posted by HK Dave at 15:34
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January 13, 2006
KJI is in da 'hood

A bewildered community of Americans getting ready to adopt Chinese kids are unceremoniously kicked out of Guangzhou's White Swan Hotel for "an important meeting", namely the arrival (by train, most probably) of North Korea's Kim Jong Il. From an anonymous source, today KJI is in Shenzhen. The cover story they are using is a visit to some high tech factories, but that doesn't wash. Have you ever seen North Korea and high tech in the same sentence (this one excluded)? No, the Kimster is doing what everyone does in Shenzhen: he's stocking up on fake DVDs, perhaps a spot of golf (fake clubs included), some shopping for the concubines (Chloe fake handbags, Channel fake sunnies) and a "rest stop" at a karaoke bar.

Hong Kong kicks out 11 South Koreans yet we're so close to welcoming one North Korea. Does it make you wonder that KJI, fearful of flying, has journeyed so far south? And that he's so close to his alleged Macanese bankers but isn't visiting....

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 13:02
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November 24, 2005
Nothing to protest

"Trade blocs lower their sights still further for HK talks" screams the front page of the SCMP on the upcoming WTO* talks. Being a silver lining kind of city, we're told this is a good thing:

Key members of the World Trade Organisation have acknowledged they will be unable to agree on a framework for a trade liberalisation pact at next month's Hong Kong summit. They have only outlined a road map for concluding the current trade talks by the end of 2006.

Activists readying to stage protests at the six-day gathering said the leaders' acknowledgment meant demonstrations would not be as volatile as predicted..."It is obvious now that not much will be coming out from the summit. Everyone involved has adjusted their expectations. Since not much is going to happen in Hong Kong, protests will not be as heated as people had thought," one activist said.

Which hopefully means the idiots from the Korea Peasants' League will keep their arson kits for more home grown activities:
"Today the [South Korean] government declared a death sentence for 3.5 million farmers," said a joint statement from the Korea Peasants' League and six other farmers' unions. "We hereby declare an uncompromising struggle against the current government. and we will stage campaigns to stop foreign imported rice from entering our ports and set fire to foreign rice storage facilities."
This is in reaction to the passing of a slight liberalisation of Korean rice imports, raising the quota from 4% of comsumption to almost 8% in return for a 10 year grace period before liberalising imports completely. Some thanks. What a shame they won't be visiting us.

* Does WTO stand for Wanchai Take Over?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 08:53
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November 05, 2005
Translating North Korean

A great story from today's SCMP on the difficulties of translation and negotiations between the Americans and North Koreas, in an interview with senior State Department translator Tong Kim. These kind of pieces are invaluable in their first hand accounts of back room negotiations. Story below the jump:

With the North Koreans, translation is a minefield

Without an understanding of concepts like private property, commercial transactions and choice, how do you explain to a communist about renting office space in the US? The question sounds like the start of a joke in search of a punchline, but this conundrum faced Tong Kim during his 27 years as a senior translator with the US State Department. He has been party to some of the most sensitive negotiations between the US and communist North Korea.

The difficulties of his job were highlighted when representatives of the two countries discussed opening liaison offices in each other's capital. One US negotiator was tickled at the idea of a North Korean real estate agent pounding the streets of Washington in search of office space.

"Not only is there no transaction between people or between entities in North Korea, but no brokering system by real estate brokers. So this kind of stuff doesn't translate very well," Mr Kim said. "As an interpreter, you are meant to say what is said without adding. But once you know yourself that `this guy will have no idea what I am talking about', you have to give them almost a lecture."

For more than a decade, Mr Kim attended almost every high-level US-North Korea meeting. Since his retirement, he has ruffled feathers in Seoul and Washington by using his intimate knowledge of diplomatic proceedings between the two states to question the viability of an agreement reached at multilateral talks two months ago over Pyongyang's suspected nuclear weapons programme.

Mr Kim has described the statement of principles hammered out after three previously fruitless rounds as a "linguistic minefield", full of "hidden meanings and obfuscations".

According to the statement - agreed by the US, the two Koreas, China, Japan and Russia - North Korea has committed itself to "abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes". But Mr Kim says the verb pogi hada (to abandon) used in the Korean translation "can be interpreted to mean leaving the weapons in place rather than dismantling them".

"There are a lot stronger words than [abandonment], like dismantlement or elimination or removal. Why did we agree to a less clear term, such as abandonment? Only because that's the term North Korea insisted on adopting and everyone gave in. I think that's a reflection of the reality the US is facing in the context of the dynamics of the six-party talks," he said.

However, Mr Kim's tenure at the State Department had its own share of controversy - most notably, at the US-North Korea talks in October 2002 that sparked the existing standoff. After that meeting, US negotiators claimed North Korea had admitted to an enriched-uranium programme. The claims were subsequently rejected by Pyongyang, which declared its officials had said only that North Korea was "entitled" to pursue a nuclear weapons programme.

In the ensuing controversy, attention focused on the work of the translators, including Mr Kim. The veteran translator still believes North Korean officials admitted to pursuing an illegal and covert nuclear programme. But he also has criticisms of James Kelly, lead US negotiator.

"If I had been Jim Kelly that day, I would have said [to the North Koreans]: `This is what I heard. Is this what you meant?' This would have given the North Koreans a second chance to confirm. We didn't have it. The result: controversy."

The first of Mr Kim's numerous visits to North Korea were hardly less memorable. In 1991, he accompanied a delegation led by retired general Richard Stilwell. Even before the talks began, lead North Korean delegate Kim Young-nam, then foreign minister, almost stopped the meeting in its tracks with a reference to South Korea's long history of demonising the North Koreans.

"We just walked in. It was a big, big conference room with a wide table. There was Kim Young-nam. He was sitting there along with his aides. Then there was Stillwell and his colleagues, and me ... and Kim Young-nam began speaking to us, and his first sentence was: `Do you see horns on my head? Are my eyes red?"

According to Tong Kim, the North Korean leadership were sending a very clear message. "Later, what I thought he was saying was: `You don't understand about us. You're wrong about us, you've got to learn about us'."

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:24
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October 18, 2005
Axis of evil meets sin

British American Tobacco turns out to have a small cigarette factory in North Korea:

The world's second largest cigarette company British American Tobacco has been operating a secret factory in North Korea for the last four years, the U.K.’s Guardian daily reported Monday...With an initial investment of US$7.1 million, BAT owns 60 percent of the joint venture. BAT-Taesong employs around 200 North Koreans.
No word on the status of the Guardian's reporter on this story.

That aside, this has brilliant potential. Given North Korea's pariah status, why doesn't KJI turn into a centre of excellence...for sin. Casinos, alcohol, cigarettes, prostitution, drugs and any of the world's ills, all produced free of guilt.

Two wrongs don't make a right, but they might make a country.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:56
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October 16, 2005
The Perfect Nationalistic Tool

Abiola Lapite and Bill Poser gush over the linguistic value of Hangul, the Korean alphabet. I'm willing to give King Sejong, and his scholarly team, all the credit they deserve for both creating the alphabet and defending it against aristocratic reaction.

In 15th century Korea, as almost everywhere else in the world, literacy was restricted to a small elite - most people were illiterate. Furthermore, Korean society was extremely hierarchical. It consisted of three tiers, nobles, commoners, and slaves. It was almost impossible for a slave to become free, or for a commoner to become a noble. Until 1444, when King Sejong forbade the practice, a slave's owner had the right to kill him at whim.

The dominant ideology was Confucianism, a philosophy based on the relationships between ruler and subject, parent and child, older and younger, man and woman, and friend and friend, the first four of which are conceived as inherently unequal. Women could not inherit property. In short, 15th century Korea was a highly stratified society rigidly controlled by a small elite in which those who were not elite and not male had few rights.

Indeed, there was strong opposition to the introduction of Hangul on the part of King Sejong's court, so strong that they presented a memorial in opposition and debated with him verbally. The reasons they gave were in part that it was wrong to deviate from the Chinese way of doing things, and in part that such a simple writing system would lead to the loss of aristocratic privilege. Their motives may have been wrong, but they understood the effects of mass literacy all too well. After King Sejong's death, Hangul was very nearly suppressed. It took much longer to come into wide use than he had intended due to the opposition of the aristocracy.

I wouldn't call him a humanitarian, though. More like Machiavelli's legislator, King Sejong deserves ample credit for being a nationalist. His lead was not followed until the 20th Century, when the Korean language freed itself from Japan's colonial education policies. Also, Hangul is useless without Korean grammar and ocabulary, which is at least 50% Chinese. Despite documentaries played for local reinforcement where South Korean scholars teach indigenous people in some exotic location the magic of Hangul, Hangul is not Esperanto. Korean study still requires Chinese, and the grammar and regional dialects frustrate proficiency. But, Hangul has facilitated astoundingly widespread basic literacy in South Korea.

So, hail the great nationalist, King Sejong!

Cross-Posted at Barbarian Envoy

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[boomerang] Posted by Infidel at 11:12
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The Beauty Of Korean Horror

My wife and I watched a South Korean horror flick, Pink Shoes (Bunhongshin), last night. It's nothing to tout for a film festival award, but it did show how consistent South Korean movies have become technically. Moreover, what impressed me most was the strong female lead, a single mother, although a murderer, whose husband cheated on her, and who is, at least until the plot twists, divorced. Another feature is the inclusion of a Japanese villainess, which I suppose will be a stock feature of South Korean movies for decades to come.

The best way to find out about South Korean society, its gossipy details and controversies, in the same way science fiction and horror movies reveal western society's underbelly, is to watch these B horror movies. Although, like Japanese ones, South Korean horror movies employ stock features, like ghosts with long, face-obscuring hair floating over the ground, it's more common to see strong, unconventional female characters and controversial topics, like divorce, infidelity, and single parenthood, in these flicks than in mainstream romantic comedies. And, there's the therapeutic benefits of a good shock.

Cross-Posted at Barbarian Envoy

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[boomerang] Posted by Infidel at 10:45
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October 15, 2005
Dog Eat Dog

SFGate's Jeff Yang (via Foreign Dispatches' Abiola Lapite) puts as fair and humorous a spin on the East Asian penchant for dog cuisine as I've seen outside the blogosphere. Instead of indulge in relativistic discourse about boshintang and PETA protesters, a story from my wife during her morning hike up the mountain:

Old Woman: Where's your dog?

Wife: He's relaxing at home.

Old Woman (faltering voice): You didn't eat him, did you?

Wife: No! He's asleep!

Old Woman: Oh, good!

Going back to the previous post about South Koreans' supposedly xenophobic attitudes, the dog issue (and the plastic surgery shtick) would be reparable if South Koreans embraced globalization instead of resenting foreigners. If South Koreans tried to market their culture, say cuisine, the way the Chinese and Japanese industries have, perhaps Americans would have something more than bad, stock jokes to inflict upon South Koreans. I tell my students it's amazing how "sushi" and "sashimi" (and, I think, Korean-style sashimi, or "hwae", is superior) is so recognizable, but Koreans cannot even monopolize kimchi. When you can get a foreign culture to use your words instead of a translated word, you know you have done the job right.

Update: I just knew Marmot would have something to say about it, too.

Cross-Posted at Barbarian Envoy

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[boomerang] Posted by Infidel at 20:39
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October 13, 2005
The Korean Dimension

It's easy these days to feel despondent about US-ROK relations. Although the Roh administration cooled with ordinary tap water rhetoric surfacing from a left-right confrontation over MacArthur's statue at Incheon, it has returned to form with a request for operational command of ROK military forces from the USFK. It's not the idea, but the timing I find suspect. So soon after the 60th Anniversary of the DPRK, this looks like the Blue House is trying to give Pyongyang an appeasing gift. South Korean conservatives, too, appear particularly lame in rebuttal:

Taking back operational command may sound splendid, but the price we would pay is a fatal security risk. If the defense reform budget of W289 trillion (US$289 billion), is premised on the retrieval of operational control, the country will shoulder far greater costs than it needs, to pay for the phrase "independent armed force." If not, we have to be prepared for huge additional costs for the sake of retrieving operational control. Does the government feel that our national security and public finances are capacious enough to permit us to get drunk on a phrase?

According to Richard Halloran, USFK's relationship with South Korea is changing regardless of Seoul's perspective.

In addition, the headquarters of the Army in the Pacific is preparing to assume command of Army forces in South Korea, which are gradually being reduced and may eventually be largely withdrawn. Plans call for dismantling or shrinking the United Nations Command in Seoul that dates back to the Korean War that ended in 1953.

The Army also plans to transfer the Eighth Army headquarters from Seoul to Hawaii and to turn back to the South Koreans control of their forces commanded today by a joint U.S.-South Korea headquarters. The four-star American general's post in Seoul would move to Hawaii.

Military officers say this could happen by 2008 or any time after. The official line is that the threat from North Korea must lessen and stability come to the peninsula first. The unofficial betting is that rising anti-Americanism in Seoul will cause that move to be made more sooner than later.

Proving why economics is not the exact science it purports to be (and, shouldn't be), OFK scoops the Scoop Jackson Bill, a year-old US House relic having more to do with protectionist backlash against Beijing than sincere wishes for the human rights situation in North Korea. It will probably be folded into another trade bill.

Amid all this seriousness, is a cumulative accretion of shoulder-shrugging, head-shaking weirdness.

1. The Unification Baby

2. The Unification Minister NK Refugees Hate

But some leftists realize South Korea's human rights stance is wrong.

3. The 2005 Chinese Kimchi Scare

4. The Traitor (both Marmot and Lost Nomad express their disbelief)

Joshua at OFK also reports on the US House International Relations Committee hearings featuring Amabassador Christopher Hill. Aside from what is purported to be his stand on verification, the US Congress' perceptions of South Korea could lead to a collision with the White House. KJ also chimes in, about the Democrats:

If you start out with a discussion of key issues by saying simply the "depth of NK commitment" to denuclearization rather than concrete tangible far reaching steps toward such a denuclearization, you have so lowered the bar North Korea has to jump over to get significant amounts of what it wants, you are actually making future progress more difficult.

Fortunately, the House does not approve treaties. But, as with the afore-mentioned trade bill, it can cause problems elsewhere.

Finally, though, a slice of good news with the huge dollop of bile. Without reading (via Lost Nomad) the JoongAng Ilbo and the East Asia Institute poll questions, these results seem to indicate, that there are significant numbers of far-sighted South Koreans, even if elite opinion is pro-unification.

Views on North Korea have changed significantly, the survey said. In the past, South Koreans considered the North as temporarily off-limits national territory that should be reintegrated as soon as possible, the group studying the poll results said, and considered reunification the nation's major task. But this poll said that longing for unification is weakening; 78 percent of those surveyed said that the two Koreas are separate countries.

Two things leap to mind here. First, with ROK President Roh Moo-hyun's approval ratings so low, and North Korea such a prominent crutch in the progressives' dismal ruling performance, the poll could indicate support for other parties. Second, the Bush administration, as it has done admirably on the recent Islamic radicalism speech, needs to reframe the debate over North Korea, for South Koreans' benefit.

Cross-Posted at Barbarian Envoy

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[boomerang] Posted by Infidel at 19:48
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October 11, 2005
Kang Cheol Hwan talk notes

Cross-posted at Andrés Gentry.

On September 27 Kang Cheol Hwan gave a talk and question and answer session at the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at UCSD.  He spent 10 years in a concentration camp in North Korea and after escaping North Korea eventually became a journalist for the Chosun Ilbo.  He is on a speaking tour of the United States talking about conditions in North Korea as well as promoting his book, The Aquariums of Pyongyang.  His speaking tour is sponsered by LiNK (blog)and Freedom House.  I attended his talk and following are the notes I took.  Any errors are mine alone.

Professor Stephan Haggard

1.    Three issues

  • Prison system:  approximately 200,000 political prisoners which is approximately 1% of the population
  • Food: 1993 began famine, conditions have yet to ease substantially
  • Refugees
    • People moved to find food: north to China: 30,000 – 200,000 refugees

    • Has become more difficult in recent years

2.    Introduce speaker: Kang Cheol Hwan

  • At age 9 family was sent to political prison for 10 years
  • In 1992 escaped, now works for Chosun Ilbo as a journalist

Speaker: Kang Cheol Hwan: translator’s name unknown

1.    Escaped so as to reveal the concentration camps of DPRK
2.    When 1st went to China was surprised by its freedom

  • Even more surprised by ROK’s level of freedom

3.    DPRK government continues to educate its people that USA is a terrible country
4.    Has thought how to reveal truth of the outside world to North Koreans, to explain USA protects human rights
5.    Speaking tour is to explain how human rights are violated in DPRK
6.    “How come North Koreans don’t protest their conditions”: most common question he hears
7.    When visited Holocaust Museum in DC realized similarities between Holocaust and DPRK

  • Hitler, Stalin, DPRK: all had concentration camps
  • Kim Il Sung’s death: DPRK was supposed to change afterwards but it actually got worse under Kim Jung Il

8.    There are 6 concentration camps in DPRK
9.    His grandfather lived in Japan and returned: that is why his family was incarcerated
10.    Those who helped USA in Korean War and Christians imprisoned, even their grandchildren
11.    After 3 months in camp he nearly died of starvation
12.    Korea has good environment: people shouldn’t starve to death
13.    3 steps in malnourishment

  • 1st: skin around eyes peels off, belly gets big, becomes difficult to go to the bathroom
  • 2nd: try to eat anything: bugs, worms, snakes, mice

14.    Ate meat once in concentration camp: it was a mouse.  Children roasted it, it was the best food he’s ever had

  • Children would eat anything, adults didn’t and so starved

15.    In winter ground is frozen so graves are shallow.  In spring the bodies reemerge: thought if there is a hell then this is the place
16.    1966: DPRK went to World Cup quarterfinal

  • The day before the game they went to a bar and didn’t perform well the next day and lost.  When they returned to DPRK they were disappeared.  A famous player was sent to concentration camp.  In order to survive he ate all the bugs he could find.  He especially like cockroaches, hence his name “cockroach”.

17.    Public executions

  • DPRK still has them
  • 1998: Agriculture Secretary was executed: blamed for the mid-1990s famine: accused of collaborating with USA to make the famine
  • Executions happen every day in DPRK
  • In DPRK day before execution they are beaten
  • Before execution mouth is stuffed with cotton to prevent yelling, now rocks are stuffed in their mouths, breaking their teeth, because they still yelled against Kim Jong Il
  • North Koreans who always see this can’t think of protesting

18.    South Koreans who protested for freedom would not be able to do that in DPRK
19.    DPRK is not unique: Nazi Germany and USSR did the same

  • When totalitarianism and a single ruler exist then mass executions occur
  • But DPRK is currently the only country that kills masses of people

20.    ROK and international community don’t care about this problem
21.    No one saved Jews from Hitler’s concentration camps
22.    As a journalist, he still hears from DPRK but now it’s different then when he was there

  • Now the economy is totally collapsed
  • DPRK has no electricity: only one dot at night can be seen from space

23.    “Why is DPRK starving?”: he wants to answer that if North Koreans were given freedom they would find food
24.    International food didn’t save any North Koreans

  • Commoners get no food, only army
  • Army is approximately 1.5 million
    • Even with economic prosperity it would be hard to support so many soldiers

25.    Given current government, there is no way food aid will go to the common people

  • Even after 8 years of food aid: DPRK is just trying to rebuild the old system so people still die

26.    Instead should pressure for human rights instead of giving food aid
27.    Korean Peninsula and USA have special relationship
28.    38,000 US soldiers died in Korean War: This debt helped build up ROK economy
29.    He hopes DPRK soon gets freedom and good relationship with USA and human rights
30.    If American people get interested in human rights then their government will also be interested

Questions and Answers: translator: Adrian Hong: Executive Director of LiNK

1.    Comment on defectors’ lives in South Korea: jobs, discrimination?

  • Even for educated people adjustment is difficult because educational systems are so different
  • Now so many defectors in ROK so that South Koreans are no longer interested

2.    Are there no uprisings?

  • In fact there are many
  • Last year’s train explosion was anti-Kim Jung Il
  • Believes Kim’s power is waning: cannot move freely around country: 30,000 troops always around him

3.    How supportive are South Koreans of Kang?

  • Before 1998 ROK worked hard to reveal DPRK human rights abuse.  Since then and Sunshine Policy ROK no longer says much
  • Ask young South Koreans now and they would know nothing about DPRK
  • ROK government media paint a rosy picture of DPRK
  • 3,000,000 died, 200,000 in concentration camps, but no South Koreans protest that.  Instead they protest the 2 girls killed in US military accident
  • 1992 attended South Korean university, saw students protesting and singing, listened and discovered they were singing a Kim Jong Il 10-min propaganda song.  When asked the South Korean students didn’t know what the song was.  Went to student government and found all books were DPRK propaganda
    • This explains growth of anti-Americanism in South Korean students

    • Believes this is due to DPRK agents: how else could South Koreans learn North Korean songs?

4.    Why would ROK act as they do (since it makes no sense)?

  • He doesn’t get it either
  • 386 generation: many see DPRK favorably and now they’re in power
  • 386 believes you change DPRK by sending food and saying nice things and that’s it
  • ROK has a strong protest culture for democracy and this has transferred to protesting for DPRK

5.    What suggestions for US and international policy and contents of his Bush conversation?

  • Talked for 40 mins
    • Most important: human rights should be ahead of nuclear issue
    • Kim Jong Il will never up his weapons
    • This will only increase anti-Americanism in DPRK
  • Human Rights: be direct and specific about concentration camps: only this way will DPRK change
    • First priority is undermining anti-Americanism by pressing for human rights
  • Defectors relieved when Bush called DPRK evil
  • Because ROK protestors and DPRK protested ROK dictators so ROK protestors think DPRK is also for democracy

6.    Can China help solve this problem?

  • Can defectors escape China: big issue: China now repatriates refugees
  • Because of Beijing Olympics China wants this problem to go away: so repatriates refugees
  • Repatriation causes bigger future problems
  • Would like China to pressure DPRK on human rights

7.    Role of big ROK corporations in this issue?

  • Hyundai and Samsung
    • Hyundai runs tourist deals to DPRK
    • Samsung has few contacts still
  • Believes recent Hyundai suicide was related to his work with DPRK
  • Hyundai had been reconsidering its deals until ROK Unification Minister criticized ROK companies for not working more with DPRK

8.    Does Kim Jong Il have children or is there a military hierarchy to take over after his death?

  • After Kim Jong Il’s death there’s no way it won’t change
  • No heir yet named
  • Some speculation centers on his sons
  • Expect something big to happen at the transition

9.    How should/will reunification happen?  In past, liberation was by foreigners, so can reunification happen just by/through Koreans?

  • Any reunification through DPRK’s collapse would be bad
  • There should be a transitional government, like current-day China’s, before reunification
  • However, ROK’s Sunshine Policy is pushing North Korean people away just to curry current favor with the DPRK government
    • This is throwing away the chance of not having foreigners interfere in the reunification

    • Has ROK helped refugees in China?  No, they’ve helped Chinese to prevent refugees to flee.  How do you think North Koreans feel about ROK because of this?  This makes it impossible for only Koreans to be involved in their reunification and foreigners will be involved.

10.    Does Korean proximity to DPRK military explain why they don’t focus on human rights?

  • DPRK does not have the ability to win war so doesn’t believe it is genuinely interested in war
  • War = Kim Jong Il over
  • ROK is looking at this wrong: Kim Jong Il is richest man on the peninsula: do you think he wants to give this up?
  • Biggest ROK security risk is not nuclear, it is the artillery and troops just north of the DMZ
  • If ROK is truly interested in welfare of DPRK troops then ask them to move away from the DMZ
  • Talk about how this is the best period in inter-Korean relationship, but in fact this is the most dangerous period

11.    US troops in ROK

  • Highest ranking DPRK defector says Kim Il Sung was so beaten by US in Korean War that he only feared US forces
  • DPRK military thinks ROK army is a joke since it was such a pushover in the Korean War
  • Day US leaves is day DPRK invades

12.    Kim Jong Il or Communist Party structure center of power?

  • Kim Jong Il is center of DPRK

13.    How can ROK have direct communication/talks with DPRK?

  • Many South Koreans travel to DPRK but no a single person has escaped their minders to talk freely with a North Korean
  • DPRK had dilemma for Koreans in Japan to get them to send money: solution: make a façade and give yourself a good image: similar things now happening to ROK tourists
    • ROK tourists: get very sanitized version of DPRK.  Doesn’t understand why South Koreans don’t complain about this
  • Tourism is just donating money to the DPRK government

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[boomerang] Posted by Andres at 16:34
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September 20, 2005
China's role in North Korea talks

After years of failed talks, finally agreement is reached with North Korea over its nukes. The onus remains on the North Koreans to live up to their end of the bargain, but that's by the by. Far more interesting is what happened to force the issue? Why now?

The North Koreans are lavishing praise on their Chinese hosts. China's leadership remains petrified of a collapse of North Korea and the massive influx of refugees likely should that happen. Nor did it fancy the alternative of a potential American led invasion, leading to American troops literally on the border.

China has always held the whip hand in the talks. For example China supplies most of North Korea's electricity at friendly rates. Having North Korea annoy the Americans served as a useful foil for China and it kept Japanese and South Korean minds focussed on the threat from the North Koreans rather than any possible threat from China. But more recently both America and Japan have started viewing the potential strategic threat from China as a seperate issue from the Korean one. The North Korean problem turned from an asset to a liability.

So China saw the light, so to speak, and realised a resolution of the Korean nuclear issue was also in its interest. It doesn't hurt that this makes the Chinese look like world statesmen and foreign policy players (albeit in their own backyard), just as negotiations over the UN Security Council and talks about China's emerging superpower role are all the rage.

It's no co-incidence that as soon as China got serious about the nuclear talks, so did North Korea. The key question is whether China can make the North Koreans deliver on their promises given the deserved scepticism that abounds.

Further Reading

Chris has a good summary of various reactions to the North Korea deal.
Sean says Japan isn't entirely happy with the results.
North Korean talks leave questions unanswered.
The full text of the statement at the end of the talks.
Zen Pundit parses the puzzle of Pyongyang...also asking why now?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 11:31
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