Conversation #13

In which CanKor editor Erich Weingartner probes the private motivations of loyal servants of the DPRK system that keep them locked into defending regime survival whatever the cost. (First published in CanKor Report 317, 16 October 2009.)

Erich Heinz Weingartner: Mr. Pak, I really wish there were a better way to communicate with you. It’s been too long since we last talked.

Pak Kim Li: I called you once in May.

EHW: Yes, and although I have hardly traveled at all this past year, you call me on the one day when I’m out of town.

PKL: Perhaps I should tell you what has been happening lately.

EHW: I know what has been happening lately. The front pages of newspapers the world over have been reporting what’s happening lately! Is there no way I can call or email you other than by leaving a message at the DPRK UN mission? Read the rest of this entry »

Conversation #12

In which Weingartner challenges Pak’s claim that his faith in the Juche idea qualifies him as an atheist. [This episode has been greatly enhanced by a discussion among Korea experts in the Koreanstudies mailing list.]

Pak Kim Li: I apologize that I had to cancel our last appointment. My life is not my own, you know.

Erich Heinz Weingartner: So I understand.

PKL: As much as I enjoy talking to you, you aren’t exactly my number one priority.

EHW: Which is a pity. But neither are you my first priority.

PKL: I’m not? That surprises me. Writing about the DPRK has become quite the cottage industry in the West as far as I can tell.

EHW: Yes, except that it pays very poorly.

PKL: You should consider the ideological satisfaction that you get in the process. Read the rest of this entry »

Conversation #11

In which CanKor editor Erich Weingartner plumbs Pak Kim Li’s abiding faith in the DPRK workers’ paradise. (First published in CanKor Report 313-314, 12 December 2008.)

Erich Heinz Weingartner: Do you believe that you live in paradise, Mr. Pak?

Pak Kim Li: What?

EHW: Didn’t your great leader say that the DPRK is the “workers’ paradise”?

PKL: I thought we decided last time that our topic would be the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea! Read the rest of this entry »

Conversation #10

Which begins with a North Korean take on the election of US President-elect Barak Obama, then morphs into a discussion of the relative merits of Western and DPRK styles of democracy. (First published in CanKor Report 312, 21 November 2008.)

Erich Heinz Weingartner: Mr. Pak, did you stay up to watch the US election results Tuesday night?

Pak Kim Li: No, I did not.

EHW: Not interested?

PKL: Unlike our sycophant compatriots in south Korea, we don’t exactly hold our breath every time there is an election in the USA. I was busy preparing for our participation in an event organized by the National Committee on American Foreign Policy in New York, not to speak of our dinner meeting with Chris Hill.

EHW: The chief US negotiator in the Six-Party Talks. But surely you agree that this election was of particular historical significance. Read the rest of this entry »

Conversation #9

In which CanKor editor Erich Weingartner elicits information from Pak Kim Li about the “re-education camps” that DPRK diplomats are required to attend after extended absences from the home country on overseas assignments. (First published in CanKor Report 311, 7 November 2008.)

Erich Heinz Weingartner: I was afraid I had lost you, Mr. Pak. It’s been four or five months since we last spoke.

Pak Kim Li: Yes, well you know my ambassador was recalled from his New York posting.

EHW: Yes, I read that.

PKL: I was actually quite pleased when he asked me to return as well.

EHW: You didn’t enjoy living in the freedom of New York?

PKL: You must be joking. You think it is fun to be restricted in your movements and under 24-hour surveillance in the land of your worst enemy? Read the rest of this entry »

Conversation #8

In which Pak Kim Li addresses causes and consequences of the current food shortages, including a peculiar take on its relationship to the nuclear issue. (First published in CanKor Report 309-310, 27 June 2008.) 


Erich Heinz Weingartner: The US government has agreed to send 500,000 metric tons of food grains to your country.

Pak Kim Li: Yes, that is correct.

EHW: Why?

PKL: Why are they sending us food?

EHW: Why are they sending it? Why do you need it? Why did you ask for it?

PKL: They persuaded us to ask for it.

EHW: The USA persuaded the DPRK to ask for food? Read the rest of this entry »

Conversation #7

In which Erich Weingartner challenges Pak Kim Li about the apparent contradiction between the DPRK’s request for technical and development assistance and the Juche ideology of self-reliance. (First published in CanKor Report 307-308, 12 May 2008.)

Erich Heinz Weingartner: So you welcome the transfer of knowledge from foreign partners to your country?

Pak Kim Li: Yes, we put great value on such cooperation.

EHW: Like language instruction?

PKL: Yes. And other topics as well.

EHW: What about technical assistance? Read the rest of this entry »

Conversation #6

In which Pak Kim Li and Erich Weingartner discuss who is to blame for the stalled 6-Party Talks in the fall of USelection year 2008. (First published in CanKor Report 305-306, 25 April 2008.)

Erich Heinz Weingartner: So it looks like we’re back at square one.

Pak Kim Li: Not square one.

EHW: The Six-Party Talks are stalled; North and South Korea are trading insults again…

PKL: You Westerners have a strange concept of time.

EHW: Yes, so you told me before. We’re linear and you Asians are circular. “Square one” is a game metaphor — specifically the game “Monopoly”, where you can be penalized and sent back to the beginning of the game.

PKL: It’s a bad metaphor for where we are now.

EHW: Alright, let’s do it your way: “What goes around comes around.” Same difference. Read the rest of this entry »

Conversation #5

In which Pak Kim Li reluctantly answers Erich Weingartner’s questions regarding the visit of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra to Pyongyang in February 2008. (First published in CanKor Report 303-304, 23 March 2008.)

Pak Kim Li (PKL):  Please don’t interview me about the New York Philharmonic.

Erich Heinz Weingartner (EHW):  I thought you’d be pleased to talk about it.

PKL:  To say what? How pleased we were to receive the blessings of “real” music? To respond to patronizing insults about our lack of a musical culture? To comment on the political coup we achieved in convincing America’s foremost cultural institution to pay homage to our leader? Or is it to comment on the political coup the Americans achieved by convincing us to broadcast the concert live by TV and radio throughout our own country as well as worldwide? Read the rest of this entry »

Conversation #4

In which Erich Weingartner questions Pak Kim Li about religious liberty in the DPRK. (First published in CanKor Report #302, 22 February 2008.)

Erich Heinz Weingartner (EHW):  I want to talk to you about religion.

Pak Kim Li (PKL):  No thanks, I’d rather not.

EHW:  Why not?

PKL:  When you Westerners talk to us about religion, there are always ulterior motives.

EHW:  How so? Read the rest of this entry »

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