Sympathy for the devil – how best to deal with North Korea, by Spencer Kim

[Spencer H. Kim is chairman of CBOL Corporation, a California aerospace company. Specializing in the sale of aerospace products, CBOL markets to customers located in the United States, Europe, South America and on the Pacific Rim. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a non-resident fellow at Harvard’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. In addition to his business interests, Mr. Kim serves on the leadership team with the Cal-Pacific Conference of the United Methodist Church and as a member of the Commission on Race and Religion.  He also serves on the Board of Directors of The Korea Society headquartered in New York. He is a founding member of Pacific Century Institute, a non-profit foundation, dedicated to improving understanding and developing greater communication among peoples of the Pacific Rim nations. He serves as an advisory board member of the School of Public Affairs at UCLA. This article originally appeared in the Korea Times on 26 December 2012. It is a particularly refreshing take on the dilemmas facing the international community on how to deal with the DPRK, pointing to opportunities that it would be foolish to miss. –CanKor]

Spencer H. Kim croppedNorth Korea has successfully, sort of, launched a long-range missile. We are outraged. We want more sanctions; we want to pressure them till they say uncle or collapse. We wonder how China could be so perfidious in failing to make Pyongyang behave. We find it morally odious to talk to a regime that spends for rockets and nukes but allows it people to starve and puts others in concentration camps. Only when they agree in advance that they will knuckle under will we talk to them.

But indignation, however righteous, is often the enemy of wisdom. Reflection is a better ally. Yes, North Korea is difficult to deal with and its regime treats its people unspeakably. But if we are to deal with it (and, let’s face it, the place is not going to go away) we need to at least try to understand their viewpoint and understand our own weaknesses. Let us ask some probing questions of ourselves and perhaps even look at history a bit from the other guy’s eyes. Read the rest of this entry »

DPRK Business Monthly Volume III, No.5

The DPRK Business Monthly, an international business report edited in Beijing, has been made available to CanKor readers by its editor, Paul White. Please check the current June 2012 edition here: DPRK Business Monthly Vol III, No.5

Titles of articles found in this issue include:

In Chiba in 1991 Hyun Jung-hwa of the ROK (right) and Li Bun Hui of the DPRK formed a

In Chiba in 1991 Hyun Jung-hwa of the ROK (right) and Li Bun Hui of the DPRK formed a joint Korean team. The pair won the female finals by defeating China.

  • China Offers Work Visas for 40,000 N.Koreans
  • UN Report Highlights Plight of NK Children
  • Politics Hampering UN Aid Efforts
  • Female Participation in North Korea’s Business Sector
  • Table Tennis Player Sees Opportunity for Unity
  • NK Could Be Major Carbon Credit Player
  • Visa-free Access to Yalu River Zone

    …plus a number of other items, including a selection of North Korean tours by various tour operators.

Comment by the Business Monthly Editor:

China’s issuance of 40,000 work visas, and perhaps more in the pipeline, to North Koreans is a step in the right direction. It is well attested that the vast majority of North Koreans who have fled their homeland since the famine of the 1990s (the “Arduous March”) have been economic migrants seeking a better life, not political refugees, of whom only a handful were recorded in the previous four decades. The deal apparently came about as a result of a request by the DPRK’s new leader Kim Jong Un. Now, those who wish to do so will be able to legally work in China — as many already do in Russia — and send money (the Renminbi yuan is regarded as a hard currency in NK) and food home, avoiding falling into the hands of human traffickers and being smuggled into South Korea, where their lot is not a happy one. This will reduce the profits of this evil trade, and help the Chinese police crack down on the gangsters and rescue their victims.

It will also take the wind out of the sails of those who claim that North Koreans flee and fall prey to the traffickers because Pyongyang doesn’t allow them to leave.

Please feel free to consult the full issue by clicking on this link: DPRK Business Monthly Vol III, No.5

DPRK Business Monthly Volume III, No.4

The DPRK Business Monthly, an international business report edited in Beijing, has been made available to CanKor readers by its editor, Paul White. Please check the  current May 2012 edition here: DPRK Business Monthly Vol III, No.4

Kim Yong Nam, head of the DPRK's Southeast Asia delegation [Photo:KCNA]

Kim Yong Nam, head of the DPRK’s Southeast Asia delegation [Photo:KCNA]

Titles of articles found in this issue include:

  • Can Singapore Be Economic Model for NK?
  • China’s Jilin Province Speeding Up Border Projects
  • Various NK Bodies Competing for Investments
  • Change is Around the Corner for the DPRK
  • Will NK’s Plans for Foreign Investment Make it a Prosperous Nation?
  • Pyongyang Holds 13th Spring Trade Fair
  • Tanchon Port Completed
  • Rason to Host Second Int’l Trade Exhibition

…plus a number of other items, including a selection of North Korean tours by various tour operators.

Comment by the Business Monthly Editor:

May has been a good month for debunking misconceptions about the DPRK. First of all, the story that during the “sunshine” years of ROK presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun the South delivered “handouts” of free food to the North and got nothing in return has turned out to be untrue. The fact is that the North received a low interest loan from South Korea’s state-owned Export-Import Bank to buy the food. Read the rest of this entry »

Publication: Bridging the chasm between human rights and peace

Pro-engagement activists have often argued that the pursuit of peace and reconciliation with the DPRK requires that human rights take a back seat in negotiations. At the other end of the spectrum have been anti-engagement activists who have argued that negotiation for peace and reconciliation is futile in the absence of human rights.

In May 2010 the U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) published a report entitled, PURSUING PEACE WHILE ADVANCING RIGHTS: The Untried Approach to North Korea, by David Hawk. To my knowledge, this is the first serious attempt to bridge what have been assumed to be irreconcilable positions. Read the rest of this entry »

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