The Day After, by Bill Keller

[CanKor Brain Trust member Hark Kroll alerted us to this opinion piece published in The New York Times on 29 April 2012. Op-Ed Columnist Bill Keller begins with the now familiar rehearsing of DPRK human rights violations, mentioning several books published recently, including CanKor Brain Trust member David Hawk’s updated “The Hidden Gulag”. But the more interesting part of this article is contained at the end, where Keller reviews the questions posed by the “engagement camp” and the “regime-change camp”, concluding that both are missing the most pertinent questions about what is to happen after an eventual collapse in North Korea. –CanKor]

Bill Keller (photo by Tony Cenicola, The New York Times)

THE one thing everyone knows about North Korea is that we know very little about North Korea, except that it is miserable, totalitarian, nuclear and erratic. It is the hermit kingdom, the dark side of the moon.

But thanks to many thousands of refugees who have reached freedom by way of a long underground railroad through China, we know a lot more now about the grim reality. We understand better how the government sustains its dreadful power, and where that power could be faltering. Among people who follow the country closely, there is fresh discussion of whether this most durable of monster-states could be nearing its end days, and what we should do about it.

In recent weeks the news spotlight has focused on the 29-year-old novice tyrant Kim Jong-un, performing his family’s time-tested repertoire of bellicose bluster. Like a lunatic waving an assault rifle as he dances on a high window ledge, Kim galvanizes our attention.

But the more interesting story is down below. Read the rest of this entry »

South Koreans are NOT allowed to see this!

Several days ago I received an urgent message from a colleague residing in Seoul, South Korea, asking me to send him a copy of North Korea’s New Year Joint Editorial. This is an annual policy statement that the DPRK has issued since the death of former leader Kim Il Sung. It is called “Joint Editorial” because it is published simultaneously by the three leading North Korean newspapers: the Rodong Sinmun (official daily of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea), Joson Inmingun (daily of the Korean People’s Army), and Chongnyon Jonwi (daily of the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League).

South Korean civic group and family members of prisoners shout slogans during a rally denouncing the National Security Law in Seoul, 7 December 2011. The banner reads "(Abolish) National Security Law." (AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man)

My colleague needed to study the text of the editorial for a paper he was writing. Try as he may, he was unable to access any website that published the entire document. All websites emanating from the DPRK and any others that might reproduce North Korean propaganda are blocked under South Korea’s National Security Law (NSL). This law was enacted in 1948, just three and a half months after the establishment of the Republic of Korea. Its avowed purpose is “to restrict anti-state acts that endanger national security and to protect [the] nation’s safety and its people’s life and freedom.”

In the past, this law was used not only to shield South Koreans from North Korean influence, but also to prosecute democracy and human rights movements of South Korean citizens by the dictators who ruled South Korea until the restoration of democracy. Between 1961 and 2002, at least 13,178 people were indicted, and 182 of them executed, under the law, according to human rights groups. While attempts to repeal the NSL by two ROK “Sunshine” presidents (Kim Dae-Jung and Roh Moo-Hyun) failed, the law was less rigorously applied under their administrations.

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 »

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