Ottawa Round Table Part 4 – CanKor Brain Trust on the Current Situation in the DPRK

CanKor Brain Trust on the Current Situation in the DPRK

by Paul Evans, Victor Hsu, Hazel Smith, Hark Kroll, Jeremy Paltiel and Jack Kim

Ottawa Round Table on Humanitarian Aid in the Current North Korean Context, 5 March 2012

Q: What dangers and opportunities can you foresee in the evolving situation?

Paul Evans, Professor, Liu Institute for Global Issues; Director, Institute of Asian Research, UBC:

Why assume that the KJU era will be any different? My only glimpse into the fog is the signal from the group that attended the six-month training program here that it was business as usual for a second phase, with no changes expected. I had dinner with a DPRK diplomat in Bangkok as part of an ARF meeting and more or less out of the blue he asked me how the UBC training program had gone and how we could find ways to get more DPRK students to Canada in future. Really out of context and it may be that he only guessed at a connection and my interest by seeing my card. But…

Victor Hsu, Visiting Professor, School of Public Policy and Management , Korea Development Institute (KDI), Seoul:

From my perspective, assuming that ROK maintains its current attempt to reverse the LMB policy, opportunities are going to increase. I don’t believe there will be any continuation of refusal to provide humanitarian aid. Both main parties in ROK are framing renewed engagement, as is the USA. EU will follow suit.

Hazel Smith, Professor of Resilience and Security, Cranfield University, UK:

The DPRK government is far from unique in being culpable of poor governance and failing to meet the food needs of its people. Arguing that the DPRK humanitarian and food crises are unique is wrong in advocacy terms because it reinforces the politicisation of aid to the DPRK in its emphasis on the ‘exceptionally awful’ case of the DPRK.

The reasons for food shortages and economic failure in the DPRK are prosaic. Like very large numbers of governments, the DPRK government lacks oil (to generate revenue), suffered the withdrawal of external subsidies, has an obsolescent economic infrastructure in every respect, and is governed by a non-democratic, economically illiterate and inept government. Read the rest of this entry »

Sifting through the golf sands for a hint of North Korea’s future

[Many of the CanKor Brain Trust members have been inundated by the media for interviews in the past weeks. For this article, John Barber of Canada’s national newspaper The Globe and Mail interviewed Hartmuth Kroll, Paul EvansDavid Hawk and CanKor Editor Erich Weingartner. “Your Brain Trust was a lifesaver!” John Barber wrote in an email to the editor. “I was very happy to talk to Canadians.” The article appeared in the 30 December 2011 edition of the Globe and Mail. –CanKor]

In keeping with his orderly ascension from ranking army general to top political official to supreme leader of the last hard-line Communist country on earth, North Korea’s chubby young Kim Jong-un is expected soon to take up golf, where he will challenge his father’s record of scoring almost a dozen holes-in-one on his first try at the game.

Afforded little else in the way of information on the internal doings of the secretive country, observers will be reduced to parsing news of the young leader’s score, speculating on what it might mean should he fail to match his father’s 38-under-par.

Such is the fantasy scenario of North Korea’s notorious – often ludicrous – propaganda machine, which is operating at full throttle after the death of the country’s last demigod ruler. Observers question whether the regime can maintain the barrage of lies big and little it has used for so long to mislead and repress its citizens.

In particular, they wonder how long it will be before the flood of information loosened by the digital revolution, which helped destabilize and wash away repressive regimes throughout the Middle East this year, finally leaks through slowly widening cracks in the Kimchi Curtain. Read the rest of this entry »

Dissenting view of David Hawk’s “Pursuing Peace While Advancing Rights”

Posted by CanKor Brain Trust Member Paul Evans:

It may appear churlish to offer a dissenting view of David Hawk’s informed and thoughtful report, Pursuing Peace While Advancing Rights: The Untried Approach to North Korea,” that is featured in CanKor Report #325 and on this blog. I share his sense of outrage at the state of human rights in North Korea and his commitment to encouraging positive change. I agree that North Korean violence against migrant women and the existence of prison camps (“managed places”) are pivotal issues that should not be ignored. It indeed seems almost certain that full normalization of relations with North Korea by the United States and many other countries (Canada included) will depend upon improvements in human rights in that country. And it is difficult to disagree with his general comment that there has been very little progress in advancing either nuclear and missile disarmament or human rights in the past seventeen years.

But the report makes four mistakes that undermine its prescriptions. Read the rest of this entry »

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