Tag Archives: Kim Jong-Il

The Easy Guide to Why the Six-Party Talks are Not Working

<!–[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 21 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 <![endif]–><!–[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]–> <!–[endif]–>

Personally, I strongly believe in diplomacy as the best, and perhaps only way to resolve the North Korean as well as many other problems. But for that to work, we really need to start thinking realistically about the offers that we present to the other side. Basically, the only offer that has been made to the North Koreans has been a huge aid deal, including food and energy assistance, provided in exchange for them to give up their nuclear enrichment facilities. Like that, for 20+ years, the only debate in the US concerns how we can get them to disarm and through that period the North Koreans have merely scoffed at every one of our attempts to get them to do so.

The suggested answers to this conundrum vary between saying that we need to encourage, bribe, threaten, smooth-talk or harass them into doing as we say. Recently, it has even been proposed to just push to persuade the Chinese to persuade them. All proposed answers are equally ridiculous except the last one, which is even more hysterical, and which shows the growing despair and resignation in the US think-tanks.

There is no reason to believe that anyone could be successful in persuading the North Koreans with the current strategy. That is true for China just as much as it is for the US. In a way, the attempts so far resemble a fly crashing into a window again and again. Attempting to fly towards the clear sky, it will not realize that there is a wall of translucent glass blocking its way; furthermore that it is also going to be there the next time it tries. If one thinks about it clearly, there are two major reasons why the current strategy, which the Six Party Talks have been just a continuation of, have failed. A; we are forgetting who we are talking to, and B; we are forgetting what we are trying to get them to do.

A: We tend to reason since the famine of the 1990s that North Korea would jump at the offer of food. But this would be unreasonable even if the majority of North Koreans weren’t prepared to go through suffering for the sake of the country. However, we are not sitting across the table from a representative cross-section of North Korean society. The people we are negotiating with are not farmers or construction workers. We are sitting across from the people who rule the country, and just to pronounce the obvious – they are not starving. It is absurd to expect them to come waving a white flag just because their enemies are saying they are willing to feed them.

B: To the people we are negotiating with it makes absolutely no political sense to even consider any offers that have been made to them so far. Does anybody realize what it is exactly that we are asking them to do? If North Korea disarms and gives in to demands, it has absolutely no way left to legitimize itself. Economically it is many decades behind South Korea, and soft power alone is never enough to make a regime survive. What we are really asking then, is for a group of people who enjoy enormous power and privilege to give up all that they have and all that they have built since 1948.

 

To put it simply; what we are offering is too little, and what we are demanding is too much. That is the reason why they wouldn’t flinch even if we offered them a pink elephant with Kim Jong-Il’s glasses on.

Leave a comment

Filed under East Asia, The Hermit Kingdom

What does the Hermit Kingdom look like from the inside?

Does the average North Korean really understand what the rest of the world thinks of them, their country or their leader?

In the North-West of North Korea there is a vast complex cut deep into the Myohyang Mountain. Called the “International Friendship Exhibition” it is dubbed; the world’s biggest treasurehouse. In Korean culture the tradition of gift-giving is deep-rooted, and therefore the museum is filled with gifts that have been presented to the North Korean leaders over the decades, from various foreign dignitaries.

If a North Korean national ever had any doubts in the greatness of his leaders before entering this vast complex as he bows down to images of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il, he would not have them when coming out. That is, at least not if the propaganda acted out by this museum had the desired effect. The museum was built with the purpose of giving visitors the impression that the world looks up to North Korea – which would obviously be a horribly misguided conclusion. Yet to the faithful and thoroughly propagandized North Korean visitor it would seem like every leader on the world stage looks up to Kim Jong-Il. They don’t understand that their country is seen as a problem, they don’t get that the Hermit Kingdom is all alone in the world.

1 Comment

Filed under East Asia, The Hermit Kingdom

Some Common Misconceptions about North Korea

Love and hate

The regime in North Korea is not at all as unpopular as we would like to believe. The personality cults around Stalin, Mussolini and Mao may seem like a long time ago to the modern mind, but in North Korea it is still very much a reality. People really, really love Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il. And they really, really fear the outside world. They are not some angry group of people secretly aspiring to freedom and democracy, holding their tongues out of fear yet crying for help. And if they are suffering materially they are willing to put up with it because they seriously believe in the righteousness of the ruling party.

Media attention

Media is all over it as soon as someone comes to say how they perilously defected from North Korea and how everything is so much better in the US or in South Korea. But why does nobody seem to notice how many defectors actually bribe their way back into North Korea? It is easy to say apologetically that “oh well, they are all brainwashed”, and to think of propaganda as something empty that holds no real meaning. But you can be damn sure that it means something to the North Koreans. Tragically little attention is paid to how the North Koreans actually perceive themselves, or what we can learn from North Korean propaganda.

Communism

You hear about “Communist North Korea” and the “Communist Workers Party of Korea”, but the idea of racial superiority is as far from Communism as it can possibly get. It is NOT like Marx’s idea of ”workers of the world unite” AT ALL. The North Korean ideology is a RACE THEORY. That means that the North Koreans view themselves as better than everyone else. They believe themselves to be inherently more pure and morally superior to any other races. They are better than the Americans, they are better than some of their only remaining friends in the world in Africa, and they are better than the Japanese (even though, paradoxically, the Japanese were the ones who introduced the race ideology to the Korean peninsula in the first place). To some degree they are also better than the South Koreans, who belong to the same race but are sullied by foreign influence and are now suffering under the yoke of the US. In that way the ideology in North Korea is actually more similar to Fascism – on the opposite end of the scale from the extreme left Communism. In fact, North Korea has altogether deleted the word ‘Communism’ from its constitution.

Long time view

The broader North Korean view over their own history is all about how their pureness and morality made them into sitting ducks to the evil forces from outside. Over the centuries the Korean peninsula has indeed been subject to invasions numerous times, but instead of focusing on their strategic geopolitical location as the reason why they have been invaded, the North Koreans tend to like to explain it by saying that the people are just too virtuous and too innocent to survive on their own in a harsh and evil world.

Arirang Mass Games

The perception in the West of the spectacular annual Mass Games in North Korea, which is one of the very few aspects of North Korean culture which many people know about, is that it is a sign of how the regime is trying to oppressively stamp out its people’s personal identity and independence. This is not so. The North Koreans feel pride in the homogeneity of their race as the source of its strength and unity and that is what they do to celebrate it, along with the birthday of Kim Il-Sung.

Juche

Juche is NOT the main ideology in North Korea. The Juche ideology was created by Kim Il-Sung, and is often translated as “main subject”, always placing Korean interests at the fore. But it does not contain any food for thought whatsoever. In fact, political analyst Brian Reynolds Myers goes as far as to say that Juche is just a “sham doctrine”, which enables North Koreans to place something on the top bookshelf and say “our leader Kim Il-Sung is just as good as Mao was”, and that it exists not to be read but only to be praised.

1 Comment

Filed under East Asia, Religion & Ideology, The Hermit Kingdom