Tag Archives: propaganda

An Illegal War in Libya

This is a quote from Richard Falk, professor of international law:

“What is immediately striking about the bipartisan call in Washington for a no-fly zone and air strikes designed to help rebel forces in Libya is the absence of any concern with the relevance of international law or the authority of the United Nations. None in authority take the trouble to construct some kind of legal rationalisation. The ‘realists’ in command, and echoed by the mainstream media, do not feel any need to provide even a legal fig leaf before embarking on aggressive warfare.

The core legal obligation of the UN Charter requires member states to refrain from any use of force unless it can be justified as self-defence after a cross-border armed attack or mandated by a decision of the UN Security Council. Neither of these conditions authorising a legal use of force is remotely present, and yet the discussion proceeds in the media and Washington circles as if the only questions worth discussing pertain to feasibility, costs, risks, and a possible backlash in the Arab world.”

So wait a minute… Is the war in Libya ILLEGAL?

Yes. The invasion of Libya is illegal after the standard of international law. I wrote a cautious post about so-called “Western propaganda” on the very day that the military bombing attack on Libya was ordered, where I suggested that in the Western press there might be too much worry about conforming to the politically correct order of the day. Is this true for Libya? Though the military intervenion in Libya is illegal, most people don’t seem to know it. I have read the papers lately, and there isn’t much sign of that many places. It seems it just is not politically correct to point it out.

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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.

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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.

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

ROKS Cheonan (PCC-772)

Today, March 26th, is the anniversary of the 2010 sinking of the ROKS Cheonan near the North Korean sea border.

104 personnel were on board when an explosion occurred, causing the ship to break in two. 58 crew were rescued, while the remaining 46 went missing. During the rescue efforts a South Korean naval diver died while another was hospitalized. A fishing boat involved in the rescue operations collided and sank, killing two with another seven going missing. None of the 46 missing crewmembers were found alive.

At that moment the whole world was looking sideways towards North Korea. On May 20th an international commission reported findings that strongly indicated a North Korean torpedo to be the guilty culprit. Yet the country adamantly denied any responsibility.

A few months after the incident, despite denying any involvement, this poster depicting a ship of the same type as Cheonan being crushed into two pieces was distributed in North Korea. The slogan saying: “We’ll take it down with a single blow if it attacks!”

I don’t know who said it first, but it is often repeated with resignation that the only predictable thing about North Korea is – that it is unpredictable. One thing that is for sure is that it is startlingly poorly understood; by the West, by the US – and often even by the South Koreans.

That is why, in the days to come, I’ll grab the opportunity provided by this anniversary to try to explain some of the things we ought to come to grabs with when it comes to the Hermit Kingdom!

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Filed under East Asia, The Hermit Kingdom

Western “propaganda”?

Though most Westerners would undoubtedly reject the idea, there is a conception at the political level in many non-Western countries, notably China, that the role of propaganda in the West is just as important as anywhere else. It is just very subtle, and much more successful.

But is this idea really so ridiculous? Certainly, Western media lack many of the characteristics that we associate with propaganda. (Just to be clear, in China propaganda is not a negatively loaded word.) By contrast, the West has a free press that is not controlled by any one centralized power or strict ideology. There is unhindered discussion and debate. But there are, many will argue, many strong consensuses, as well as a desire to conform to political correctness. Does this, without us noticing, mean that media installs us with biases and presuppositions?

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Filed under media, Religion & Ideology

‘Modernity’ and ‘Development’ ?

The term eurocentrism is one that emerged in the period of decolonisation, defined as viewing the world from a European perspective, with all the baggage and implications that comes with. Accusations have flown, and I’m sure you’re no stranger to many of them. Blah, blahblando. This is old news, and I won’t bore you by talking about it in detail. One argument that still has a lot going for it though is that the Western world is still obsessed with this idea that only it knows what ‘modernity’ and ‘development’ is, and what the right way of going about achieving it is.

First of all, ‘development’ can only be good. Further, ‘development’ contains not only infrastructure and economic development and such things, but also ideological changes which comply with Western doctrine (duh). There is also an idea that other countries can only develop in the same direction as the Western states have done in the past!

Do you see any potential problems with this thinking?

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