North Korea: officials executed for watching soap operas

October 29, 2014
"Dear Leader, Jr."

“Secretly records ‘Days of Our Lives'”

Well, they were South Korean soaps, and thus vehicles for dangerous wrong-thought. So the viewers had to be killed. Or something:

At least 10 North Korean officials have reportedly been put to death recently for the crime of watching South Korean soap operas.

The latest public executions reportedly bring to at least 50 the number of people put to death by the hard-line regime for taking in the unauthorized day-time dramas from south of the DMZ, The Independent reports, quoting South Korean sources familiar with a National Intelligence Service (NIS) briefing.

Go to the original article in The Independent and you’ll see that smuggling in South Korean soaps and action shows is big business. It apparently pays well enough that smugglers are willing to risk their lives to get it into the North, while political activists will launch balloons carrying the “subversive” programming over the DMZ.

There’s a reason North Korean authorities would liquidate anyone caught watching these: they really are subversive of Pyongyang’s preferred, neo-Stalinist order. And they don’t have to be overtly political to be dangerous; it’s not the family drama or the wild car chase that poses the threat — it’s what North Koreans see in the background, glimpses of life in the South. Nice homes and furniture. The latest electronics. The ability to say what one thinks without being shot for it. Plenty of food. And, while seeing all that, they might begin to think “Why can’t we have those things?” As the late Andrew Breitbart often said, “culture is upstream of politics.”

That is what scares the tar out of Kim Jong Un and his handlers, and that’s why they’re willing to shoot people who are willing to defy them by watching those forbidden programs. They’re desperate to stop a cultural virus from spreading, but it’s already too late. More and more people are going to see what life is like without a Dear Leader Man-Child Who Thinks He Is A God ruling them and, one day, they’re going to do something about it.  At that point the regime will collapse like a house of cards, just like Poland, East Germany, and even the USSR. It may not be for many years, but it will happen, and these TV programs will have played a role.


PS: I’d hate to think what they’d do to someone caught watching reality TV! smiley worried

Four must-reads on North Korea

December 20, 2011

Busy day today, but I wanted to share with you four articles on the world’s largest prison camp masquerading as a nation, aka “North Korea,” and its uncertain future. Each has something worth your attention:

Writing from Tokyo, the New York Times’ Martin Fackler interview Korea “experts” (as if anyone can be a true expert on what goes on in a closed, paranoid land) whose general consensus is that the new dictator, twenty-something Kim Jong-Un, and the factions surrounding him will likely see a period of consolidation and reduced tension with the US, as the country sorts out its leadership and deals with crushing internal problems:

Masao Okonogi, a specialist on North Korea at Keio University in Tokyo, said that during the new leader’s first few years, North Korea would most likely avoid confrontation with the United States and its allies, like South Korea.

That was the route taken by Kim Jong-il after his father’s death, said Mr. Okonogi, and he seemed to hold out an olive branch by observing a 1994 deal negotiated by his father to freeze construction of two reactors suspected of use in North Korea’s covert atomic weapons program. North Korea eventually suspended the deal in 2003, three years before testing its first nuclear weapon.

“Look for Kim Jong-un to make some offer, like to restart the six-party talks,” Mr. Okonogi said, referring to stalled multilateral negotiations on dismantling the North’s nuclear weapons. “He’ll need to reduce tensions with the United States in order to buy time.”

Some analysts said the new leader would probably use this time to try to fulfill his father’s promise to turn North Korea into a “strong and prosperous” country by 2012. To do that, he must revive a moribund economy that ranks near the bottom of the world in many measures, including per capita gross domestic product of $1,800 per year, versus $30,000 in technologically advanced South Korea. The North’s unwillingness to forsake the centrally planned economic system, its severe isolation and its utter reliance on food and fuel handouts from China and international aid groups have perpetuated or deepened the crisis.

That would be wonderful, presuming the North Korean leadership was rational and motivated by national self-interest. But, if US intelligence is right, the new Kim on the block may be even more deranged than his father:

“It’s been only about a year and three months since Kim Jong Eun was officially tapped, so it would be very difficult for him to effectively seize power within the old guard in the party as well as the military,” said Yoo Dong-ryul, a researcher at the Police Science Institute in South Korea. “I think whether Kim Jong Eun succeeds will ultimately depend on the role by Jang Song Thaek.”

The portrait of Kim Jong Eun that emerges in his U.S. profile is that of a young man who, despite years of education in the West, is steeped in his father’s cult of personality and may be even more mercurial and merciless, officials said.

A senior U.S. official said intelligence analysts believe, for instance, that Kim Jung Eun “tortured small animals” when he was a youth. “He has a violent streak and that’s worrisome,” a senior U.S. official said, summing up the U.S. assessments.

Great. Just what we need: a potential serial killer in charge of nuclear weapons.

One of the great questions is what China will do. As revealed in the Wikileaks cables, China regards North Korea as a pain in the rice bowl and rather an embarrassment, particularly for a nation trying to establish itself as as global superpower. (Kind of like a gangster trying to be “respectable” and not wanting to be seen with his crazy friend from the old neighborhood.) There have even been preliminary feelers about the conditions under which China would accept Korean reunification. My own opinion is that China would like to see a stable, less embarrassing North Korea survive, if for nothing else than the prestige hit it would take from an ally falling apart. Failing that, reunification with the South would be acceptable — provided it did not mean American troops on or near the Yalu river border. In that case, China would want to see some sort of disengagement of the currently tight relationship between Washington and Seoul.

But there’s another possibility: a North Korean descent into chaos that leaves outside powers no choice but to intervene. Back at the NYT, Victor Cha wonders if North Korea won’t wind up as China’s newest province:

The allies’ best move, then, is to wait and see what China does. Among China’s core foreign-policy principles is the maintenance of a divided Korean Peninsula, and so Beijing’s statements about preserving continuity of North Korea’s leadership should come as no surprise. Since 2008 it has drawn closer to the regime, publicly defending its leaders and investing heavily in the mineral mines on the Chinese-North Korean border.

But even as Beijing sticks close to its little Communist brother, there are intense debates within its leadership about whether the North is a strategic liability. It was one thing to back a hermetic but stable regime under Kim Jong-il; it will be harder to underwrite an untested leadership. For Xi Jinping, expected to become China’s president over the next year, the first major foreign policy decision will be whether to shed North Korea or effectively adopt it as a province.

In other words, China may feel it has no choice other than to quietly take North Korea over.

Like Mr. Cha, former American Ambassador to the UN John Bolton sees great danger in a North Korea that slips into instability or outright chaos, to the point that US and South Korean forces might themselves have to intervene on a moment’s notice to secure the nukes:

While an authoritarian DPRK state, armed with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, is a threat regionally and globally, a fractured DPRK, leaderless and perhaps descending into civil war, is an even greater threat. The prospect of conflict among various military and other security forces, which like the Kim family also have everything on the line, is real. Control over the weapons of mass destruction and other key assets (missile launch sites and storage facilities, communications facilities, the loyalty of major military formations such as the artillery, and armor massed near the borders) will be essential.

Moreover, North Korea’s civilians are not, despite decades of effort by Pyongyang, totally ignorant about conditions outside the hermetic state. Already desperately impoverished and hungry, they may well decide at the first signs of regime collapse, or even before, that their moment is at hand. Aided by South Korean activists, they could begin moving north toward the Yalu River border with China or south to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which has divided North from South since the 1953 Korean War Armistice Agreement.

South Korean authorities, together with the nearly 30,000 U.S. forces there, have long prepared for the contingency of massive refugee flows toward the DMZ. They also have plans for entering North Korea in force on extremely short notice, to prevent massive instability, to secure the nuclear weapons, and to control the DMZ.

The last thing we need is for the North’s destructive weapons (or other elements of its nuclear program) to be used during internal conflict, or auctioned off to foreign states or terrorists by military factions desperate for hard currency to continue their struggle or flee the country. But while we believe that large stocks of chemical and biological weapons are located near the DMZ, we have very little knowledge of where the nuclear weapons actually are. If South Korean and U.S. forces have to enter the North, time will be short, the dangers high, and the odds long.

Bolton is highly critical of what he sees as almost nonexistent efforts by the Obama administration to get clear information from Beijing and coordinate with them over a possible Korean crisis. If Cha is right and China decides it needs to “put North Korea under new management,” and if those efforts fail and the US and South Korea decide they have to intervene, the potential for an accidental clash that reignites the Korean War gets white-hot.

Which makes me feel so good about having Team Smart Power in charge.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

President Obama should learn from President Myung-bak

January 21, 2011

Yes, Obama used deadly force against Somali pirates, too, but it’s the attitude of the South Korean president he needs to emulate:

In a daring high-seas rescue, South Korean navy commandos today stormed a freighter that’s been held hostage for a week in the Arabian Sea, killing eight Somali pirates and freeing 21 crew members.

Five other pirates were captured. The ship’s captain was shot in the stomach by the pirates, but he’s expected to survive, South Korea said.

“Our special forces stormed the hijacked Samho Jewelry earlier today and freed all hostages,” Colonel Lee Bung-woo, a spokesman for South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff, told The Guardian and other reporters in Seoul. “During the operation, our forces killed some Somali pirates, and all of the hostages were confirmed alive.”

South Korea’s president went on national TV to laud the commandos’ success and warn any pirates against trying to hijack ships in the future.

“We will not tolerate any behavior that threatens the lives and safety of our people in the future,” President Lee Myung-bak said.

And that is how a national leader stands up for his country. Barack Obama’s diffidence is all too palpable, even when he does the right thing.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

North Korea: Bandit King backs down

December 20, 2010

He's just ronery

I’ve written before that North Korea can be reasonably described as a mountain bandit state, a kingdom of bullies that extorts what it needs to survive from its neighbors by threatening to do something violent, no matter how crazy it looks. And they keep doing it because it works. Time and again since the accession of North Korean mutant psycho-dwarf dictator Kim Jong-Il, North Korea has threatened war and devastation. Then, afraid North Korea might really start a huge conflagration (and most everyone admits that a renewed war on the Korean peninsula would be a bloodbath), concerned nations rush into give Kim everything he wants while pretending to be firm with him, in return for promises not to do whatever it was again. North Korea then breaks these promises, gets more stuff it can’t produce on its own, and the whole farcical ballet starts again. Rinse and repeat.

The thing to remember about bullies and bandits is that they rely on you being afraid of them. Call their bluff, and they often back down. The current case in point being North Korea’s threat to “retaliate” if South Korea carried through with a live-fire exercise on Yeonpyeong island, a recent target of a North Korean artillery barrage. Instead of backing down, the South Koreans flipped a large finger toward the North and went ahead with the exercise.

Guess who backed down?

NORTH Korea’s leader Kim Jong-il offered up a major last-minute nuclear concession and was forced last night to turn the other cheek.

This came after the South refused to cancel a live-fire artillery drill near their maritime border.

The North Korean Supreme Military Command said last night it would not retaliate for the South’s 90-minute artillery exercise, saying it was not worthy of a response.

Despite the nuclear inspections breakthrough offered to US envoy Bill Richardson in Pyongyang, the South launched the drill at 2.30pm (4.30pm AEDT) – on Yeonpyeong Island – the scene of North Korea’s deadly artillery attack last month – in spite of threats of retaliation and even nuclear war from the North.

South Korean fighter jets armed with guided missiles streaked through the air above Yeonpyeong and warships cruised the area to silence any response from the North as the test shelling began.

The North last night called the drills a “reckless military provocation” but said it was holding its fire because Seoul had changed its firing zones.

The official Korean Central News Agency statement suggested that the North viewed yesterday’s drills differently from the ones last month because South Korean shells landed farther south of the North’s shores.

Given that the North claims the waters far to the south of the island, at face value their retreat is vindication of the resolve of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

Pyongyang had apparently offered before the live-fire exercise to allow nuclear inspections to resume — in return for cash. Thus they were starting the bandit-ballet again. Only, this time, South Korea called them on it. Good for Seoul and President Lee Myung-Bak. Let’s hope this heralds the start of a new, fear-free, and tougher line toward North Korea and its bandit king, Kim Jong-Il.

via Roy Medcalf

UPDATE 12/22/2010: At Pajamas Media, Claudia Rosett thinks this is all part of the same charade, too, and that Kimm has hung out his Christmas stocking for Obama to fill.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

Want to make Kim Jong-Il soil himself?

November 30, 2010

I can't trust anyone these days!

Just whisper in his ears the magic words, “China is willing to sell you out.” From the The Guardian:

China’s moves to distance itself from Kim are revealed in the latest tranche of leaked US embassy cables published by the Guardian and four international newspapers. Tonight, the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said the US “deeply regrets” the release of the material by WikiLeaks. They were an “attack on the international community”, she said. “It puts people’s lives in danger, threatens our national security and undermines efforts to work with other countries to solve shared problems,” she told reporters at the state department.

The leaked North Korea dispatches detail how:

  • South Korea’s vice-foreign minister said he was told by two named senior Chinese officials that they believed Korea should be reunified under Seoul’s control, and that this view was gaining ground with the leadership in Beijing.
  • China’s vice-foreign minister told US officials that Pyongyang was behaving like a “spoiled child” to get Washington’s attention in April 2009 by carrying out missile tests.
  • A Chinese ambassador warned that North Korean nuclear activity was “a threat to the whole world’s security”.
  • Chinese officials assessed that it could cope with an influx of 300,000 North Koreans in the event of serious instability, according to a representative of an international agency, but might need to use the military to seal the border.

In highly sensitive discussions in February this year, the-then South Korean vice-foreign minister, Chun Yung-woo, told a US ambassador, Kathleen Stephens, that younger generation Chinese Communist party leaders no longer regarded North Korea as a useful or reliable ally and would not risk renewed armed conflict on the peninsula, according to a secret cable to Washington.

China has also said that it would not intervene militarily in the event of a North Korean collapse, and that a unified Korea ruled from Seoul could remain a US ally as long as American troops did not cross north of the DMZ; China sees its interests in trade with the US, South Korea, and Japan, not in propping up an increasingly unstable client that doesn’t even serve anymore as a useful buffer.

That, my friends, is the core of a deal that would have cynical power-players like Metternich and Kissinger drooling with anticipation. The only reason North Korea survives is through the shipment of cheap fuel and food across the Yalu river border. If China were to decide that its interests were better served by a reunified and stable Korean trading partner, even if a US ally, then all it has to do is turn off the drip-feed and… Bye-bye bandit kingdom.

While Kim Jong Il is desperately trying to secure the succession for his son, Kim Jong Un, one can see this playing out like the East German collapse and German reunification in 1989-90: the old regime dies off, the new rulers haven’t the skill or will (or both) to maintain control of a failing state, and the regime collapses of exhaustion to be absorbed by its democratic cousin.

The question is what will Kim Jong Il and his military do. As the cables hint, they were probably the only ones among the concerned powers (the US, China, South Korea, and Japan) who had no inkling of China’s real feelings.  Will this knowledge lead Kim to moderate his behavior or the military to remove him, so China doesn’t pull the plug? Will they keep pushing the limits under the assumption that China, in the end, won’t cut them loose? Or, as Allahpundit fears, will they decide to go out in a blaze of glory?

My own guess is that Kim will try to make nice with Beijing and not do anything more provocative than he already has and mollifying them with vague promises of reform, while continuing to secure the throne for his son. Then, when Dear Leader passes on, a transitional regime —with or without Kim Jong Un— will oversee an East German-style endgame.

At least, that’s what I hope. This still has every chance of blowing up in all our faces, mostly due to the unpredictability of those running the world’s largest prison camp masquerading as a state.

POSTSCRIPT: Regarding the Wikileaks release, I have three observations

  1. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange needs to meet a bad end, soon. He is harming my country in a time of war; he shouldn’t have gotten this far.
  2. The real fallout of these documents isn’t what they reveal (and much of that validates the Right’s views), but that we look like such idiots when it comes to security that few will be willing to talk confidentially with us for quite a long time.
  3. While the security weaknesses revealed in this scandal reach back at least several years, the response to the Wikileaks revelations has shown the Obama administration as weak and incompetent — and a danger to our national security.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

Giving thanks for the lone defender of freedom

November 28, 2010

John Yoo, a Korean immigrant to the United States, has written a brief meditation for Thanksgiving on what America’s willingness to stand up to tyranny has meant, occasioned by the North Korean attack on Yeonpyeong Island. An excerpt:

Wars in both Korea and Vietnam sent important signals to the Soviet Union and China that the United States would continue to resist communist expansion forcefully.  While Korea was a stalemate, and Vietnam a defeat, communism did not spread in Asia and America’s defense allowed nations such as Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, at first, and now others like Indonesia and Maylasia to rise out of poverty.   This all may have served the interests of the United States, but it should not be forgotten that the United States sent its men and women to fight and die on foreign lands so that people they never knew might live a more prosperous, peaceful life.

In the midst of our internal squabbles, the words of an immigrant serve to remind us of the unique role we’ve played in preserving human liberty.

Tell me again why we give the UN any money?

July 12, 2010

Just when you think that body couldn’t be any more useless and corrupt, they do something like this:

UN Fails to Condemn North Korea for Killing Over 40 South Korean Sailors

When the results of the international investigation into the sinking of the South Korean ship the Cheonan were released in May, the U.S. State Department was adamant that it believed North Korea was responsible — and that the country would have to face some actual punishment for killing 46 innocent South Korea sailors.

“I think it is important to send a clear message to North Korea that provocative actions have consequences,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said May 21 while visiting her Japanese counterpart in Tokyo.

Fast forward to today, when the United Nations released a presidential statement which not only does not specify any consequences for the Kim Jong Il regime, but doesn’t even conclude that North Korea was responsible for the attack in the first place.

The statement acknowledges that the South Korean investigation, which included broad international participation, blamed North Korea, and then “takes note of the responses from other relevant parties, including from the DPRK, which has stated that it had nothing to do with the incident.”

“Therefore, the Security Council condemns the attack which led to the sinking of the Cheonan,” the statement reads.

Isn’t diplomacy-speak wonderful? Not only does the UN issue the weakest form of statement, the “presidential statement,” but it can’t even name the party behind the attack. I bet the families of those 40 dead sailors feel oh-so-comforted, knowing Turtle Bay has their backs.

As Daniel Halper asks,

“…how long did it take for the UN to issue a condemnation of Israel’s action against pro-terrorist flotilla members?”

A perfectly legal action, bear in mind, as opposed to North Korea’s act of war.

Tell me again, does the United Nations do any good, and is there any reason for us to remain a part of it?

Really, just try to convince me. I love fantasy stories.

(via Jeff Emanuel)


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 16,517 other followers