Friday, November 14, 2003

“THE TERRORISTS WILL HAVE WON” Remember in the days after September 11 when everyone seemed to judge the significance of every action based on whether it would help defeat the terrorists? Don’t stay home on Halloween because being fearful will mean the terrorists have won. Don’t let John Ashcroft spy on your library books because turning America into a police state will mean the terrorists have won. And on and on it went.

This kind of rhetoric has died down for the most part. But it occurs to me that it might be time for a serious revival if current trends in Iraq prevail. Japan is dragging its feet on sending troops to Iraq. Korea has ordered its troops to stay indoors until things become more safe and secure. Most of Western Europe didn’t bother to send troops in the first place. Only Italy it seems remains undaunted.

And now of course, the Bush Administration is starting to make noises about speeding up the process of transferring power to the Iraqi Governing Council, implicitly preparatory to bringing American troops back home. If the U.S. can actually pull this off, transfer power to a stable and representative Iraqi government in a shorter than expected period of time, this would be the best of all possible worlds. But many argue that the reason for this change of plans is predicated more on next year’s election than on long-term strategies and plans for Iraq and the Middle East. Joe Biden put it succinctly:
My greatest fear is that this Administration, having made all the wrong choices, is going to conclude they have to bring Johnny and Jane home by the next election in order to survive.

I wasn’t all that keen on this American adventure in Iraq. But now that the deed is done, keeping promised troops away and speeding up plans for withdrawing the ones already there is foolishness. It will accomplish nothing but to convince the terrorists of the world that all it takes is a few dead soldiers or aid workers and the nations of the free world will turn tail and run. One silver lining to Bush’s reckless adventurism was the fact that many of America’s antagonists sat up and took stock of the new approach: “This guy is serious about using military force; he’s not afraid of taking casualties; in fact, he’s a bit (or more than a bit) crazy.” Does anyone honestly think that Iran’s decision to allow inspections of its nuclear facilities or even North Korea’s willingness to come to the negotiating table (news flash: DPRK diplomats have recently declared their willingness to consider a package deal) was due to the resolutions of the United Nations? No! It was because they are on Bush’s “axis of evil” list and feared that what happened in Baghdad will happen to them if they don’t cooperate. But if the other nations of the world hem and haw and if the U.S. withdraws from Iraq before really stabilizing the place, there will be a new lesson to learn: “The U.S. can’t take casualties after all. The way to deal with them is provoke a war, don’t really fight but rather melt into the population, and resist with guerrilla warfare. In a matter of a year or so, the Americans and their fair-weather friends in Asia and Europe will run away." Not all the people shooting American, British, Italian, Polish, and UN people in Iraq are al ‘qaeda terrorists, but be assured that Osama bin Laden and his ilk are watching and liking what they see.

MORE CLOUDS THAN SUNSHINE: The South Korean KCC group has taken control of the Hyundai Group's holding company. The new powers that be were swift to announce that Hyundai's North Korean projects should turn a profit, and soon, or else.
Hyundai Asan Co.'s unprofitable tourism and other business projects in North Korea may also derail, as KCC Group said it would think twice about them if the situation did not improve.
If the KCC group is serious about this, then one might as well write off all Hyundai projects in North Korea. The chances of any of them turning a profit in the near future are next to nothing. Queries made to even proponents of sunshine in the ROK government about when any of the investments in North Korea might be expected to actually make money are universally met with nervous laughter. These projects aren't about profits, they're about reconciliation, about reunification but only after a long, long, long "soft landing."

Thursday, November 13, 2003

U.S. INTELLIGENCE ON DPRK NUCLEAR WEAPONS ETC. A belatedly late link to a post on the subject by the typically thorough Parapundit.
We assess that North Korea has produced one or two simple fission-type nuclear weapons and has validated the designs without conducting yield-producing nuclear tests. Press reports indicate North Korea has been conducting nuclear-weapons related high explosive tests since the 1980s in order to validate its weapons design(s). With such tests, we assess North Korea would not require nuclear tests to validate simple fission weapons.
Given the usual paucity of evidence or source materials the CIA and other intelligence agencies offer to support their contentions (at least in declassified settings) and given the less than stellar track record of American intelligence on Iraq, India-Pakistan etc., I'm not entirely convinced about the prospect of North Korea allegedly acquiring a nuclear capability without actually testing the weapons and delivery systems. Given the DPRK's nearly collapsed economy, lack of friends among the developed world, and relative isolation from the outside, I think the burden of proof would probably be on North Korea to demonstrate that it has actually overcome these barriers rather than American intelligence simply assuming that because it is possible the DPRK has actually crossed the nuclear rubicon. And, even though the CIA estimate appears to have probably been in the pipeline for some time, it is curious that this particular estimate sees the light of day at nearly the same time that USA Today reports that intelligence estimates about the uranium enrichment program may have been exaggerated (the timing of these allegations prompts Incestuous Amplification to ask why now?).

PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS is the title of a new book edited by Gordon Flake and Scott Snyder which examines the experiences of NGO's in North Korea. I went to the DC book launch (hosted by KEI) earlier this week. Some interesting tidbits that emerged include:
--Religious-based NGO's often enjoyed more success in North Korea than other types.
--The DPRK generally insisted that NGO's not include Korean speakers in their delegations that visited North Korea
--The process became intensely politicized (no surprise here) as food-aid became a carrot for government negotiators to offer (and DPRK negotiators to demand) rather than a separate, autonomous attempt to alleviate starvation in North Korea.
--After the 2000 Kim-Kim summit, South Korean NGO's found themselves marginalized as the increased government-to-government ties eclipsed NGO's.
--The DPRK recently requested that the EU provide 100,000 (!) scholarships for North Korean students to study in Europe (a sign on the one hand of typical North Korean demanding of concessions but on the other hand, think of what would happen to north Korea if 100,000 students actually studied in Europe and returned home!).

The general tenor of the authors/editors was fairly pessimistic. The DPRK had, for the most part, managed to insist on controlling the process of humanitarian aid, had managed to resist calls for increased monitoring of where the aid actually goes, and had shown a short-sighted but perhaps politically expedient preference for direct food aid rather than long-term development projects. No "teach a man to fish" ethos apparent here. Moreover, donor fatigue has set in and large numbers of NGO's have reduced or eliminated their operations in North Korea. The fact that North Korea can't seem to cooperate with well intentioned non-governmental groups in the vital task of providing food for its starving citizens and was unwilling to allow monitoring of where the food went does not bode well for the prospects of a deal on the nuclear issue any time soon. If North Korea can't trust outsiders to simply observe where food aid goes, why should we think that they will willingly open up sensitive defense-related operations to full inspection and monitoring.

I should note that there were some dissenting voices at the book launch. Some have pointed to gradual, incremental progress in the case of a few NGO's that have seemed to figure out the best way to win the trust of DPRK officials (often on the local rather than the central level). So, despite the setbacks and frustration, there is some cause for hope to see NGO's as engines of slow but significant change. Maybe so. But many wonder whether North Korea has the luxury of time to engage in gradual change.

PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS. A map of political contributions reveals a more mixed picture than the famous red state/blue state divide of the 2000 election.

THE JOYS OF POLITICAL DISCOURSE. Asymmetrical Information links to a couple fo blogs that say essentially the same thing about today's political discourse in different and interesting ways. Behind door number one:
I've noticed some recent changes in the nature of the political debate in this country which I thought I'd share with my readers. Perhaps you have noticed some of these same things yourself. I feel it is instructive, at times, to step back a bit, take the "big picture" view, and see what it can tell us about ourselves, and the world around us. It is this which I intend to do here.

I've noticed, recently, that people who disagree with me are stupid and dumb. I can't really believe they are as stupid and dumb as they seem, so I think they must be crazy as well.

Why are they so crazy? Well, any discussion of this would have to begin with how stupid and dumb they are. Imagine if you were so stupid and dumb that you actually disagreed with me, even when I was totally right? That would be enough to drive anyone crazy.
Any time you find yourself nodding in agreement with sweeping statements made about the idiocy, the mendacity, or the insanity of the neo-cons, the liberals, Hollywood, gun-totin' NRA members, Koreans, Arabs, Muslims, Christians, or members of a myriad other groups, chances are you have long since ceased to engage with their arguments and seek only to reinforce your previously held conceptions about said group.

Behind door number two:
Of course the World Trade Center bombings are a uniquely tragic event, and it is vital that we never lose sight of the human tragedy involved. However, we must also consider if this is not also a lesson to us all; a lesson that my political views are correct. Although what is done can never be undone, the fact remains that if the world were organised according to my political views, this tragedy would never have happened.

. . . .

Of course the World Trade Center attacks are a uniquely tragic event, and it is vital that we never lose sight of the human tragedy involved. But we must also not lose sight of the fact that I am right on every significant moral and political issue, and everybody ought to agree with me. Please, I ask you as fellow human beings, vote for the political party which I support, and ask your legislators to support policies endorsed by me, as a matter of urgency.

The Japanese imperialists bitterly despised, insulted and maltreated the Koreans, blustering "the Koreans must abide by the Japanese law or die". And they did not allow the Koreans to go by the names given by their parents under the pretext of "changing Korean names to Japanese." It is due to the aftermath of the crimes committed by the Japanese imperialists that not only the victims of the forcible drafting but their bereaved families consider it hard to find the names of their own and relatives. Statute of limitations is not applicable to the war crimes and human rights abuses in view of international law. The human rights abuses the Japanese imperialists committed by forcibly drafting and massacring Koreans in the past are war crimes, "crimes against humanitarianism" and
human rights abuses, the truth of which should be probed to the end. Japan is the worst violator of human rights as it abducted a great number of young and middle aged Koreans for slave labor, forced Korean women into sexual slavery for the imperial Japanese army and disallowed the Koreans to use their spoken and written languages. It should be judged according to international law. It should reinstate the victims of the forcible drafting and make adequate compensation to them and their bereaved families.
Sadly enough, the DPRK (and the pre-1987 ROK for that matter) appears to have learned all too well from Japan.

THE HORROR, THE HORROR. Mom finds out about blog.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

OH NO! The impending arrival of American speed skater Apollo Anton Ohno to a world cup competition in South Korea raises the question as to whether South Koreans have gotten over the anger that resulted from the controversial Salt Lake City Winter Olympics (anger that spawned websites like this and this). Well, if Cathartidae is correct, at least some still harbor ill feelings.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003



ON A ROCK IN RURAL IOWA Funny, I don't recall seeing grafiti like this in or around Washington DC (thanks to Vodkapundit for the link).

SUCCESSION SPECULATION: A Dong-A Ilbo article quotes American intelligence agencies on the future of North Korea. The piece (based on a Washington Post article that I can't seem to find on the web) argues that Kim Jong Il will be succeeded by either one of his sons (surprise, surprise) or someone from the military. One name that has surfaced in this latest round of Pyongyangology is Yon Hyung-muk:
One diplomatic source of the Korean peninsula in Washington D.C. said that Yon Hyung-muk, a former technocrat-turned-leader who was appointed as the premier vice chairman of the National Defense Committee during the second-term guidance division reform, is being discussed for the position on November 9.

The same source explained that Vice Chairman Yon is an authority on Chinese issues and is desired by the Chinese government to be the next leader of North Korea since Yon was born in Yanbian, China and had lived in China until he was in junior high school. In addition, he has also assumed the role of chairman of the Second Economic Committee, responsible for taking care of the entire North Korean munitions manufacturing, and as the governor of the Chaggang province, a strategically important position for the military and munitions.

This source also reported, "If Kim Jong-il is 'eliminated,' they want Vice Chairman Yon, an authority on Chinese issues, to take over the regime."
One never knows how much stock, if any, to put in the anonymous predictions of various American intelligence agencies, but at least they are thinking about the possibility that the DPRK may not collapse tomorrow (and even if the Kim Jong Il regime collapses, this may not mean the end of North Korea).

Monday, November 10, 2003

NORTH KOREA AND CHINA FIRM UP ALLIANCE. So argues Jaewoo Choo.The recent visit to Pyongyang by Beijing's Number 2 man resulted in the reiteration of previous PRC policy:
Wu himself said his visit had two purposes, one being to return the courtesy of the two visits Kim has made to China recently. The other purpose can be found in Wu's expounding of former president Jiang Zemin's famous 16-character guideline to bilateral relations iterated during his last visit to Pyongyang three years ago, that is, jicheng chuantong, mianxian weilai, mulin youhao, and jiaqiang hezuo (inheriting traditions, facing the future, good-neighborliness, and strengthening cooperation). Under the Chinese tradition of reiterating a paramount leader's rhetoric or philosophy (if we are allowed to describe Jiang as a paramount leader), Wu thereby once again tried to confirm China's strategic relations with Korea.
One question this historian asks is "which 'traditions'"? The tradition of distance and non-interference that characterized Ming and Qing China's relations with Choson Korea for most of its more than 500 years? Or the much more involved and interventionist tradition of the late 19th century and again in 1950? It is clear which tradition the "Korea First" Chuch'e crowd in Pyongyang would prefer. But weaker powers don't always get to choose the terms of their interactions with their stronger neighbors.

What I don't understand about Technomart is that the have store after store after store selling the exact same brands and models for the exact same prices by way too many salespeople. Seems to me if they cut out the extra stores, salespeople, and display models, they could lower the prices considerably.
This is, of course not unique to this particular venue. Go to almost any major market in Seoul--Namdaemun, Tongdaemun, Yongsan Electronics etc.--and you will find the same procession of small stores selling exactly the same products for the same prices. Go to almost any department store in Korea and you will find an abundance of apparently superfluous employees. It is all terribly inefficient when viewed from the perspective of our consumer-first Wal-Mart model of retailing. On the other hand, it provides a livelihood for a not inconsiderable number of people. In a world in which (if we can trust Robert Reich) manufacturing jobs are disappearing (and not just in the United States), where the jobs are going to come from is not an insignificant question.

RIOTS IN SEOUL. Flying Yangban and the Marmot are all over the latest.

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