Tuesday, November 09, 2004


Met with someone who works for the Japanese Ministry of Finance today. It seems that I have somehow gotten on the "Americans in DC who will meet with foreign diplomats/bureaucrats/journalists and talk about Korea" list. It was an interesting and wide-ranging conversation. Two observations he made stood out:

1) He was very interested in what he saw as differences between East and West. One such difference, he observed, was the long-standing Eastern (Chinese-Korean-Japanese) tradition of what I would call the Confucian Dynastic Cycle. Within that framework (which emphasizes the virtue, morality and ability of kings and emperors as indices of dynastic prosperity and longevity), he emphasized what I describe to my students as the "expander/consolidator" position in the traditional dynastic cycle. This is a monarch who is usually not the son of the dynastic founder but rather the grandson. This Japanese technocrat made much of the fact that dynasties in China and Japan that had a smart, capable 3rd monarch generally lasted for a long time. "What," he wondered, "does this say about North Korea?" Well, if Leader #3 in the DPRK ends up being this guy, I don't know that this bodes well for the long-term viability of the Kim Dynasty. On the other hand, many said the same thing about Kim Jong Il.

2) He also observed that because of the lack of information about the DPRK, it is easier for everyone to discuss and speculate on the issue. When he makes the rounds to discuss an issue such as real estate markets or interest rates, the people he meets with have a vast knowledge and extensive information and thus, there is often little room for an open, free-flowing discussion. But when it comes to North Korea, we're all feeling around in the dark and, therefore, we all can be a bit more bold, a bit more sweeping in our questions and conclusions. Very interesting and very true.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?