Friday, February 13, 2004

SUCCESSION SPECULATION by Yoel Sano. It makes the case that dynastic succession is the most likely result following the death of the Dear Leader:
Although there have been several reports of coup attempts - most notably in 1992, by a group of Soviet-trained perestroika [restructuring]-oriented generals, and again in 1995, by elements of the Sixth Army Corps in remote North Hamgyong province - none has come remotely close to succeeding because of the efficiency of the security apparatus.

There are really only two circumstances in which a military coup would take place. First, if the economy continues to disintegrate, and national survival becomes an issue, "reformist" elements in the Korean People's Army may conclude that North Korea is better off without the Korean Worker's Party and Kim Jong-il. The second scenario involves Kim Jong-il making too many concessions over North Korea's nuclear program to the United States, South Korea, or Japan, and accelerating economic reforms that cause social unrest. The latter situation could lead to a "reactionary" coup of the sort that befell Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in August 1991.

Another reason why a second dynastic succession is likely to be upheld is that it is not just the ruling Kim family that benefits from nepotism and connections. While the predominance of a small number of surnames in Korea (North and South) makes it difficult to track family links, it is known that many top leaders are the sons of the revolutionary generation that fought against Japanese imperialism, or have siblings in high positions. For example, Kim Kuk-tae - a senior KWP central committee secretary in charge of cadre affairs - is the son of general Kim Chaek, who served as the KPA's frontline commander during the Korean War, in which he was killed. General O Kuk-ryol, the head of the central committee's special operations department, is the son of a veteran guerrilla, as is Colonel General O Kum-chol, the commander of the air force.
But who will be the third Kim to rule the DPRK?
Attention naturally turned to the elder of the two brothers, Kim Jong-chol, and Newsweek magazine published a dated and blurred black and white photograph of him during his school days in Switzerland. More recently, though, the emphasis has been on the younger brother, Kim Jong-un (also spelled Kim Jong-woon). The main proponent of this theory is Kim Jong-il's former Japanese sushi chef, Kenji Fujimoto (a pseudonym), who, in his memoir, published in Japan, stated that Kim regards Jong-chol as too effeminate, and Jong-un to be more like his father.

Complicating this complicated picture, however, were reports in October 2003 that Ko Yong-hui had been critically injured in a car accident. Other reports suggested that she was suffering from breast cancer. Her current status is unknown, and any disagreement over the succession could potentially cause problems for the process. Although Ko has no formal role in the process, she presumably wields some influence over Kim Jong-il's decision.
Read the whole thing.

CHECK OUT ANTTI LEPPANEN'S COMMENTS ON SMALL BUSINESSES IN KOREA. These observations are consistent with my own experience: businesses come and go with dizzying speed. While you're at it, take a look at the author's personal encounter with North Korean greatness.

REMEMBERING THE RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR. While Russians commemorate their war dead in Inch'on, Japanese beer drinkers get a reminder of their glorious victory in the Russo-Japanese War. How will Koreans remember the 100th anniversary of a War that was fought at least in part in and over Korea? How will Teddy Roosevelt, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the war be remembered, considering that part of his successful negotiations included the Taft-Katsura Agreement which gave American support for Japanese domination of Korea (in return for Japanese acknowledgment of a free American hand in the Philippines)? The fun of remembering never ends.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Yonhap ("NORTH KOREA CANCELS TWO CIVILIAN EXCHANGE EVENTS WITH SOUTH," Seoul, 02/10/04) reported that the DPRK has cancelled its participation in two civilian inter-Korean events in an apparent protest at a "delay" in cross-border economic cooperation projects, the events' ROK organizers said Tuesday 10 February. The DPRK has rejected the ROK's offer to hold a joint ceremony in Pyongyang or Kaesong to mark the 1 March Korean independence movement protest against Japanese colonial rule, the ROK headquarters of the event said. The Koreas jointly commemorated the event for the first time in Seoul last year with over 100 DPRK religious and social group leaders attending. The DPRK was to host this year's joint event but has refused to do so, citing the tight schedule for preparations. DPRK officials said they are busy preparing the festivities for the birthday of their leader, Kim Jong-il, which falls on 16 February. Kim's birthday is one of the most important holidays in the DPRK.

DIPLOMACY OF A HIGHLY UNDIPLOMATIC NATURE. Claudia Rosett offers some talking points for the American delegation to the upcoming six-party talks.
Well, here's how we can help. We could reframe the talks not on North Korea's terms, but on ours. That means asking not at what price we can pay off Kim & Co., but what we might with true integrity put on the table.

Let's start with the problem that North Korea craves aid because it is poor; so poor that in recent years an estimated two million North Koreans have starved to death. There's no mystery about the cause. In this age of global trade and high technology, abysmal poverty is the result of one thing, and one thing only: atrocious government. We know how to fix that, and it is not by sending more food and fuel to be stolen by the same regime causing the poverty in the first place.

So how about making a generous offer to instruct North Koreans in the ways of serious prosperity, meaning genuine capitalism? Let's start by plunking down a copy of Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations," followed by the works of F.A. Hayek and, for easier reading, Milton Friedman's "Capitalism and Freedom"--plus a Sears catalog and a copy of the U.S. Constitution. We could offer translation into Korean. We could recruit tutors from Eastern Europe, versed in the pitfalls of transition. That would be aid, at last, in a form Kim could not steal.

We could follow that up with a list of places where Kim Jong Il, his family and other top officials could reasonably expect asylum should they choose to depart North Korea. Hawaii worked pretty well for Ferdinand Marcos.

We could underscore the asylum offer, and provide a great big centerpiece for the six-way talks, with a list of prosecutions carried out since World War II for crimes against humanity. We could submit lists of questions about recent reports of chemical weapons experiments on North Korean political prisoners, about massive testimony of infanticide, torture, exposure and targeted starvation, as deliberate policy of Kim's state. We could ask for not only the names but also the addresses of the top 15 or so officials responsible for overseeing North Korea's death camps and state security apparatus--because our diplomats would like to send each of them a personalized dossier, in Korean of course, on the Nuremberg trials.

Finally, having put all this on the table, we could expand our own miserly $1.4 million annual budget for Radio Free Asia's North Korean service. Instead of broadcasting only four hours a day to North Koreans, who risk their lives to tune in, we could start broadcasting around the clock, including news of all these offers that belong on the table. (It's not that hard to modify even a North Korean radio to receive RFA. In a recent survey of 200 North Korean defectors, conducted by the Intermedia Survey Institute, almost half, before defecting, had tuned in to foreign broadcasts.)

Then--and it doesn't really matter if North Korea's envoy is still in the room, or has gone off to sulk near the national plutonium repository; he'll be listening, he's got plenty at stake--we could add to the stack on the table our complaints about Kim's nuclear program. If we must discuss this extortion racket, let's start from the premise that as the world's leading democracy and superpower, we are the makers of manners--and it's high time in our dealings with North Korea that we brought some Reagan etiquette to the negotiating table.
It isn't entirely clear to me what this approach would accomplish, especially in the short-term. I suppose it would make those who just can't understand why everyone else isn't as obsessed with just how gosh darn evil the North Korean regime is as they are feel better. Call a spade a spade and all that. I chuckled at the idea of giving reading assignments (with homework?). Who knew that reading Adam Smith and F.A. Hayek was all it took to lift a nation out of poverty?


North Korea denies receiving nuclear-weapons technology from Pakistan. (see here for more)
North Korea, too, has denied the admission by Khan that he sold nuclear-weapons technology to the state. A statement by a Foreign Ministry spokesman described the claim as "false propaganda" spread by the United States, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported. The spokesman said that the "US smear campaign" justified Pyongyang's moves "to build [a] nuclear deterrent force". It was North Korea's first official response to the Pakistani disclosures. The denial comes just weeks before new six-way talks on Pyongyang's nuclear-weapons program are to begin in Beijing on February 25.

Despite American pressure, Pakistan’s President Musharraf is unlikely to press the matter much further:
"Musharraf is in a bind. On one hand, it is very unlikely that A Q Khan carried out these activities over the last 15 years without senior members of the Pakistani military and the intelligence service being aware of it, although they might not have known about every detail," Samore said.

He continued: "But, on the other hand, if Musharraf conducts a full investigation, he is very likely to create domestic political problems for himself - not only because of A Q Khan's popularity but also because Musharraf would be forced to investigate all of his predecessors as army chief of staff, which is likely to cause trouble in the Pakistani army, and that is Musharraf's principal power base."

Chun Doo Hwan back in the spotlight (and perhaps back on the hot seat)?
With prosecutors determining that some of the "mystery funds" administered by Chun Jae-yong, the second son of former President Chun Doo-hwan, were actually illegal funds belonging to his father, the Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office is considering plans to directly summon the ex-President for investigation. An official with the prosecution said, "We will actively consider calling Mr. Chun in for investigation during the middle of next week."
Prosecutors determined Tuesday that the "mystery funds" administered by Chun Jae-yong totaled W16.75 billion, W7.35 billion of which came from a secret fund that was managed by a Mr. Kim who worked for the presidential security office in April 1987, while the elder Chun was in office.

In other corruption-related news, the brother-in-law of President Roh Moo-hyun has become the subject of an “investigation.”
Prosecutor General Song Gwang-soo said Wednesday that prosecutors would start a full investigation into the private fund collection scandal of Min Kyung-chan, President Roh’s in-law, if it is handed over to the prosecution.
During the "Truth-Finding Hearing on Illegal Presidential Campaign Funds," conducted by the National Assembly's Legislation and Judiciary Committee at the Supreme Prosecutor's Office, Song said that he and prosecutors would thoroughly investigate the scandal without any presumption and uncover the entire truth. He said this as lawmakers from the opposition parties said that the special investigation division of the National Police Agency, which receives its orders from Cheong Wa Dae, has been suspiciously trying to minimize the scandal.

Roh also cleaned house, replacing six senior aides:
President Roh Moo-hyun replaced six senior government officials yesterday, including Deputy Finance Minister Kim Jin-pyo, who has been the country's chief economic architect in the past year. Mr. Kim is stepping down in the widely-held expectation that he will run for an Assembly seat on the Our Open Party ticket in the April 15 elections.
Mr. Kim's replacement is Lee Hun-jai, 60, who headed the Financial Supervisory Service during the 1997-1998 financial crisis.

ROK ambassador to the U.S. Han Song-ju declares that the DPRK's uranium enrichment program must be on the table in upcoming talks.
North Korea must be prepared to discuss its uranium-based nuclear arms program in negotiations this month with the United States and neighboring countries, South Korea's ambassador to Washington said on Wednesday.

Ambassador Han Sung-joo told reporters in Seoul that the confession by Pakistan's top nuclear scientist that he had sold nuclear arms technology to Pyongyang had ``further confirmed'' the existence of the North's highly enriched uranium program.

In North Korea, history wars and Japan bashing continues apace:
The crimes committed by the Japanese imperialists against humanity can never be concealed nor be negated.
It is the legal and moral responsibility of Japan and the unanimous demand of the international community for Japan to frankly admit and apologize for and repent of its past crimes.
If Japan makes a mockery of the history by shamelessly working to tamper with it and inventing lies in a bid to evade its responsibility, it will add to its hideous crimes and will not be able to shake itself of the ill-fame of being a "war criminal state."

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Agence France-Presse ("WFP MAKES LAST DITCH APPEAL TO HELP STARVING MILLIONS IN NORTH KOREA," Beijing, 02/09/04) reported that the World Food Programme (WFP) made a last ditch appeal for help to feed millions starving in the DPRK, saying it was scraping the bottom of the barrel with cereal stocks virtually exhausted. Lack of international aid to the DPRK has left some elderly, women and children in a desperate situation during the harsh Korean winter, the United Nations agency said Monday. "We are scrapping the bottom of the barrel," WFP representative for North Korea Masood Hyder said at a press conference in Beijing. "Over four million core benfeciaries, the most vulnerable elderly, women and children are now deprived of very vital rations. It is the middle of the harsh Korean winter and they need more food not less." The WFP has targeted 485,000 ton of commodities valued at 171 million dollars for 2004 but has so far only secured commitments for 140,000 tons and little of this has actually been delivered. The US, Australia, Canada and the European Union recently pledged 77,000 ton of aid but this will not arrive before April.
This is nothing but tragic.

UPDATE: What does North Korea do in the face of this significant challenge? Hold a "Pioneers Rally to Revolutionize Potato Farming"

CHINA AND THE TWO KOREAS. A reasoned examination of the relations between China and both North and South Korea by Denny Roy can be found here. A portion:
Beijing and Seoul enjoy warming relations and great potential for economic cooperation. Based on current trends, the Chinese have reason to hope that in the long term Seoul will have a closer and stronger relationship with China than with the United States.
Pyongyang remains a troublesome ally for China, refusing Chinese advice to commit itself to the Chinese model of economic liberalization and integration with the global economy, and seeking improved security through risky confrontational tactics such as developing a nuclear weapons program.
Chinese strategists are more amenable than in the past to the idea of a united Korea under Seoul’s control. The satisfactory and improving relationship with South Korea partly accounts for this, as does the growing conviction that China no longer needs a buffer state. Nevertheless, the Chinese generally fear the risks and uncertainties of the transition to a united Korea and are not inclined to campaign for a dramatic change in the status quo.
In addition, one wonders whether the present scuffle over the identity of Koguryo might have an impact on China's reluctance to encourage a unified Korea (once unified, Korea can then turn to other "unfinished business").

The article also argues that the U.S. shouldn't expect much in the way of Chinese assistance in its current non-proliferation crusade in North Korea:
Some Americans believe China is able to dictate policy to Pyongyang, if for no other reason than North Korea’s dependence on China for much of its food and energy supplies. Given this dependence, China ought to be able to force North Korea to meet any demand by threatening to cut off these vital supplies. It may follow from this line of reasoning, then, that North Korean failure to meet U.S. demands for a resolution of the nuclear weapons crisis indicates the Chinese are not interested in denuclearizing North Korea. This, however, is an unrealistically high burden to place on Beijing. First, the Chinese are careful not to pressure Pyongyang too hard for fear of triggering a collapse of the North Korean state, with all the problems this would entail for China. Second, despite the “as close as lips and teeth” rhetoric since the Korean War, Sino-North Korean relations have been severely strained on several past occasions. Pyongyang has shown it is not afraid to snub the Chinese if they are insufficiently supportive of North Korean interests. The Chinese realize that if they are too pushy they could lose all their influence with Kim’s regime.
Furthermore, many Chinese would have difficulty accepting cooperation between their government and the United States—a country so widely suspected of seeking to repress China and dominate Asia—against North Korea, a country for which so many Chinese spilled their blood in the common cause of opposing American encroachment. Opinion polls suggest Chinese overwhelmingly side with North Korea rather than the United States in the current dispute, even if most Chinese are also against getting involved in another Korean war.
Where has this kind of reasoned analysis been the last several months?

DEAN SCREAMS, GORE BORES? Best of the Web links to a sound clip (.wav) of a speech made by Al Gore in Tennessee. Much has been made of this speech in which Gore stated that Bush "betrayed" America. Somehow I am struck more by the delivery: Gore has apparently rediscovered his Southern accent and a penchant for rousing gospel-style oratory. I wonder where this version of Al Gore was in 2000 when he was running for president and putting audiences to sleep in the presidential debates.

Of course it wasn't long before Gore and Dean were merged together into one seamless screaming whole.

Question: is this better or worse than Bush's painfully inarticulate bumbling on Meet the Press?


CARTHARTIDAE looks at how Korea and Japan are portrayed on the front page of the Financial Times

FREE NORTH KOREA covers a story on Charles Robert Jenkins a U.S. soldier who deserted to North Korea in 1965 and now wants to be able to move to Japan but not be extradited to the U.S.

JUST ABOUT EVERYONE has noticed the farmers' riots on Youido. See The Marmot's Hole, Jeff in Korea, Incestuous Amplification,and Flying Yangban for pics, links to videos, and commentary.
I don't have much to add but a question did occur to me: many have noted that the claim that "Korea is a law-abiding country" doesn't seem to square with scenes like those seen on Youido. But is demonstrating technically illegal in Korea? Of course destroying property, assaulting police and the like clearly are, but is the actual act of demonstrating illegal? I realize to my chagrin, that I don't rightly know the answer to that question.

Others have noted the ritual nature (here for example) of many demonstrator-police interactions, a dynamic that tends to dampen the amount of blood and violence. This is definitely the case in many of the demonstrations I have seen but I should note that the ritual aspect seems particularly strong in the case of student demonstrations (after all, it is the student/young idealistic intellectual's job to be the conscience of the country). In cases of blue collar or farmer demonstrations, it is less clear how far their dissent is tolerated.

KATHREB writes a paper on anti-American sentiment in South Korea.

KOREA LIFE BLOG comments on what are some of the best culinary inventions of modern Korea (the three-minute curry is a staple in my home).

There's plenty more but I have to go teach a class.

DID HE REALLY MEAN THAT? Just received a complimentary copy of Roll Call in my box in the office. Had I world enough and time I would subscribe just to be that much better informed about what is going on in the corridors of power. But I've other things to do so I just browsed the free copy. . . and stumbled across this article by Stuart Rothenberg (subscription required). In an otherwise unremarkable recitation of the conventional wisdom on the Democratic Presidential primaries, Rothenberg (who is a political analyst who edits and publishes an eponymous report and commands $5000-$10000 for a speech) lets fly with the following:
Thankfully, Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.) has accepted the reality of the situation and exited the race. A serious man with a reputation for integrity, he was never a credible candidate for the Democratic nomination.
I'm not sure whether Mr. Rothenberg intended it, but that sounds like a searing indictment of the Democratic Party to me. Ouch!

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