Monday, April 30, 2007

Wikipedia entry - 1988 Summer Olympics

Following Sayaka's excellent example, I've just added a section, Significance of the 1988 Olympics in South Korea, to the entry on the 1988 Summer Olympics in Wikipedia. I am still tweaking it, so feel free to provide any suggestions, revise directly on Wikipedia or, as Wikipedia warns, "edit mercilessly."

Related to the topic of the Olympics acting as a catalyst for change in Asia, Amnesty International reported that China is using the 2008 Olympics as a catalyst for suppressing dissent in the name of stability. Moreover, the report contends that China is failing to live up to the promise to improve their record on human rights in anticipation of the Games.

The similarities to the 1988 Olympics in Seoul are quite apparent. In both cases, there is/was increased international scrutiny on the issue of political freedom. In the case of China in 2008, Amnesty International, an external international advocacy group, is pressuring for change; in Korea in 1988, this pressure was primarily coming from a fear of any negative press of military suppression or riots in the domestic democracy movement in June 1987.

The article quotes Catherine Baber, Amnesty's deputy Asia-Pacific director as saying, "The IOC cannot want an Olympics that is tainted with human rights abuses - whether families forcibly evicted from their homes to make way for sports arenas or growing numbers of peaceful activists held under house arrest." Likewise, articles on the impact of the 1988 Seoul Olympics in Korea employ similar language, that Korea and the IOC did not want the 1988 Games "tainted" with military dictatorship and riots.

It will be interesting to observe the role of the the Olympics in China's development over the course of the next year to see if a trend of the Olympics instigating political and social change in Asia emerges.

professor decided not to be a President

Former SNU chief drops out of race. Chung Un Chan, former SNU President, declared his decision not to participate in presidential election. As he stated, his lack of political expertise and supporters pulled him out of race for the election. Personally, I believe that he made a smart choice.
Although a number of articles criticized reality of politics in Korea, a lack of political experience would not suffice to lead a country. Of course, it is also true that Lee and Park from hanara dang do not have sufficient experiences, either.
I just hope that another version of the Roh administration is not born.

Jaebol (zaibatsu) or Mafia?

I know the title for this is very extreme. As a father of a son, Kim, the CEO for Hanhwa Group, seems to involve in bar brawl. Here is a link to the article, Hanwha boss queried over bar brawl.
Since I have been away from schools in Korea, I can't represent Korean attitude toward this type of fight. Yet, our mothers and fathers usually do not encourage their kids to revenge or fight back. I was taught that "Kids are growing while fighting."
Kim is not only an influential figure in Korea but also wealthy person, who can solve the issue through law. Regardless of what happened, I do not understand why this guy got bloody and dirty hands by himself.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Bush accepts Abe's apology?

This NY Times article addresses the impact of Prime Minister Abe’s visit to Washington on the “comfort women” resolution. Abe’s language “apologizing” for wartime sexual enslavement especially to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, has received attention for obfuscating the issue.

Specifically, Abe said he had “deep-hearted sympathies that the people who had to serve as comfort women were placed in extreme hardships” and expressed his “apologies for the fact that they were placed in that sort of circumstance.”

On the nature of Abe’s “apology,” Professor Mochizuki is quoted in the article, saying “If he wanted to be clear in his response, he could have phrased it differently….What Abe said does not acknowledge the issue of coercion, so those insisting on a clear admission of responsibility won’t be satisfied with that. I don’t think he’s changed anyone’s mind with his remarks.”

What was especially interesting (or a bit audacious in my humble opinion) was Bush’s acceptance of Abe’s “apology.” Like Representative Honda is quoted as saying in the article, my question is: how can President Bush accept Abe’s apology? He was not coerced into sexual slavery to the Japanese military nor is he asking for an official apology, so how can he accept Abe’s “apology”?

This leads to procedural question, if the non-binding House resolution requiring an official government apology passes, is there any measure the Senate or the Executive Branch can take to counteract it? Even if it doesn’t pass, since it’s non-binding, hasn’t the attention given to the issue accomplished a large part of the goal? Moreover, was Bush’s acceptance a way to maintain his good ties with Abe and with the nationalist contingent in the current Japanese government more generally given the attention to this controversial issue in HR 121? Was Bush’s acceptance of the apology an adequate means through which Abe could placate his nationalist base?

Given the recent acknowledgement of coercion (albeit in the rejection of compensation claims filed by former “comfort women”) as “historical fact” (the “ ” are for you Larry), it will be interesting to see how this issue continues to develop and on what grounds Abe will continue to be able to deny official involvement.

For one gauge of the South Korean opinion regarding the Abe-Bush visit, this JoongAng Daily editorial claims that Abe obfuscated the comfort women issue (despite the recent Supreme Court acknowledgement of coercion as "historical fact"), while the real motivation behind his meeting with Bush was to link the North Korean nuclear issue with the Japanese abductions.

In addition to eating hamburgers and securing an invitation to President Bush’s ranch, Abe concluded his US visit with a stop at Arlington National Cemetery. This caught my attention in light of the Yasukuni issue. In many ways Arlington parallels Yasukuni (although I forget the exact language, the last time I visited Arlington, I was struck by the signage denoting the cemetery as “America’s Shrine to Freedom”). However, one argument that I have heard is that Japan lacks a neutral venue to celebrate patriotism. Yasukuni is one of the few symbolic places that is at all patriotic (unfortunately, this conception of patriotism is highly charged and incredibly offensive to Japan's former colonies). I wonder if this is somehow laying the foundation for Abe's first state visit to Yasukuni in August. Or, if it's just something he wanted to see while in Washington. Or, if he was getting ideas for a constructing a new nationalistic monument.

F-22 Raptor Sales

Several news agencies have been reporting on the possibility of selling 100 F-22 Raptors to Japan. The reaction from Korea is one of skepticism. From the Korean perspective, this would create instability in East Asia by giving Japan air superiority over China and Korea. I also think that, coupled with the gradual reduction of U.S. troops in Korea, it will appear to weaken the U.S.-Korea security alliance. The Korean air force currenty uses F-15's, which are like a million years old (actually, about 35, but that's still old).

But from the U.S. perspective, this sale makes a lot of sense. First, these planes don't come cheap (over $300 million each). The original plan was for the U.S. to purchase over 700 of them, but that number was drasticaly reduced during the Clinton years and I think the plan now is to purchase less than 200. So this sale will make up for much of the loss to the sweet tune of $30 billion. And second, this will strengthen security relations with what is arguably our second most important ally. There are concerns over exporting such high tech weaponry, but I would assume that the models sold to Japan wouldn't contain the most secret technology so they would be getting the "Diet" models of these fighters anyway.

From what I can tell, these fighters are AMAZING. Their main asset is their stealth technology, which means that they can shoot down enemy planes before they're detected. Tests indicate that they will absolutely destroy the current fighters on the market, and you would only need a couple of them to wipe out entire squadrons of enemy fighters.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

South Korean politicians consumed by the upcoming presidential elections

According to this Yonhap piece, many South Korean citizens and citizen groups have criticized politicians for their lack of response and general inaction to the increased nationalism in Japan. Apparently, South Korean politicians are too busy with the upcoming presidential election that no one can or is willing to do anything about Abe's remarks denying government responsibility in coercing "comfort women" and new Japanese textbooks that gloss over wartime history and claim Dokdo as Japanese territory. This is especially notable given the U.S. political attention to these issues.

On the one hand, it seems that in the recent past, South Korean politicians have initiated political action to spur anti-Japanese sentiment, by protesting with the surviving comfort women at the Japanese embassy, releasing names of collaborators, adopting resolutions condemning Tokyo -- but all to little avail. Given the hegemonic power of Japan, little more could have been done without international attention from an even bigger power.

Still, I can agree with the comment from Chae Soo-young of the Citizens Forum for Comfort Women, that it is "shameful that our parliament did not have any resolution carried out when the resolution is expected to be adopted in the United States, where there is no direct sufferer."

The article comments that "with less than nine months to the presidential poll, parties are increasingly engrossed in attacking each other or regrouping to form a group with better chances of an election victory." Given how these contentious issues with Japan are deeply ingrained in the public consciousness, I'm a bit surprised at how politicians have not utilized these hot-button issues as a mechanism to gain popular support.

On another note, this article reminded me of Aaron Sorkin's wisdom in The American President, when Micheal Douglas, as President Shepherd admits, "I was too busy trying to keep my job, I forgot to do my job." If only all politicians (American, Korean, and Japanese) could live up to Sorkin's moral compass (sigh).

South Korea and Japan resuming joint history study

This is the second round!

Joint history study with South Korea to resume Japan Times

Japan, South Korea to resume history study Asahi Shimbun

S.K.-Japan joint history project to be revived, Hankyoreh

Friday, April 27, 2007


He should. He is Kim Pyong-il, the brother of DPRK leader Kim Jong-il. A whole slide-show of pictures of the Dear Leader's brother and family in Poland can be seen here. One wonders whether he is happy to be in Poland.


This story has been bouncing around for a while now, but given the current pending legislation in the U.S. Congress, Abe's visit etc., it is probably worth noting:

Documents: U.S. troops used 'comfort women' after WWII

TOKYO, Japan (AP) -- Japan's abhorrent practice of enslaving women to provide sex for its troops in World War II has a little-known sequel: After its surrender -- with tacit approval from the U.S. occupation authorities -- Japan set up a similar "comfort women" system for American GIs.

An Associated Press review of historical documents and records -- some never before translated into English -- shows American authorities permitted the official brothel system to operate despite internal reports that women were being coerced into prostitution. The Americans also had full knowledge by then of Japan's atrocious treatment of women in countries across Asia that it conquered during the war.

Tens of thousands of women were employed to provide cheap sex to U.S. troops until the spring of 1946, when Gen. Douglas MacArthur shut the brothels down.

A couple of quick reactions:

--anyone who expresses shock or surprise at the idea of American soldiers frequenting brothels (and the U.S. military at least tacitly approving of the progress) probably hails from the Captain Renault school of ignoring the painfully obvious:
"I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"

--I think I have a tiny scintilla (emphasis on both "tiny" and "scintilla") of empathy for the Japanese actions in this case: if you fervently believed (not least because you were told this on a daily basis) that the Americans were sub-human barbarians who would be sure to rape every Japanese woman in sight once they reached the islands, would you not at least consider the horrific choice of trying to provide "services" for them in order avoid far more widespread and indiscriminate rape? There is a firm and strong moral case for saying "no" (expressed nicely in Ursula Le Guin's story, "The ones who walked away from Omelas"). But I can, I think, at least understand where the Japanese may have been coming from.

--Regardless of the underlying morality, doesn't this "revealation" make it even more problematic for the U.S. to criticize Japan about Comfort Women?

More on Comfort Women & Abe...

OK, so I don't have any "facts" to prove that they're connected. But, given the general anarchy (and entropy) of the world we live in, if they're not, the timing would be something of a striking coincidence.

An AP report carried in the Washington Post reports that the Japanese Supreme Court has upheld a ruling that denies compensation to two former Chinese comfort women. The Court, as we mentioned in another context in class a few weeks back, cites the 1972 Japan-China Joint Communique as the basis for its ruling, contending that China, by signing the agreement, forfeited its right to reparations.

Two quicks thoughts...a communique is legally binding? I'm no international law scholar, but I thought that status was reserved for a treaty. Second, referencing yet another point made in class some time ago, this is an interesting example of how the state bargains/represents the interests of its citizens in international agreements (or, in this case, because of other factors, perhaps doesn't).

A Japanese court issuing such a ruling isn't new. Victims in these cases seldom emerge victorious...and even if they do, their cases are sometimes overturned. (For another Post article on Chinese forced laborers having their victory over a Japanese company overturned, see here.) I just found the timing very interesting. Perhaps some thought Abe's visit would distract international attention from the rulings?

Anyway, I've enjoyed seeing an issue we've explored in class feature so prominently in current international debates on current events in Asia. I don't exactly love the nature and tone of the developments that we've seen, so don't get me wrong. Nevertheless, I have something of a perspective on a current issue that I wouldn't have had if I hadn't taken Hist 298. So wait, a minute, I guess I'm saying that grad school has proved itself immediately useful in a very tangible way. Wow. Who'da thunk?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Look Who's In Town!

I'd apologize for beating a dead horse, but this time the horse has become current again, so I'm beating away. Again, an IHT/AP piece prompted my post...and it is from that article that I'm drawing much, but not all, of the info below. (Note: the photo at right is from the White House's website and is from the 2006 APEC meeting.)

As some of you may know, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is in town (or more accurately in Merrrr-a-land at Camp David) for his first visit (2 days) to the US as Prime Minister. There has been a decided effort to keep the visit low key in light of recent events. Thus, although there will be substance (6 Party talks, etc.), the meeting is being held at Camp David, not in DC. It's an informal dinner (cheeseburgers...just to poke at Japan, which used to be a top consumer of American beef, for the ongoing embargo), not a state dinner. And because Abe is a baseball fan (bless his heart), they're even supposed to play catch. (How you don't take him to Camden to see Da Birds, I don't know. For the love of Chowdah, they were even playing the Sawx!!) Tisk, tisk, President Bush. Tisk, tisk, indeed.

Anyway, senior officials at the NSC have noted that the visit is primarily designed for the two leaders to get to know each other (in the same way as W and Koizumi did and establish a friendship), but also because their families have a great deal of history together and because President Bush is in favor of the view of Japan (as a full security partner) that Abe and his political patrons have advocated.

Of course, given how far in his mouth he managed to stick his foot (intentions aside for the moment), the comfort issue remark was bound to come up....and (Thursday). (Remember that the Congress is currently considering a motion to urge Japan to issue a formal apology for its use of comfort women.) What I found interesting, as I often do (there's so much here, but I'll only scratch the surface to save electrons), is the difference in how these events are covered, especially which details different media outlets or nations emphasize.

The IHT piece, of course, refers to the issue. Abe apparently had a meeting with members of Congress and, as the story notes, ""Republican Rep. Roy Blunt said Abe "expressed regret that his comments were not as he intended for them to be and expressed great sympathy with people who had been placed in that kind of situation."" The article goes on to note that US officials seem to think that Abe's public statements demonstrate sufficient support for the Kono Statement such that the US will not raise the issue with Abe in future meetings. (As noted above, the two sides are seeking to downplay differences and emphasize the strength of the US-Japan relationship.)

However, very understandably (and given that the purpose of its article is to cover the one issue, not the meeting in general), this Yonhap piece (perhaps also because of the detail it provides) paints a very different picture of the meeting that took place regarding Abe's comments. Yonhap reports that, several Congressmen (and their staffers) left the meeting with Abe, "less satisfied and more puzzled about his position on "comfort women."" (The article reports that about 10 people attended the meeting, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and that the meeting was organized by Sen. Daniel Inouye, (HI-D), who is of Japanese descent. Rep. Mike Honda, who sponsored the resolution did not attend.) I think Grace was the first to blog on the resolution, right?

The article then asserts that the meeting served to turn the tide of support with regard to the resolution mentioned above. It quotes an unnamed source (I always love these) as saying that the Dems actually held up the resolution to wait for Abe's visit and that the meeting was organized to give Abe a chance to make his position crystal clear and to provide political cover for the resolution (cover against accusations that Abe was not given a chance to apologize or that the resolution was back doored through). The source also notes that attendees sat silent, shook their heads, and "...were extremely dissatisfied. Almost like a slap in the face."

I'll be interested to see what comes of this (or doesn't)...and how much political capital the Democrats are prepared to spend on this issue in light of how crucial the US-Japan relationship (security, economic, and otherwise) is and will continue to be. The unnamed source in the Yonhap piece says that Pelosi was going to push Abe further, but held back. If that's the case now, either the Democrats are waiting to take the White House, have other plans up their sleeves, are making back door arrangements, or....perhaps we already have our answer.


Since the Virgina Tech shooting, I've been thinking more about mainstream (not just white) American racism against Asians. I ran across this Korean-American comedian (from Arlington, VA), Suzanne Whang who is making a career out of this problem with her character, Sung Hee Park. She said in an interview that her "act is a satire of racism in America" but that "some Asian-born Asians who find my act offensive and accuse me of perpetuating racism in America. My response to that is that my intention is exactly the opposite. I'm using humor and satire to shine a light on racism and stereotypes in the same way that Archie Bunker's character did in All In The Family. "

This is my favorite quote from the interview:

what is stereotypical about a Korean woman who has the BALLS to get up on stage and try to make a room full of people laugh? A stereotypical Korean woman would be hiding in a back corner of the comedy club. One of the stereotypes of Asians is that we take ourselves too seriously, which is one of the things I'm trying to break. Most of the time, it's the minorities in the audience who come up to me first and tell me that it's the funniest thing they've ever seen. They GET IT and they're happy someone's doing what I'm doing. I think it's dangerous to be too "politically correct" and pretend everything's fine, when it's not.
She has a clip of her routine on YouTube, but it's a bit R-rated, and I'm not that comfortable posting it here. I'm fine linking to it, though. It's very funny.

Burma and North Korea Resume Diplomatic Relationship

Burma and North Korea have agreed to restore diplomatic relations after a break in 1983, according to this BBC article.

Burma broke ties with North Korea in 1983, accusing Pyongyang of a bomb attack when South Korea's president Chun Doo-hwan visited Rangoon. The question is why the two secretive and isolated regimes choose to restore ties now.

This article says, it is the need of their respective self-interest -- North Korea needs Burma's natural resources, such as oil, gas and timber, while Burma's rulers need access to military equipment, which has been blocked by US and European sanctions.

This article urges me to vote for the engagement policy again. If we continue to isolate those countries, North Korea, Burma, etc., they will probably form a bloc. At that time, they will be harder to deal with.

Face of New Currency

Going along with Sayaka's post on naming ships, I read somewhere that Korea will be issuing a 100,000 won note (this really isn't as much as it sounds, think Austin Powers when he requests a ransom of $1 million). I think this is desperately need since the largest note currently available (10,000) can barely buy you two grande frappachinnos at Starbuck's. But I think the current debate is on which famous Korean should be placed on the note. King Sejong is out since he's already on the 10,000 bill, but I heard rumors about Yi Sun Shin and some guy named Ahn (I can't remember his exact name, but it's not the soccer player). My personal vote would be for Jeon Ji Hyun, the actress, but if not, maybe Park Jung Hee?

DPRK International Relations

In light of our discussions last night about fears of the DPRK spreading its nuclear technology abroad, this (the topic of which I first saw at work, at Jane's, and I'll include a bit of their analysis of it, though I can't link that, since it's a subscription service) demonstrates that it definitely is a concern given who North Korea sometimes associates with.

It's also interesting that the US is not the only state accusing North Korea of terrorist tactics against states, given that the break between Myanmar and North Korea occurred over a bombing that the junta in Myanmar blames on North Korean troops.

Jane's article reports that there is speculation that Myanmar is moving towards creating a clandestine nuclear program, but that such claims are unverified. The conclusion is that there is unlikely to be a significant threat of nuclear proliferation from Myanmar, given that they basically cannot afford it, but the fact that the two may develop strong military ties in the near future remains a concern.

In general, ties between these two states, which are perhaps the most secretive and militarized in the world, could be a kind of reaction to the pressure faced from other states who demand more transparency and less military control in both governments. Though it is hard to see how relations between the two could significantly improve either state's situation, given a lack of economic strength on both sides, it does show who out there North Korea can have relations with, as well as Myanmar.

Running Out of Military Heroes...?

A new Aegis destroyer in South Korea will be named King Sejong. Yes, King Sejong is the father of the system of Hangul characters. S. Korea's new Aegis destroyer to be named King Sejong:Navy

The article also says, "KDX-I light destroyer ships are called King Gwanggaeto class, while the larger KDX-II class ships are called Chungmugong Yi Sun-sin. Gwanggaeto, one of the greatest kings in Korean history, is remembered for expanding the territory of the Goguryeo Kingdom. Yi Sun-sin was a legendary admiral who helped repel Japan's invasion of Korea in the late 16th century. South Korea has three King Gwanggaeto and six Chungmugong Yi Sun-sin destroyers."

Both King Gwanggaeto and Yi Sun-sin are famous military generals in Korean history. But King Sejong is more of a scholarly type... Is there no more military figure adequate for Aegis ships? It seems the choice was between King Sejong or a diplomat ("Originally, the Navy had said the first ship of the Aegis destroyers would be named Ahn Yong-bok, after a civilian-diplomat who helped settle territorial disputes over Korean islands in the East Sea with Japan in the late 17th century'). What would the Navy personnel's reactions like if they decided to go with Ahn Yong-bok considering the contemporary dispute that Korea has with Japan??


This week, a few Human Rights Organizations are sponsoring events for so-called "North Korea Freedom Week" in Washington DC. I thought you might be interested in some of the events. See this website for detail.


I don't know too much about Korean politics, but it appears as though the GNP (conservatives) got rocked in the latest elections, which was pretty unexpected. This is bad news for those who think that the current appeasement policy endorsed by the Roh administration has been ineffective. I also think it's bad news for U.S.-Korea relations because the GNP has generally been the pro-U.S. party, and some pundits think a major reason why Roh was elected was the result of Anti-American sentiments during the last Presidential elections.

As far as I can tell, the GNP is still favored to win the Presidency, but these things can change quickly depending on which underdogs decide to form a coalition at the last second, accidents involving U.S. tanks, etc. But even if the GNP controls the Blue House, its hands may be tied if the legislature is controlled by opposition forces, much like the situation that Roh faced.

Of particular interest was the fact that the GNP was destroyed in Daejeon (which I guess is like the Ohio of Korea in terms of politics), which might indicate how swing voters are leaning. The guy who won, Sim, also compared himself to Alexander the Great in a bizarre reference, but that's off the topic.

Maybe I'm just a Pessimist....

In light of Will’s post (which I enjoyed by the way) and our discussion in class, I thought I’d link to this IHT piece that addresses “Army First” politics, North Korean nationalism, and denuclearization in much the same way as we did last night. It explores several of the themes we addressed and answers some of the “factual” questions we raised. (Somehow, that word just doesn’t look right to me without the quotes!) =)

(Every time we say the ‘F’ word, I think of Washington Post newspaper vending machines around town. If any of you have seen them, you’ll know what I mean. A very prolific graffiti artist (who in DC, of course, must have a political slant) has scrawled “Lies!” across the see-through plastic window of many of the machines. This has the effect of causing passersby to see the title of the newspaper and a couple of headlines, then the “Lies!” across it all. It always makes me chuckle. Anyway, back to the article.)

Like any “balanced” journalistic endeavor, it contains quotes from “experts” on both sides of the “Will Kim give up nuclear weapons?” aisle. Yet, I think much of the piece mirrors our general sentiment in class, though…that there is a good deal of pessimism as to whether the DPRK will voluntarily denuclearize. The author, Choe Sang-hun, notes that nuclear capabilities have been highlighted in the run up to the 75th birthday of the North Korean People’s Army.

Choe adds that state media have credited nuclear capabilities with finally allowing citizens of the DPRK to “feel safe from foreign invaders.” Apparently the DPRK media credits Kim Jong-il’s songun (“Army First”) politics with this success. Choe observes that if nuclear weapons have become a part of North Korean nationalism, serious questions must be raised about Kim’s willingness and ability to give them up.

After seeing the raccoon in the documentary we watched, I’m becoming more and more convinced of the centrality of these weapons to at least some in North Korean society. Others in the piece feel that songun politics means simply that economic aid must be accompanied by normalized ties and security assurances, not that denuclearization is impossible.

Factoids from the piece (of interest or that answer questions raised in class):

- “Army First” politics apparently debuted in 1999, as part of Kim’s attempt to maintain his grip on power during the famine that took many North Korean lives. Kim apparently needed a way to explain why the military was being treated so well while so many others were suffering.

- Not only did it create support for Kim within the military (come on, who doesn’t like funding?), it fostered a sense among North Koreans that they were under attack (don’t ask who, the US, of course).

- In policy statements issued around the first of the year, the North has apparently stated that because of a “quantum leap in military power,” it would shift its focus to developing its economy. This supports the security argument in terms of the development of the weapons and the pessimistic view on whether Pyongyang might give them up.

- Apparently, police in Japan have raided the home of a 55 year-old woman in Japan accused of helping Pyongyang abduct two children a few decades ago.

While, like Will, I’d love to be more idealistic/optimistic, I’m wondering if the best we can hope for is something akin to the current situation. Would it be more realistic to follow a strategy that hopes to get North Korea to where China was in the late 1970s, by say, 50 years from now?

Again, though, as I mentioned in class, I’m not in love with the suffering that continues to go on in North Korea or the security risk it constitutes (which I realize can be over/underplayed). Some would say that hitting the North over the head with the human rights issue hasn’t worked and has been counterproductive. That’s proven to be the case with other nations. But does that mean you don’t address the issue at all in official talks? The inherent bargain in allowing time for engagement to work is that you’re adding the costs in terms of human rights (lives) and security to the material cost of getting the North to cooperate. Policy makers understand this, right? (Yes, I know their hands are tied to some extent.) And I guess, as a guy who looks at China every now and then, it seems that’s a bargain we’re willing to make.

Anyway, I guess I have to stress again what I said in class. I hope I’m wrong. I really do. But I just don’t see the current regime giving up nuclear weapons because of what they’ve invested in developing them, the status and prestige involved (domestic & abroad), the importance they’ve assumed with respect to nationalism, the North’s (reasonable) perception that they are faced with some sort of a threat, and the cold, hard reality that, lately, the US (with some caveats) rewards states that violate non-proliferation agreements.

Note: I’m also going to try and post the article by Scott Sagan I referred to in class yesterday. He tries to answer the question of why states develop nuclear weapons, and addresses several of the themes we discussed in his model, which focuses on security, domestic politics, and norms. One important observation he makes is that many states claim many different motivators, but none only claim one. It was a piece that Professor Mochizuki assigned as part of the non-proliferation unit in this semester’s PSC 289 Asian Security class. There shouldn’t be any issues, copyright or otherwise, but, to be polite, I’d like to ask Professor Mochizuki for his blessing before I do so.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Status and Nukes

Our class discussion today introduced an additional possible motivation behind North Korea's nuclear program beyond those suggested in the readings: the desire for status. Korea pursuing nukes for status's sake does not bode well for any sort of resolution to the nuclear standoff in the near future.

If the nuclear program is driven primarily by defense/security considerations, it means that conceivably, if you eliminate the security threats and build trust between the once hostile parties, then you can eliminate the need for nukes. If the U.S. convinces the North that it poses no threat (indeed a tall order), then Pyongyang should no longer feel the need to continue its nuclear weapons program.

Similarly, if the nuclear program is intended to serve as a political card (nuclear blackmail), then regular engagement contingent upon mutual cooperation and concession could eventually eliminate the need to rely on that card to gain concessions. In the case of North Korea, I think this would also require some serious confidence building over a prolonged period of time (Pyongyang and Washington have been hostile for more than 50 years). The forum of the 6 Party Talks could provide a valuable socialization mechanism in this regard...nothing like a talk shop to highlight the utility of negotiation...unless things continue the way they're going...nowhwere...(sigh) I think I'm digging myself a hole here.

To back this up, Platkovskiy (it's easier to type than say) suggests that NK only resorted to such measures in the first place b/c of domestic and international turmoil in the late 1980s/early 1990s. It was successful so they stuck with it, but it would not be Pyongyang's only way of interacting with the international system. If you eliminate the prospect of political instability through engagement and demonstrate the potential success of sincere dialogue, I think you can remove the impetus for relying on nuclear blackmail. (Granted, at this point, it would be hard to distinguish NK's genuine diplomacy from nuclear blackmail).

Certainly, these two possible drivers of the nuclear program are not mutually exclusive and there is indeed some overlap.

If achieving status is the ultimate driver of the program however, then I think that poses a considerably greater challenge and offers a more grim prognosis for the future. Status is inextricably linked to self-image and all of the other factors that comprise it. For the North's sake, it has little else going for it besides its mighty military, thus one of the utmost status symbols for a militaristic country is a nuclear bomb. It is hard to prevent an actor from following a path that makes it feel confident and good about itself. To deter Pyongyang from pursuing nuclear weapons would entail an entire overhaul of the national culture, suggesting a dramatic political and economic change of course.

For the short term, this seems far less likely than the already not-so-likely options of engagement and trust-building. Furthermore, it presents a likely incentive for the North to continue to employ nuclear blackmail as a strategy of international relations. Ultimately, I think the perceived strategic necessity, the political utility, and the ego-boosting capacity of a nuclear weapons program all drive Pyongyang's pursuit of the bomb.

Like any good idealist though, I think that the North Korean issue is solvable, despite these tremendous obstacles. (Sorry, I realize this is one of those arguments where the conclusion has no correlation to what came before it; I just need to believe that engagement will go somewhere). All parties involved in the 6 Party Talks have a vested interest in deterring and preventing the use, sale, or proliferation of nukes in the region. I think even China and Japan hold that in common. Certainly, U.S. influence remains significant enough to deter any escalation or nuclear arms race.

By a sustained effort from multiple sources to induce reforms in the North, reforming the culture up there from a militaristic one to a modernistic one is possible for the long-term, particularly with the elimination of threat perceptions and the building of trust (East Asian states specialize in CBMs after all). Short-term solutions are not tenable. Engagement remains the most effective policy, and the only policy capable of bringing about a long-term resolution to the issue...a missile defense system would also help. haha.

And the peninsula will radiate with peace and love.

Oops - here's the link


A Give Take Relationship

This column from the Chosun Ilbo summarize how some (including me) view relations between the North and South. Namely, the North exploiting the South's softness to take without giving anything in return.

A sentiment that I found particularly interesting was the columnist's question as to why the South is spending so much to finance the North's army while many South Koreans go hungry. This seems to be more of a "us-them" view of the North. For the most part, I've found that South Koreans view North Koreans as their blood and kin, but is this sentiment diminishing as time passes? I know that for me, I feel a link to South Korea only. I guess I consider myself of South Korean heritage, but not North Korean. I'm wondering if this sentiment will grow in the future.

Happy 75th, Korean People's Army!

Stratfor has an article on the parade today with some pictures, but the link doesn't work since the content is hidden in the premium section. The workaround is to Google the phrase "KPA 75 anniversary" and click on the link to the Stratfor article from there. For some reason Google has a premium pass and is able to cache the article. I am completely confused by the technical aspects, but for some reason the link only works through the google search. (if you're curious link is

Missiles, missiles, everywhere, but not an American to blow up.

The second image in the set of three on the Stratfor page is of Kim Il Sung Square, and Kim Jong il may have been within 500 meters of the camera man to his left in the grandstand. For more ground photos of Pyongyang check this out.

US Soldiers use Comfort Stations in Japan post-WWII

Another page in the comfort women tragedy was publicized today. According to a press report based on documents in the National Archives, US GIs were frequent users of comfort stations while occupying Japan immediately following WWII, until MacArthur outlawed the practice in 1946.

How do you think this will affect the Korean perception of the US military? Does it matter that these were based in Japan? What happens if documents are eventually found which indicate this occurred on Korean soil?

Some quotes...

"The U.S. occupation leadership provided the Japanese government with penicillin for comfort women servicing occupation troops, established prophylactic stations near the RAA brothels and, initially, condoned the troops' use of them, according to documents discovered by Tanaka."

"Amid complaints from military chaplains and concerns that disclosure of the brothels would embarrass the occupation forces back in the United States, on March 25, 1946, MacArthur placed all brothels, comfort stations and other places of prostitution off limits. The RAA soon collapsed.

MacArthur's primary concern was not only a moral one.

By that time, Tanaka says, more than a quarter of all American GIs in the occupation forces had a sexually transmitted disease."


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Will IT Help To Democratize North Korea

This article from Aisa Times reveals that "a mini-IT revolution is taking place in North Korea."

The Korea Computer Center is the main agency which commands North Korea's IT strategy. It was set up in 1990 by Kim Jong-il, and is considered the center of North Korea's IT revolution now. More surprising is this: in October 2004, South Korea's Defense Ministry discovered that the North had trained more than 500 computer hackers capable of launching cyber-warfare against its enemies. The Defese Ministry also reports, "North Korea's intelligence-warfare capability is estimated to have reached the level of advanced countries," and the military hackers had been put through a five-year university course training them to penetrate the computer systems of South Korea, the United States and Japan.

Most of the IT users are government agencies, research institutes, educational organizations. Access to e-mail and the Internet remains extremely limited for civilians inside North Korea . Even so, some people are optimistic about the mini-IT revolution in North Korea as the article ends, "Most probably, it will eventually break North Korea's isolation, even if the country's powerful military also benefits from improved technologies. And there may be a day when the KCNA will have something more exciting to report about than 'A furnace-firing ceremony held at the Taean Friendship Glass Factory.'"

But I am not for that conclusion. Political scientists like to argue that economic (information) development and democratization go hand in hand. But for some countries, it is not that case. China is an example. Great IT development in China has not helped democratize that nation, and North Korea will be the same.

Monday, April 23, 2007

I'm a hypocrite...

I hate feeding into and being a part of whatever ridiculously over-covered, over-analyzed story is the mass media flavor of the day (and especially part of the ignorance and (over)reaction that is almost always part of the inevitable initial media blitz). In this case, I'm referencing the unfortunate situation at Virginia Tech.
However, as the title of this post implies, I'm going to be a bit of a hypocrite because I came across something that seemed relevant to the discussion we had about the idea of Koreans as members of one nation/community (t'ongil minjok) vs. the perception that groups, in our case, again, Koreans, claim successful members of their community as their own while at the same time disowning those who don't distinguish themselves and, by association, the group. (I'm not saying this is a strictly Korean trait, I'm simply referencing our discussion).
I've been trying to avoid hearing about the whole ordeal, so when a friend sent this across, I had one finger on the delete button (by far my favorite button) as I was expecting to be assaulted with another nauseating dissection of Cho's dorm room, his diet, how long he took to shower, whether or not he slept on his back or his stomach, whether he liked ketchup on his fries, preferred pepsi to coke, etc.

Yet, this Time/CNN piece by Jennifer Veale (Seoul), although it still made me feel uncomfortable that some reporter was trolling around Korea and bothering an 85 year old woman (Cho's great-aunt, Kim Yang Sooon), had a few quotes that gave me pause.
  • Upon finding out that the shooter was Korean and a family member: "I can't describe my emotions...We don't even have any divorces in our family and everyone's sons and daughters obey their parents."
  • On the act itself and having brought such shame to her family: "In our family the children don't insult their parents..."I don't know how he could do this to his parents. I also feel terrible for the victim's families."
  • On the prospect of Cho's parents returning to Korea: "It would it would be too difficult for them if they returned here as this is a small country and Koreans are very gossipy...We wouldn't let them return and would even try and block them if they tried."
  • After saying she would have rather the neighbors didn't know, Kim adds, "After killing so many people, it is good he committed suicide."
There could be so many things at work here...translation issues, what questions were asked, the way the questions were asked, informational gaps, differences in sentiment/expression, a generation gap, etc. Nevertheless, the tone of the last two quotes really bothered me because of the certainty expressed, and, to be honest, the sentiment as well. Block them from coming back? It's good Cho killed himself?
Without judging, it just seemed a little harsh. Not that one can reconstruct a person or their values by analyzing a few truncated quotes, but I thought you all might find them interesting in light of our conversation, as I did...if only as something to reflect upon for a second.

Importing Beef

Well, it looks like Korea is keeping up its side of the bargain of the pending FTA by resuming imports of beef. They will hit the domestic market in early May when quarantine procedures have been completed. However, it was interesting to note that one of the beef importers stated that the shipment “will be delivered to our dealers, including wholesalers, as samples, and we plan to import the meat in earnest depending on reactions in the market." So what exactly does that mean? Will or will they not be importing American beef? Because the article then goes on to say that beef importation will begin in earnest the second half of this year.

The article also mentioned how domestic cattle prices dropped sharply with the pending importation of American beef. What remains to be seen is whether this will cause a domino effect in other industries, then bandwagoning, as affected industries group together to put up a fight to prevent the FTA from passing in the Korean government.

Also, wasn't there also another Ecoli scare in the US just a few days ago? I didn't really catch the news on that but I thought I heard something about hamburger meat being recalled over ecoli?? Is it big enough to affect Korea's resumption of importing US beef?

North Korean films - April 30th

I thought I would pass along this interesting event...
Illusive Utopia: Fifty Years of North Korean Film

The North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, has personally sponsored and supervised the Pyongyang film industry. Dr. Suk-Young Kim, a Library of Congress Fellow, will discuss and display these unusual films, which are rarely screened in the U.S.

Monday, April 30, 6:00 p.m.
Kenney Auditorium

A small reception will follow the program
Please RSVP to

Johns Hopkins University
Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies
1740 Massachusetts Ave

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Photos from Kim Il-Sung's Birthday Party

The BBC has uploaded some photos from last Sunday's big birthday bash in North Korea. Included are shots of juche propaganda, sparsely cultivated land, rural villages along the pilgrimage route to Kim Il-Sung's birthplace and images from the festival that occurs every April 15th.

Although I'm sure propaganda (posters and such) seeps in through its mere presence, I believe the participatory rituals play an even greater role in inculcating a sense of national identity. The photo of the child (no more than 3 years old) dressed in a military uniform was particularly striking. The child, hardly even of speaking age, is being manipulated as a potential soldier. The idea of sacrifice for the nation is literally put upon him with this uniform before he has any notion of what the military is. The child is being socialized in the home - by his parents dressing him in the uniform, and by the community - through attending the festival. Other photos depict the Arirang games, wherein thousands of performers engage in telling the story of Korea's han - the deep pain associated with the division of the nation and hardship. (Apparently there was less of an Anti-American or militaristic emphasis to the highly choreographed performance.) The captions note that the games show (and I argue that they also create) a "unity of purpose - the suppression of the individual for the benefit of society as a whole" for performers and spectators alike. These photos provide a glimpse into the mechanisms through which North Korean patriotism is simultaneously created, codified and inculcated.

Also throughout these photos are indications of the state of North Korea. "Holiday traffic" limited to a handful of cars indicates fuel shortages and sparsely cultivated rural landscapes demonstrate potential food shortages. The decrepit village houses are a far cry from the gleaming high rises of Pyongyang. Still, the captions of the photos from the Arirang games indicate that North Koreans "believe they are the best in the world."

Although none of these images provide great new insights into North Korea (especially since Amelia already enlightened us about the flowers: Kimilsungia and Kimjongilia), they are still a valuable glimpse into the production of culture and nationalism in North Korea.

Brotherly Love

After five days of negotiations on food aid and Pyongyang's nuclear program, including an unscheduled fifth day of talks, South Korea has agreed to resume food aid to the North, which was suspended after Kim Jong-Il's regime conducted missile tests in July of 2006.

Seoul will send 400,000 tons of rice aid across the 38th Parallel in the spirit of "brotherly love," according to this article from BBC News. Delivery of the rice will be contingent on progress in the stalling 6PT dialogue, as was suggested by the statements of some South Korean officials from earlier this week.

This development puts another wrinkle in the debate over whether the North can be trusted and whether engagement is truly the best policy. While clearly rice aid is a humanitarian endeavor with no immediate bearing on the DPRK nuclear program, it is not clear that this much needed food will go to the right places. Given the class system in the North and the "military first" doctrine, I am not convinced that this rice will do all of the good that it can. Rather than help hungry people, it might just alleviate domestic pressure on a brutal regime.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Abe Interview

Here is an interview with PM Abe prior to his visit with President Bush this week. I'm not sure if he's trying to play nice before an important meeting, but the text of the interview indicates that he has fully retracted on his comfort woman stance. He basically says that he stands behind the Kono statement and that Japan must accept responsibility for past actions.

He also reiterated his desire to re-write Japan's constitution. Perhaps he's decided that he needs to pick his battles, and wants to conserve political capital for the constitutional amendment?

Manifestations of Korean Nationalism in Stuff Magazine's top 100 Sexiest Women

This Chosun Ilbo article brags about Kim Yun-Jin's ranking as the 88th Sexiest Woman, one spot above Lindsey Lohan, in Stuff magazine.

Now I'm not supporting these ranking (or the judging and quantifying of women or men on account of their physical appearance), however, I think it's another interesting venue through which to view manifestations of Korean nationalism. A Korean woman emerging as a celebrity, especially a beautiful celebrity, in the US is heralded as a victory for Korea -- another example of Korea's fixation with any example of Korean prominence in the international arena.

This also poses an interesting commentary on the evolution of gender expectations in Korea. Despite rapid changes in Korean society, the traditional cultural emphasis on chastity remains present, yet in this case (and many others) Kim Yun-Jin is given national praise for her sex appeal, complicating the expectations placed on Korean women.

Visiting Korea (or any Asian country) one easily notices the abundance of Caucasian models in advertisements, which to me, demonstrates the pervasiveness of the white standard of beauty. It is also evident that this standard is internalized by Korean women through skin whitening and eyelid crease-enhancing products. Given the prevalence of this standard, it's understandable that America's designation of Kim's appearance (albeit in an obscure magazine) as being beautiful is a victory for Korea, especially since ethnicity is such a part of Korean identity.

Still, even if it's a problematic designation in an obscure American magazine, I hope Kim Yun-Jin's international recognition as being beautiful will somehow chip away at the monolithic notion that white is somehow synonymous with beauty.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Wikipedia Entry on Sin Ch'aeho

I have just posted an entry on Sin Ch'aeho in Wikipedia. I still keep adding minor changes, so if you have any suggestions please let me know (or you can revise it directly).

North Korea reassures its commitment to shut down the nuclear reactor

According to this article, North Korea said it would invite UN atomic inspectors and discuss shutting down its nuclear reactor as soon as the banking dispute was resolved during the 4-day aid talks between South Korea and North Korea.

The meetings began on Wednesday, and will end on Saturday. On Thursday, North Korea's chief delegate promptly walked out of the meeting when the South raised the nuclear issue at the talks' opening session. It seems that walkout has become the North's strategy to resist other nations' pressure on shutting down the reactor. Very strange. What if South Korea loses patience on North Korea, and refuses to provide aids? Is North Korea going to blow up the atomic bomb? I don't think so.

But the two sides resumed talks on Friday.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Morality vs. Strategic Interests; Then vs. Now

A couple of current events in the news have caught my attention for their relevance to this past Wednesday's class. One, the recent move to strike the phrase "global war on terror" from the government docs, another a debate that has emerged in the conservative media following the VT massacre: Is our society becoming desensitized to "evil"?

Both of these issues, I think, relate to a rather interesting component of our discussion the other day: the duality of American influence in the world. We differentiated America's comparative advantage - its military capabilities and economic might that it uses to project its influence - from its "moral authority," which the U.S. seems to command, or at least demand, on the international scene, standing as defender and advocate of universal values like freedom, democracy, and human rights.

Some argued that Kwangju represented a point in the U.S.-ROK relationship's development at which these two components, which had previously been blurred together, separated from one another in the eyes of many Koreans. I'd like to take that a step further.

Without any specific evidence to back it up, and without delving into a Cold War history that I am not at all qualified to discuss, I suspect that Kwangju was part of a larger trend throughout the course of the Cold War in which U.S. moral authority and strategic interests and capability, which once blended together nicely, became increasingly distinguished, both domestically and abroad. Basically, it became clear that in many cases, protecting American strategic interests did not coincide with protecting the values that America held in such high esteem. Thus, through unpopular or controversial events like Vietnam, or Kwangju, or political dealings in Latin America, the U.S.'s monopoly on the global moral authority began to slip.

Once the Soviet Union fell, the "evil" had been defeated. America, the good guy, had prevailed, and the people cheered. But with this massive metamorphosis in the international system, the U.S.'s claim on moral superiority slipped even further because its strategic interests could not be masked as well as they were when they were carried out in opposition to a dangerous enemy. Stick with me, there's a point here...

Throughout the 90s and into the early 21st century, a new value set rose to international prominence via globalization: capitalism (a newer, better capitalism, which by and large stresses win-win exchanges, and seems to incorporate or facilitate many of the values championed by America). Common interest in economic development, and the political and social benefits that derive from it, emerged as a uniting force. This not only brought countries closer together economically, but also created convergence in terms of common values and interests. A new set of values began to emerge that put people on a level playing field morally (another way the world is flattening).

9/11 mixed things up a little bit. Global terrorism and religious extremism emerged as a powerful, evil enemy, and Uncle Sam once again was ready to lose the Stars 'n Stripe top hat for a white Stetson and a six-shooter. Unfortunately, I think the war in Iraq soon squandered the moral leadership we had temporarily regained.

So long story...err...not as long, recognizing this and the broader changes in the globalizing world, a domestic debate in the States is emerging (maybe "reemerging") over whether America is still "in the right" in terms of how it carries out its foreign policy. Progressives favor removing the grandiose terminology like the "global war on terror" from government docs to more accurately reflect the strategic priorities at stake and the diverse tactics used to achieve them. Concerned conservatives place this in a social context, instead of an international relations context, and question our society's moral fiber in the media. One side wants to acknowledge the divergence b/w two causes; the other sees them as one entity. I'm not sure where to come down on this.

Does our superior moral compass (if we have one) give us a free pass to do the things we do? Are we still the powerful good guy in a world of evil and amorality? Does the world need such a figure anymore? Does it want one?
In light of our discussions yesterday regarding the impact that the most recent school killer's nationality is having on both perceptions of him and perceptions of Koreans in America...

One of my friends is Korean, and her last name is Cho. She lives in Colorado, went to the same high school as me. Apparently, while she was working, someone came up to her and, seeing that she was Asian and her last name (on her nametag) was Cho asked her if she was related to the killer.

I think that, depressingly, for some, this tragedy will have an impact on how they view all Asians.

Virginia - the hotbed of white supremacy

Here is an article from the Chosun Ilbo regarding the effects on immigration on the Korean-American population. It talks about the regular issues dealing with the stress of immigration, etc.

But the part that I found interesting was a quote that said that Virginia has a comparatively high component of white supremacy, which could have contributed to Cho's troubles. We touched a little bit on the idea of generalizing races and nationalities, and I found this one amusing. I'm not sure if any of you have been to Centreville, where Cho is from, but it's not exactly Mississippi circa 1860. It's a relatively cosmopolitan suburb with a significant Korean population. But now the Chosun Ilbo has run this story, and Koreans are going to be under the impression that Centreville has a problem with white supremacists.

If nothing else, click on the link to see a picture of K-town in L.A. From the looks of the cars on the road, this file photo must be at least 30 years old.

Is Confucianism still alive in South Korea?

I found this article light and interesting. It gives us a glimse of Confucian scholars' role and the influence of Confucianism in the Joseon Dynasty.

Spending too much time on the BBC

Here is a brief article stating that South Korea has (for the third time) gotten its bid to host the Asian Games. It beat out Delhi.

Here is a Wikipedia article about the Asian Games because I, for one, knew nothing about them. According to the history there, South Korea has refused to host the games before when they could have because of security concerns. It is probably encouraging then that they feel comfortable to do it in light of the North Korean nuclear issue. Does this signify faith in the negotiations? A lack of perception of a direct threat from North Korea? Or simply a greater emphasis placed on participation and pride in gaining international events like this?

Diary from the Other Side

A BBC correspondent, Charles Scanlon, spent the last three days visiting North Korea in order to see the Arirang Festival. His diary entries are here: Day One, Day Two, and Day Three.

Prof. Larsen will be glad to know that when the performers formed a giant human map of Korea, they did include Dokdo.

The movements of the journalists (two Brits, it seems) were severely restricted, as was their ability to take photographs, film, and dictate where they were going. The isolation seems to be taking a toll as their minders did not speak English (but one spoke Chinese!). However, the tour guides did.

Another interesting tidbit: you can major in Juche at college! And the monument has one block for every day up to the Eternal Leader's 75th birthday. Why 75? My guess: that's how many blocks there were. Also, Kim Jong-il is considered the mother of the nation, and his father the, well, father.

Aside from general strangeness, this tour is another glimpse of the controls placed on foreign visitors, and interesting because they were, in this case, British, rather than American. They do not seem to have visited the USS Pueblo. The North Korean officials seem determined to both impress their guests and strictly control what they see, which is certainly not a surprise. There is a profound effort to communicate North Korean beliefs and ideology to the West, as long as the West makes no attempt to communicate back. Is there something to be said for the North Koreans wanting understanding of their philosophies and goals?


So I promised to post on the USS Pueblo, the only active duty ship in the United States Navy held by a foreign power, but failed to do so this past week. My apologies. I assure you it had nothing to do with the paper we had due yesterday. Nothing at all. It is sheer coincidence that, as soon as the paper is in, I'm back on the blog. Sheer coincidence, I tell you.

Anyway, because there are a bunch of good, concise websites that cover the topic, I'm not going to clog up our blog by repeating what they say (especially since we've had guidance not to do so, which makes sense.) I'll give a rundown of a couple of sites, toss in some pics, include some factoids, and then command you to get back to whatever productive endeavor it is you're supposed to actually be doing right now! Don't know about you all, but I love these type of mini-intrigue stories that occur within the context of larger conflicts.

1) To get started, here is a brief bio about the ship (stats) on, of course, Wikipedia. Not particularly well done, if you ask me, but it does have a section on the bottom about the DPRK offering (IMO seems like blackmail) to repatriate the ship in exchange for high level meetings with the US.

2) If you read no other website on this list, check this one out. Obviously, I can't speak to the accuracy of any of the information, but it gives a very detailed rundown of what actually happened, along with some pics and an explanation of why the President decided not to try to rescue the ship and its crew at the time. Here's one of the crew, 82 men who were held for 11 months, giving the North Koreans the "Hawaiian Good Luck Sign," as we mentioned in class, for which they endured a week of brutal torture, called "Hell Week." This is in addition to the beatings they were given (with lumber), the burns inflicted upon them (with radiators), and the teeth they had kicked in (see the CNN piece below).

3) This site has a few good pics, three of which I'll post here. One is of the Pueblo docked in Pyongyang. The second is of the tour guide who gives tours of the ship. The third is of the captain of the North Korean ship that captured her. Glad she's using a megaphone, seeing as the crowd is all of 2 feet away.

Since it's too large, I won't post the fourth here, but head over and check it out...or fire up Google Earth. There's a wicked cool aerial shot of the Pueblo sitting in Pyongyang now. OK, enough about Google Earth...seeing as they're most likely watching me type this, I don't want to anger them and get incinerated by their laser beams of wrath.

4) Here's an MSNBC item describing Bill Richardson's visit to the Pueblo, which is used for "anti-American education." Coincidentally, Richardson is running for President. He had some success repatriating the remains of several US servicmen killed in the war, which I'm sure will be an incredibly powerful gift to their families. The item gives a brief description of his tour of the Pueblo.

5) Finally, a CNN piece detailing the passing of the Pueblo's captain, Captain Bucher (pictured here), in January of 2004. Apparently, his actions helped the crew survive the experience. To show their gratitude, the Navy recommended that he be court-martialed for failing to defend the Pueblo sufficiently, which was a slow, poorly armed ship and was also covered in ice. (Not to mention that he requested help from US forces that never came). Thankfully, former US Marine, US Senator, and Secretary of the Navy John H. Chafee (who served in that capacity from 1969-1972) turned down the court-martial.

Lastly, and I'll stop wasting electrons after this, to answer Professor Larsen's question about why the US didn't attempt to recover the Pueblo when the DPRK sailed (towed) it to its present location. I haven't found anything conclusive. The Wikipedia article above notes that "In October 1999, it was towed from Wonson on the east coast, around the Korean Peninsula, to Nampo on the west coast. This required moving the vessel through international waters. No attempt to recapture the Pueblo was made." I've saw articles that suggest that the US "intelligence community" completely missed the event. However, I haven't found anything authoritative yet. I'll poke around more and see what I can come up with. Wow did this become a long post!

Cho Family's American Dream Broken in Pieces

As the media still focus on Cho Seung-Hui's killing motive, I sort of want to know a little about his parents and family. Here is an article providing a little information on that.

Part of the article reads:

"Many young Koreans who move to the U.S. with their parents seeking the American dream suffer culture shock from exposure to the strange environment where they cannot even understand the language.

They also have confusion about identity _ neither being Korean nor American.
Despite their difficulty, most of them may not always receive enough care from their parents, who have to focus on working all day to survive in the new country."

I am not here to make excuse for Cho, but there is a problem at universities -- some students don't get enough attention, especially international students. A few months ago I wrote an article published in the Washington Post, and one of my interviewees told me: "At school, nobody cares about you." There are more problems behind this VT tragedy, not just Cho's distorted and disturbing personality.

I was very disappointed by Nikki Giovanni, the distinguished poet. Cho was in her class in 2005, and Giovanni told the department that she would resign if Cho was not removed from her class. Last night, Giovanni was on Larry King Live. She told Larry King that once she talked to Cho face to face, "Cho, either of us has to leave this classroom." She also said, she felt evil in Cho and she didn't want to see him.

During the VT Convocation after the tragedy, Giovanni spoke so eloquently and so humanitarianly

"We know we did nothing to deserve it, but neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS, neither do the invisible children walking the night away to avoid being captured by the rogue army, neither does the baby elephant watching his community being devastated for ivory, neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water..."

I was just wondering, if Giovanni had given a little more attention, care and love to Cho, would the thing have been different? That makes me think: some people can talk, but they can not do...

Sorry for the long entry

Stickin' it to the Man: BDA Fights Back!

Frankly, this is a story I wasn't expecting to see. Our good friends over at Banco Delta Asia have apparently had enough of the man trying to keep them down...and they're doing something about it!

The IHT reports that BDA is challenging the US Treasury Department's decision to bar it from access to the US financial system because it feels the decision was politically motivated, lacked sufficient evidence, ignored remedial measures the bank had taken, and denied BDA the opportunity to respond to some of the allegations made in due course. They have thus decided to employ the most nefarious of all tools, the New York Lawyer, to redress the situation! Oh, the humanity of it all. How dare they play by our rules and use our own laws against us!

Other interesting factoids from the piece:
  • The bank is family owned. A gentleman named Stanley Au, a Macao business type, apparently owns it. The IHT story describes him as "an adviser to the Chinese government." Hmmm...yeah...adviser.
  • The ruling was apparently made under the Patriot Act. (I'm biting my tongue here). Maybe it's my faulty memory, but I don't remember seeing this tidbit mentioned in the reports that covered the development at the time. Wonder what that says (if I'm right).
  • The case has apparently engendered a modicum of legal reform in China, as the Macao banking authorities have passed new laws against money laundering as a direct result of the incident.

Understandably so, given the impact this must be having on their business, BDA seems quite concerned. Upon accessing their website,, the following "Important Statement," more than a month old, appears in a large popup window:

March 16, 2007
Important Statement

By Group Chairman, Delta Asia Group (Holdings) Ltd In Response To US Department Of Treasury's Announcement Dated March 14, 2007

Delta Asia Group (Holdings) Limited (“DAGH”) regrets the US Department of Treasury’s decision to finalise the rulemaking to impose a special measure against our commercial banking arm, Banco Delta Asia, S.A.R.L. (“BDA”).

DAGH denies that BDA knew or suspected that its customers were engaged in money laundering or that any of its customers were engaged in any criminal activities or their funds were in any way connected with such activities. It is always BDA’s commitment to ensuring that its anti-money laundering policies and procedures comply with the guidelines and requirements of the regulator, that is, the Macau Monetary Authority.

Since the designation of BDA by the US Department of Treasury in September 2005, BDA has always been co-operating fully with the US regulator and remains committed to enhancing its anti-money laundering (“AML”) and know-your-client policies and procedures. To demonstrate substantial improved performance in this regard, BDA has made significant efforts at tremendous cost to:

1. review accounts and close the concerned accounts;

2. further enhance its AML policies and revise its AML manual;

3. commission international and independent professional accounting firm to identify weaknesses and implement effective programme to improve the AML programme;

4. hire compliance officer

5. improve and upgrade information technology system

DAGH expects BDA to continue to appeal against this rulemaking and to seek further dialogue and co-operation with the US Department of Treasury.

I'm not familiar with international banking practices, but I'd be interested to know how long these types of restrictions usually last and how often such appeals are successful. I wonder if the case will be expedited because it's so high profile. Otherwise, this could take a while, as the case might, as I like to say, "move with the speed of government."

Still no word on the North getting its money or movement to shut down the reactor. And so it goes...

Your 15 Minutes Are Officially Over...

Professor Larsen, you'll be happy to know that Sanjaya's 15 minutes are officially over.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

And the Nobel Peace Prize goes to...Vladimir Putin?

Apparently, there are tentative, under-the-radar plans to orchestrate an inter-Korea summit meeting for August of this year. And apparently, Russia wants to host it should it take place in a third country...because President Putin wants to win a Nobel Peace Prize. (I find this more than a bit ironic considering the man's opponents have a history of suddenly dying in bizarre, often spy movie-like ways.)

A former Korean NIS official, now professor, reveals this interesting information in a recent Chosun Ilbo article.

In an effort to not let the more entertaining news of the story overshadow the relevant, Seoul has apparently reached out to Pyongyang through a secret report, in an effort to let tensions between the two be resolved bilaterally, without foreign interference. Seoul appears to find this a more productive alternative, not surprising considering the history of outside influence on the peninsula's development.

The third country element of the story, where Russia comes in, reflects 1) the need for both sides to be on neutral territory, and 2) that Pyongyang has apparently failed in the reciprocity department, as Kim Jong-Il has yet to return the gesture of Kim Dae-jung's 2000 visit. (See today's Asia Times article Korea: the Sun Shines Regardless)

This would certainly be an interesting development should it occur (which I'm highly skeptical it will). It would certainly make Russia more relevant in the grander 6PT scheme. Moscow's motivation doesn't appear to be all that sincere however.

Putin winning a Nobel Peace Prize?!?!?! I mean, come on. What's next? Three-6 Mafia winning an Oscar? ... ... ... ... oh.

Major development in the "comfort women" saga

A group of Japanese historians yesterday in Tokyo presented evidence verifying sex-slave coercion on the part of the Japanese military during World War II. At a press conference the historians also confirmed previous official Japanese recognition of this fact. This article from the Japan times elaborates on the historians' discoveries.

At the conclusion of World War II, the French, Dutch and Chinese governments produced and submitted seven documents to the Tokyo Trial, disclosing evidence of Japanese-run brothels in Indonesia, China, East Timor and Vietnam. These documents were included by the tribunal in the body of evidence used to convict suspected war criminals. The troubling contents of these documents reveal these women were forced to work as sex-slaves for the Japanese forces.

Apparently, by accepting the peace treaty at the end of the war, which included recognition of the validity of these war trials under Article 11, the Japanese government acknowledged coercing young women into sexual servitude.

This newly revealed evidence certainly leaves Abe and some conservatives in the Japanese government a little bit red-faced. Perhaps, however, like most pieces of historical evidence, the validity of these claims are up for dispute, regardless of whether they were admitted as evidence during the Tokyo Trials.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech

The recent event at Virginina Tech is a difficult subject to talk about, especially considering the fact that we don't know all the details at this time. It is clear, however, that with the revelation of the shooter's Korean nationality, the ROK government has gotten involved. The Foreign Ministry has already issued a statement expressing condolences, and diplomats are on their way to Blacksburg. I was just skimming some of the Korean newspapers and most reader comments seem to express sorrow and embarassment.

I do wonder, though, if this will have any effect on how Koreans view foreigners in Korea. Much of the anti-American sentiments are riled up due to deplorable acts or even accidents on the part of U.S. soliders in Korea. Obviously, the fact that there are U.S. soldiers there at all is what drives much of the resentment. But I think it is greatly fueled by incidents of soldiers misbehaving and/or committing crimes.

The Foreign Ministry has asked that this incident doesn't stir up racial prejudice against Koreans or Korea. It should go without saying that the shooter's nationality had nothing to do with his actions. But I wonder if Korea would withhold racist judgments if a foreigner were to do somthing like this in Korea. I'm hoping that, if nothing else, this terrible incident will cause some Koreans to reconsider applying xenophobic generalizations to individual acts.

Monday, April 16, 2007

SK may hold food aid to North after missed deadline

This article from the BBC reveals that South Korea may delay food aid to the North since Pyongyang failed to meet the deadline for shutting down the Yongbyon reactor.

The two Koreas are slated to begin economic discussions on Wednesday, at which point the issue of rice aid was to be discussed. Previously, South Korean officials had stated that the aid would proceed regardless of whether or not the Yongbyon reactor had been shut down and sealed by the deadline. Pyongyang had asked the South for 400,000 tonnes of rice aid.

Now however, it appears that Seoul has taken a new stance as the 6PT deadline has come and gone. South Korean officials met Sunday to discuss the next steps. One official told a Korean paper, "We can't just ignore and do nothing if... North Korea doesn't take initial steps [to meet February's agreement]." (That reminds of the "Super Kim" video below. I found it with subtitles and it turns out his "Special Move" is to "ignore and continue.") I find this stance somewhat encouraging and a little bit surprising. It's nice to see the usually accommodating South Korea put a little more muscle into the disarmament/peace process.

The article also mentions the Japanese reaction - very hard-line - and references the "China wants us to wait" line that Larry first brought up. In retrospect, it is entirely possible that there is more to this than just U.S. domestic posturing. China might have something up its sleeve to sway Pyongyang (or China's banks). Maybe the 6PT is more of a multilateral effort than I gave it credit for in my previous post.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Is this the guy?

Ya'll were talking about some blogger in class last week? - is this the blog? The Songun blog has alot of pro-DPRK anti-US postings. Apparently they don't like Japan either (**Link includes an obscenity**).

I came across the Songun blog while browsing YouTube for KJI videos. Kim Jong Il, The Great Economist ... yeah, sure.

Super Kim....

How many Parties does it take to screw in a light bulb?

To follow up on Larry's post...

Larry, I agree that the language of Hill's statement seems a bit odd. But I also think you're right when you call attention to the source of the story and the audience it is written for. I think the major deciding factor in this case is indeed 1) the media source and 2) the domestic audience (political and mass). I believe the 6 Party talks are very much a combined effort by all parties involved and not really a case of the U.S. forcing everyone to cooperate. (Dan Bloumenthal would suggest that Japan is none to pleased about the arrangment b/c it compromises Tokyo's efforts to resolve the abduction issue, etc.) Keep in mind, it was Beijing's efforts to get everyone back to the table, not Washington's that got this thing back in motion.

I think Hill's recent statements aim primarily at conservative critics in the U.S. Using assertive, "the ball's in your court" language, it reflects that (for better or worse) the administration's concessions have a limit, and the North will have to be active in order for talks to progress. The China line, which no other participants' media coverage makes mention of, I would suggest is simply used as another reason for letting the deadline pass. "Hey, if arguably the most powerful country in the region wants us to be patient, then I think we should oblige." That kind of thing.

Here are a handful of articles of coverage of recent developments in the Talks from Korean and Chinese media. Japan didn't have much to say on the subject this weekend.

Korean media


"China urges actions to promote progress of six-party talks"

The "China wanted patience" line does not appear in any of the articles. The last article however does publicize the Chinese representative's statement urging everyone to do the right thing and honor the spirit of the talks to this point (ie. keep calm and withdraw your damn funds already).

The question of whether this is more of a bilateral or multilateral undertaking at the core is most interesting. Despite my earlier statement, the more I think about, the more I begin to question just how multilateral the 6PT is. Without the U.S., I question whether the other parties involved would have the patience and will to sit at the same table with one another. Historical tensions b/w Japan and the Koreas would make things challenging to say the least without the U.S. mediating force. China would probably prefer to leave Japan out of the equation and handle the issue more as a border security issue than a broader international nuclear proliferation issue. South Korea's sunshine policy seems to have no limits, even after last fall's nuclear test. And Russia...well, I'm not sure why they're there actually, beyond wanting to be included for status's sake.

From where I stand, it seems the U.S. is indeed the glue behind this operation, as well as the driving force. It's entirely possible that the Chinese example I heralded earlier was in fact a back room maneuver on Washington's part to hype up the "international initiative" to resolve the issue for the domestic audience.

After the test, Bush kept saying how he thought this should be handled multilaterally. The other guys didn't seem to be getting much done until the U.S. got back to the table, but Washington outright leading the charge would've been equivalent to admitting a failed policy (of isolation and sanctions, etc.). Thus, maybe Washington went through the back door in Beijing to get the ball rolling again.

There are definitely a number of issues with these talks and certainly a lot of dancing back and forth with little progress. I'm going to take a more optimistic approach than Larry though. I think that there is common interest in moving things forward, and despite some potholes in the road and the prospect of a really, REALLY long trip, this is really the only road to travel.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

"The Chinese wanted us to show some patience"

...Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill was quoted as having remarked in this CNN/AP piece. Because of the "unexpected complexities" that arose with regard to the DPRK funds in accounts at the now infamous Banco Delta Asia, the US has decided to give the North "a few more days" to shut down its nuclear facility at Yongbyon.

I find Hill's statement interesting. Is this an indication of the sway China holds in this process? If China wants the five non-DPRK parties to display some patience, why not make the announcement itself? Is this good, old fashioned diplomatic (or US domestic political) posturing? Is it a tacit expression of the view that the issue is, in actuality, a US-DPRK bilateral issue? Could the US-centric focus simply be a reflection of that fact that I pulled the piece from CNN? I guess, belaboring the obvious, my question is: why is it "the US" that has decided to give North Korea a few more days and not "we the five parties of the Six Party Talks have decided"? I wonder if there will be an official statement with wording that presents the decision as that of the five parties, not just the United States.

Anyway, an unidentified official from the State Department referenced in the article notes that the US deems it "prudent" to give the North a measure of additional time, but cautions that the Administration's patience has limits.

Hill is also quoted as saying that DPRK officials are aware that their funds have been made accessible and, at the end of the piece, remarks that there has been an asymmetry of diplomatic effort to move things forward (quipping that the DPRK hasn't put forth an effort commensurate with that of the other parties).

As Will observed in class, the ball is now squarely in Pyongyang's court. In the next few weeks, with the BDA issue apparently resolved, we should see if the North is prepared to move forward with the denuclearization process. Sure, I'm a pessimist, but why do I see a "one step forward, one step back" dance routine in our future?

Here's to hoping I'm wrong on the eve of what would be the Eternal Leader's 95th birthday.

Feeling Lucky

I remember that we wondered if the FTA was really a good deal for South Korea, but apprently some Korean people are very happy about it.

Good Luck for South Korea, Bad Luck for Japan

The article says that first of all Koreans should thank Mao Zedong for slowing the economic development by launching the Cultural Revolution in China. And then it continues that South Korea is lucky with the FTA deal:
"Regrettably, Japan has no opportunity to reach an FTA with the U.S. for a considerable period, because the five-year Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) that the U.S. Congress has given the Bush administration has almost expired. Japan will have to wait until the next TPA resumes. It's bad luck for Japan, which has lost its chance, but good luck for Korea, which has gotten a head start."

Wen Jiabao's interview given to ROC press

In this interview given by Wen Jiabao to ROK news agencies, including Yonghap News, Chosun Ilbo, Dong-A Ilbo and KBS, the Chinese Premier spoke his views of how to resovle the issue of unification on the Peninsula, of the dispute between China and the ROK over the history of Koguryo, of China-ROK trade relations, and others.

From Wen's answers, you really can see, China regards the trade as the most important. Because of that, the Chinese government suppresses many sensitive issues in the media, such as the "Koguryo" dispute. The public generally won't read academic articles for historical truth, and they are used to consuming "fast food." So many Korean Chinese got one-sided views by reading the Korean newspapers regarding the history of Koguryo. As a result, the Chinese government may have kept the China-ROK trade going, but lost the hearts of some Chinese Koreans.

Coming Sigur Center talks

Conference: "Korean NGO Activities and Perspectives: Peace, Human Rights and Civic Participation"
Thursday, April 26 (more information avaialbe: here)

Opening Speech (9:45 am - 10:15 am): Won-Soon Park, Attorney and Executive Secretary, Hope Institute, "Korean Civic Movement"

Session I (10:15 am - 12:15 pm): Peace and Korean NGOs
- Wooksik Cheong, Civil Network for a Peaceful Korea and George Washington University, "Two Koreas and the United States: Another Future is Possible"
- Bo Geun Kim, Hankyoreh Foundation for Reunification and Culture and Columbia University), "A Survey: Knowledge of North Korea Among NGOs in the United States and South Korea"
- Jaehun Choi, Imagination for International Solidarity and British Columbia University, Canada, "Unleashed Overseas Dispatch of South Korean Troops: Why Should We Go There?"
- Discussant: John Feffer, Co-Director, Foreign Policy in Focus and Director of Global Affairs, International Relations Center

Keynote Speech (1:15 pm - 1:45 pm): Don Oberdorfer, Chairman, The U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS, "New Triangle: Two Koreas and the U.S. in the 21st Century: Prospects and the NGO's Role"

Session II (1:45 pm -3:15 pm): Human Rights and Korean NGOs
- Seung Chang Ha, Citizens' Action Network and Columbia University, "Immigration Problems as the Upcoming Agenda in Korea"
- Mi Sun Kim, Migrant Workers Health Association in Korea and Stanford University, "Advocacy Networks for (Im)migrant's Rights in the U.S. (Bay Area) and Korea - Strategies, Gains, and Challenges for the Networks"
- Sooji Lee, Research Institute of the Differently Abled Person's Rights in Korea and British Columbia University, Canada, "The Rights of Differently Abled Persons in the U.S."
- Yuseok Chung, Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center and Indiana University, "The Anti-Sexual Violence Movement in Korea : Achievements and Limits of the Feminist Law Reform Movement"
Session III (3:30 pm - 5:00 pm): Civic Participation and Korean NGOs

Session III (3:30 pm - 5:00 pm): Civic Participation and Korean NGOs
- Il Pyo Hong, Institute for Participatory Society and George Washington University, "How U.S. Think Tanks Influence Policy-making: Comparing Progressive and Conservative Think Tanks"
- So Yeun Kim, Citizens' Movement for Environmental Justice and Indiana University, "Problems of Conflict Resolution and the NGO’s Role for Civic Participation in South Korea"
- Doo Hyon Choi, Korea Federation for Environments, Jeonju and Stanford University, "Social Capital in the U.S. as Compared to South Korea"

Visiting Scholar Roundtable: "Between the Collapse of Japanese Empire and Normalization with East Asian States: Repatriations, Reparations, and Memories Reconsidered"
Speaker: Toyomi Asano, Professor of Chukyo University.
Thursday, May 3, 3:00-4:15pm