The Mystery That is North Korea

North Korea today constitutes one of the most isolated countries in the world. Precious little information is known about the regime; people do not come in, people do not come out. Until recently, there was only one known photo of Kim Jong-un, the purported successor to Kim Jong-il – and even today the most recent photo of the man is decades old.

North Korea is also supposedly a living hellhole. To live in North Korea is to reside in one of the poorest countries in the world. North Koreans are raised to believe that Kim Jong-il is literally a God. They live in perpetual fear of the secret police. Millions are starving from the failed economic policies of the authoritarian government.

Wait a second – if North Korea is such a mystery, how do we know all this?

The answer is that we read this in American newspapers. There is reason, however, to carry a bit of skepticism when reading the newspaper accounts of North Korea. Think about it. Most North Korean reporters have probably never set foot in the country itself, let alone talked with an actual North Korean. They file their stories from Seoul. For research, they speak for North Korean “experts” who likewise have never been in the country. If lucky, they might meet with a few exiles – but the very nature of an exile may lead to distorted information, as the United States unfortunately found out with Iraqi exiles.  One enterprising journalist from the Economist literally went to the North Korean-Chinese border and spent several hours waving at North Korean farmers (who did not wave back), before writing a 2,900-word special report on the country in Seoul.

So reporters turn to previous stories about North Korea, written by similarly clueless journalists. These accounts contain the same narrative that most of the media uses when referring to North Korea: a brainwashed populace, a ruthless and authoritarian regime, an economy in chaos, famine and deprivation. And this is what ends up on said reporter’s brand-new story – and thus on the newspapers Americans read and televisions Americans watch.

All this is not to defend North Korea, but rather to say that much of the news reported about it may not be fully sound. Hard evidence does exist of North Korean poverty; satellite pictures, for instance, indicate that much of the countryside lacks electricity (although before the Soviet Union fell and its subsidies ended, this was not the case – a fact few people know). Reports of the public shaming dealt to North Korea’s World Cup team probably constitute the truth. So does analysis of the failed currency reform this winter, which ended with a government apology (!) and the execution of a scapegoated official.

But when you read yet another newspaper account of abhorrent conditions in North Korea, check out where the story was filed from. Chances are that it comes from Seoul. Take the reporting, therefore, with a grain of salt.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

 

The Mystery That is North Korea

North Korea today constitutes one of the most isolated countries in the world. Precious little information is known about the regime; people do not come in, people do not come out. Until recently, there was only one known photo of Kim Jong-un, the purported successor to Kim Jong-il – and even today the most recent photo of the man is decades old.

North Korea is also supposedly a living hellhole. To live in North Korea is to reside in one of the poorest countries in the world. North Koreans are raised to believe that Kim Jong-il is literally a God. They live in perpetual fear of the secret police. Millions are starving from the failed economic policies of the authoritarian government.

Wait a second – if North Korea is such a mystery, how do we know all this?

The answer is that we read this in American newspapers. There is reason, however, to carry a bit of skepticism when reading the newspaper accounts of North Korea. Think about it. Most North Korean reporters have probably never set foot in the country itself, let alone talked with an actual North Korean. They file their stories from Seoul. For research, they speak for North Korean “experts” who likewise have never been in the country. If lucky, they might meet with a few exiles – but the very nature of an exile may lead to distorted information, as the United States unfortunately found out with Iraqi exiles.  One enterprising journalist from the Economist literally went to the North Korean-Chinese border and spent several hours waving at North Korean farmers (who did not wave back), before writing a 2,900-word special report on the country in Seoul.

So reporters turn to previous stories about North Korea, written by similarly clueless journalists. These accounts contain the same narrative that most of the media uses when referring to North Korea: a brainwashed populace, a ruthless and authoritarian regime, an economy in chaos, famine and deprivation. And this is what ends up on said reporter’s brand-new story – and thus on the newspapers Americans read and televisions Americans watch.

All this is not to defend North Korea, but rather to say that much of the news reported about it may not be fully sound. Hard evidence does exist of North Korean poverty; satellite pictures, for instance, indicate that much of the countryside lacks electricity (although before the Soviet Union fell and its subsidies ended, this was not the case – a fact few people know). Reports of the public shaming dealt to North Korea’s World Cup team probably constitute the truth. So does analysis of the failed currency reform this winter, which ended with a government apology (!) and the execution of a scapegoated official.

But when you read yet another newspaper account of abhorrent conditions in North Korea, check out where the story was filed from. Chances are that it comes from Seoul. Take the reporting, therefore, with a grain of salt.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

 

Global Updates: N. Korea, Kenya, Haiti, and More!

I haven't posted much on MyDD lately, due to summer jobs and other prior engagements, so I'm doing a double post today.  The first about the open letter to Palin was more of me exercising my frustration in world form.  This one actually has substance.  I hope you enjoy and get something out of it.

(Cross-posted on FDL Seminal)

I’ve been wanting to do one of these for awhile. With the large coverage of things inside the United States  at MyDD, I think its important to catch up on the rest of the world and where recent news breaks and situations begin.

Africa
First off we will start in Africa (and in case you haven’t figured out my trend thus far, one of my favorite stops). Kenya is very close to my heart, so I apologize if it bugs the readers here that I am mentioning it so frequently in the past few weeks. Kenya went through an incredible movement towards a more consummate democracy (at least I believe so) by ratifying the proposed Constitution that has been debated for close to a year now. The vote took place officially on August 4th and the official tally was compiled yesterday. The YES camp, those gunning for the ratification of the proposed constitution, came out on top by a very decisive vote tally.

“The historic journey that we began over 20 years ago is now coming to a happy end. I assure our brothers and sisters who voted against the proposed constitution that their voices have been heard. Let us all join hands together as we begin the process of national renewal under the new constitution.”

President Kibaki

——————————————-

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts whether the dreams of the founders of our nation are still with us, who still questions our people’s thirst for a better country and democracy, who still questions whether Kenyans really want a break with the past, today we have the answer.”

Prime Minister Raila Odinga

The official tally is YES: 6,092,593 (66.9%)
NO: 2,795,059 (30.1%)

Source: The Daily Nation

I believe that, although not anywhere near perfection, the new constitution will serve the people of Kenya well and help progress their country along a path towards a more constructive, fulfilling, and better functioning democracy

Middle-East
President Obama’s approval rating among Arabic people has declined a vast amount in just the past year. Al-Jazeera reports (with data from the Brookings Institution polls) that 62% of those polled have a negative view of the president, as opposed to 23% just a year ago. Could these numbers be prompted by President Obama’s lack of action with troop withdraw in Afghanistan and Iraq? One would assume it at least has an inkling of influence.

This year’s poll surveyed 3,976 people in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates, during the period of June 29–July 20, 2010.

Among the key poll findings are:
A substantial change in the assessment of President Obama, both as president of the United States and of Obama personally.
Remarkably stable views on the Arab-Israeli conflict and the prospects of its resolution.
A majority of the Arab public now see a nuclear-armed Iran as being better for the Middle East.
Among other things, the poll also examined how Arabs score specific American policies in the past year, how they rank other countries across a number of variables, and how they prioritize attitudes toward social and religious issues.

ATTITUDES TOWARD OBAMA

Among the most striking findings on the question of attitudes toward President Obama: Early in the Obama administration, in April and May 2009, 51% of the respondents in the six countries expressed optimism about American policy in the Middle East. In the 2010 poll, only 16% were hopeful, while a majority – 63% – was discouraged.

As shown from the Brookings Institution data, optimism over American Policy in the Middle East has dropped unfortunately. Its interesting data, for me personally and for the a lot of others I’m assuming, because one of the hopes Obama perpetuated was "pressing the reset button" on foreign policy (I believe that is a Biden quote however)

With Healthcare Reform, Wall-Street issues, and other domestic concerns.. Obama’s time has been consumed to the fullest. Balancing his presidency is a tedious and difficult task of delegating and managing a cornucopia of problems, issues, and other concerns. Al-Jazeera also mentioned another issue Middle-Eastern people polled had with the president:

The precipitous decline in Obama’s popularity, though expected by many Middle East analysts and already documented in a Pew survey of global opinion,has naturally captured the headlines,given the president’s promise to pursue rapprochement with Arabs and Muslims during his campaign and the early months of his presidency.

Arabs’ attitudes toward US foreign policy have turned negative even more rapidly than their opinion of Obama himself.

Source: Al-Jazeera

North/Central America

Haiti has seen better days, I think that goes without saying. The destruction and devastation of the recent earthquake has left the already struggling country in a pit of even bigger despair amongst the valley of the shadow of economic death. A shroud of darkness covers the tattered remains of the country, and guidance is a key issue at this point in their existence as a state.

Popular Record Producer and Recording Artist Wyclef Jean has confirmed his interest in running for the Haitian Presidency. Jean’s response the the quake in the beginning stages was very evident and his passion for his home country has been seen in the wake of disaster.

The Haitian-born singer-songwriter has ended weeks of speculation by confirming he will run for president. For the past five years he has been increasing his engagement with Haiti having left the country when he was nine years old

Source: The Guardian

South America
Venezuelan/Columbian relations improve as Hugo Chavez extends a welcoming hand to Columbia’s new President Juan Manuel Santos. Bitter relations have accompanied the two countries as of recent.

CARACAS Aug 6 (Reuters) – Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez said on Friday his foreign minister is likely to attend the inauguration of Colombia’s incoming President Juan Manuel Santos, signaling a thaw in ties between the Andean neighbors.

Chavez severed relations with Colombia last month after the outgoing government of President Alvaro Uribe accused him of turning a blind eye to leftist rebel camps on his territory.

Though Chavez is not expected at Saturday’s ceremony, he has made clear he hopes for better ties with Santos.

Source: Reuters Africa

East Asia
Secretary Clinton has had it up to here with North Korea North Korea, more accurately Kim Jong-Il, has been a pain in the rear for the United States for quite some time. Kim Jong-Il’s cognac benders, gulag appointments, and overall schmuck-like attitude has been something of constant concern… yet set on the backburner in order to pursue more serious matters. Newer sanctions are expected to be instated against North Korea, who is probably coming close to (if not setting) the world record for most sanctions against one country… if any such record exists

In response to the threats made by North korea, Clinton said last Wednesday that US intends to impose new sanctions as a penalty for the sinking of the 1,200-ton Cheonan that killed 46 sailors last March. These sanctions are also meant to suppress any nuclear plans the country might have.

"These measures are not directed at the people of North Korea, who have suffered too long due to the misguided and malign priorities of their government," Clinton said while touring the Demilitarized Zone separating the North from South Korea with Defense Secretary Robert Gates early this week.

Source: Illume Magazine

I hope you folks have enjoyed this brief dive into a few more international situations happening around the world. I’ll try to do this semi-frequently if its well-received.

 

Global Updates: N. Korea, Kenya, Haiti, and More!

I haven't posted much on MyDD lately, due to summer jobs and other prior engagements, so I'm doing a double post today.  The first about the open letter to Palin was more of me exercising my frustration in world form.  This one actually has substance.  I hope you enjoy and get something out of it.

(Cross-posted on FDL Seminal)

I’ve been wanting to do one of these for awhile. With the large coverage of things inside the United States  at MyDD, I think its important to catch up on the rest of the world and where recent news breaks and situations begin.

Africa
First off we will start in Africa (and in case you haven’t figured out my trend thus far, one of my favorite stops). Kenya is very close to my heart, so I apologize if it bugs the readers here that I am mentioning it so frequently in the past few weeks. Kenya went through an incredible movement towards a more consummate democracy (at least I believe so) by ratifying the proposed Constitution that has been debated for close to a year now. The vote took place officially on August 4th and the official tally was compiled yesterday. The YES camp, those gunning for the ratification of the proposed constitution, came out on top by a very decisive vote tally.

“The historic journey that we began over 20 years ago is now coming to a happy end. I assure our brothers and sisters who voted against the proposed constitution that their voices have been heard. Let us all join hands together as we begin the process of national renewal under the new constitution.”

President Kibaki

——————————————-

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts whether the dreams of the founders of our nation are still with us, who still questions our people’s thirst for a better country and democracy, who still questions whether Kenyans really want a break with the past, today we have the answer.”

Prime Minister Raila Odinga

The official tally is YES: 6,092,593 (66.9%)
NO: 2,795,059 (30.1%)

Source: The Daily Nation

I believe that, although not anywhere near perfection, the new constitution will serve the people of Kenya well and help progress their country along a path towards a more constructive, fulfilling, and better functioning democracy

Middle-East
President Obama’s approval rating among Arabic people has declined a vast amount in just the past year. Al-Jazeera reports (with data from the Brookings Institution polls) that 62% of those polled have a negative view of the president, as opposed to 23% just a year ago. Could these numbers be prompted by President Obama’s lack of action with troop withdraw in Afghanistan and Iraq? One would assume it at least has an inkling of influence.

This year’s poll surveyed 3,976 people in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates, during the period of June 29–July 20, 2010.

Among the key poll findings are:
A substantial change in the assessment of President Obama, both as president of the United States and of Obama personally.
Remarkably stable views on the Arab-Israeli conflict and the prospects of its resolution.
A majority of the Arab public now see a nuclear-armed Iran as being better for the Middle East.
Among other things, the poll also examined how Arabs score specific American policies in the past year, how they rank other countries across a number of variables, and how they prioritize attitudes toward social and religious issues.

ATTITUDES TOWARD OBAMA

Among the most striking findings on the question of attitudes toward President Obama: Early in the Obama administration, in April and May 2009, 51% of the respondents in the six countries expressed optimism about American policy in the Middle East. In the 2010 poll, only 16% were hopeful, while a majority – 63% – was discouraged.

As shown from the Brookings Institution data, optimism over American Policy in the Middle East has dropped unfortunately. Its interesting data, for me personally and for the a lot of others I’m assuming, because one of the hopes Obama perpetuated was "pressing the reset button" on foreign policy (I believe that is a Biden quote however)

With Healthcare Reform, Wall-Street issues, and other domestic concerns.. Obama’s time has been consumed to the fullest. Balancing his presidency is a tedious and difficult task of delegating and managing a cornucopia of problems, issues, and other concerns. Al-Jazeera also mentioned another issue Middle-Eastern people polled had with the president:

The precipitous decline in Obama’s popularity, though expected by many Middle East analysts and already documented in a Pew survey of global opinion,has naturally captured the headlines,given the president’s promise to pursue rapprochement with Arabs and Muslims during his campaign and the early months of his presidency.

Arabs’ attitudes toward US foreign policy have turned negative even more rapidly than their opinion of Obama himself.

Source: Al-Jazeera

North/Central America

Haiti has seen better days, I think that goes without saying. The destruction and devastation of the recent earthquake has left the already struggling country in a pit of even bigger despair amongst the valley of the shadow of economic death. A shroud of darkness covers the tattered remains of the country, and guidance is a key issue at this point in their existence as a state.

Popular Record Producer and Recording Artist Wyclef Jean has confirmed his interest in running for the Haitian Presidency. Jean’s response the the quake in the beginning stages was very evident and his passion for his home country has been seen in the wake of disaster.

The Haitian-born singer-songwriter has ended weeks of speculation by confirming he will run for president. For the past five years he has been increasing his engagement with Haiti having left the country when he was nine years old

Source: The Guardian

South America
Venezuelan/Columbian relations improve as Hugo Chavez extends a welcoming hand to Columbia’s new President Juan Manuel Santos. Bitter relations have accompanied the two countries as of recent.

CARACAS Aug 6 (Reuters) – Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez said on Friday his foreign minister is likely to attend the inauguration of Colombia’s incoming President Juan Manuel Santos, signaling a thaw in ties between the Andean neighbors.

Chavez severed relations with Colombia last month after the outgoing government of President Alvaro Uribe accused him of turning a blind eye to leftist rebel camps on his territory.

Though Chavez is not expected at Saturday’s ceremony, he has made clear he hopes for better ties with Santos.

Source: Reuters Africa

East Asia
Secretary Clinton has had it up to here with North Korea North Korea, more accurately Kim Jong-Il, has been a pain in the rear for the United States for quite some time. Kim Jong-Il’s cognac benders, gulag appointments, and overall schmuck-like attitude has been something of constant concern… yet set on the backburner in order to pursue more serious matters. Newer sanctions are expected to be instated against North Korea, who is probably coming close to (if not setting) the world record for most sanctions against one country… if any such record exists

In response to the threats made by North korea, Clinton said last Wednesday that US intends to impose new sanctions as a penalty for the sinking of the 1,200-ton Cheonan that killed 46 sailors last March. These sanctions are also meant to suppress any nuclear plans the country might have.

"These measures are not directed at the people of North Korea, who have suffered too long due to the misguided and malign priorities of their government," Clinton said while touring the Demilitarized Zone separating the North from South Korea with Defense Secretary Robert Gates early this week.

Source: Illume Magazine

I hope you folks have enjoyed this brief dive into a few more international situations happening around the world. I’ll try to do this semi-frequently if its well-received.

 

New North Korea Sanctions: Where to go From Here?

 

North Korea seems like the mecca of rogue states in this day and age.  The US has imposed several sanctions on the country itself, and other countries aren't stranger to this action either, but little headway has been made in reaching any sort of agreements or peace declarations between the two countries.

Al-Jazeera reported earlier that the US will impose new sanctions on North Korea in hopes of deterring illegal money sharing to finance nuclear arsenals throughout the state.  North Korea's people have been through hell most likely their entire lives.  I genuinely feel for the citizens of the country that wish to live a normal life, one not under the quasi-omnipotent watchful eyes of Kim Jong-Il and his regime.  Its sad to read about, and even sadder to see, how poorly the citizens of the country are treated and how malnourished and abused they are.  

But what is the United States to do aside from sanctions?  This seems to be the age-old question in regards to the present-day North Korea (yes I realize that statement is borderline oxymoronic).

 

The United States will impose new sanctions on North Korea in a bid to stem its nuclear weapons ambitions, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said.

Clinton said the measures were designed to stamp out illegal money-making ventures used to fund the nuclear programme.

"They are directed at the destabilising, illicit, and provocative policies pursued by that government,'' she said.

"These measures are not directed at the people of North Korea, who have suffered too long due to the misguided priorities of their government,'' Clinton said after talks with defence and military officials in South Korea on Wednesday.

 

Source:  Al-Jazeera

No, the measures aren't directed at the people of North Korea.. but ultimately they are the ones who unfortunately are forced to put up with the drunken disorderly that is Kim Jong-Il.  His cognac binges and careless disregard for humanity as a whole leaves his now staggering population even worse off than what they already were before.

This tone may suggest I disagree with the sanctions imposed, but that is not true.  I agree with sanctioning North Korea, but feel as though it has little effect with governing their actions as a government.  Being that they run a closed-economy and 9 times out of 10 will not accept even emergency aid from groups like the UN, what is the US to do?  

 

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