Obama And North Korea - Please Read - Important UPDATES
by architek, Wed May 28, 2008 at 06:12:01 PM EDT
I heard recently that Barack Obama has quietly indicated that he would support the removal of North Korea from the US list of countries that sponsor terrorism. Update [2008-5-29 11:55:7 by architek]:See Obama Changes Tack on Terror Status for N.Korea.
I think that this is worse than a mistake. Mr. Obama is ignoring the kidnapping and murder of Kim Dong Shik, a Korean-American with dual South Korean and US citizenship and a former Illinois resident.
Rev. Kim disappeared several years ago. It came out in 2004 that he had been abducted from Chinese territory by the North Korean government and that he later died in a North Korean prison camp while under interrogation.
He had been assisting North Korean refugees in China in the illegal underground railroad that sometimes eventually allows them to reach South Korea. (but also often fails, and the refugees are captured and sent back to North Korea, where some are executed, because it is a crime to leave.)
By removing North Korea from the sponsor list, Obama is ignoring arguably the very worst human rights situation in the world.
There may be a tendency, to look at the Bush administration's posturing on Iraq, Iran and North Korea and to think that perhaps, its propaganda as far as North Korea. "Perhaps they are not that bad, after all" many of us might think. Some of the stories that periodically emerge about Kim Jong-il are seen as humorous.
That would be a terrible mistake, because the bizarre nature of the situation there masks misery on a huge scale. Like the situation with Hitler in the 1930s, all of the other players in the area, fearful of the consequences of an implosion of North Korea's regime and the flood of starving refugees that would emerge, greatly downplay both the danger and the suffering of the North Korean people.
The situation there is a bizarre legacy of the Cold War and it predates the Bush Administration by 50 years.
Perhaps there IS some kind of diplomacy that could break down the barriers around North Korea at some point. We have to hope. But the problem dwarfs politicians and rhetoric. It is such an intractable MESS that almost nobody outside of a small community of Korea watchers understand it. Certainly politicians are not aware of the depth of the paranoia and misery. It is like a bad, bad movie and indeed, Nort Korea has been the subject of many films. But none manage to capture the terror. Perhaps the closest might be films about other totalitarian countries such as "The Lives of Others" - films that can only be made by those who have experienced them.
Politicians may consider that North Korea is the most isolated place in the world, politically, They should understand that this doesn't happen overnight. They need to realize WHY.
Tactically, they might also start on their feet by trying to grok that regardless of the terrorism factor it makes no sense to give away the prize before even beginning the negotiation.
And that you do not negotiate with Hitler-esque figures without an understanding and public acknowledgment of what is happening.
Imagine Stalins gulag, in the 21st century.
Obama criticizes others for every possible thing but he himself is committing a grave error in moral judgement by allowing North Korea to go unpunished for abducting a fellow Illinois citizen.Update [2008-5-29 11:55:7 by architek]:
The Hidden Gulag: a report on North Korean prison camps
PBS Frontline show on "Kims Nuclear Gamble"
Escapees from North Korea
(both in hiding in China and safe in South Korea) tell their stories.
North Korea, which had undergone many years of horiffic famine in the 90s, is now entering a new era of, as they exhort 'tightening its belt'
But, they may not be able to, as the incredibly resilient North Korean people are already the thinnest people in the world. Indeed, millions of North Koreans have slowly starved to death. Food aid to the government often does not reach the northern and eastern areas of the country, which are reserved for political undeirables and their descendents. Why feed a cancer, they say. NGOs are not allowed into these areas at all.
One solution might be something like the Berlin Airlift, dropping food from planes or on balloons. This would undoubtably destabilize the government, but would do it in a gentle, positive way. The whole world is watching.