Friday, June 30, 2006

Would the USA really care if Kim gets a nuclear weapon?

As we have discussed in class and read in articles and seen on TV, North Korea is trying to launch a nuclear test weapon, Tapedong II. It seems that they are doing this just so that they can prove to the Bush adminstration that they can develop weapons of mass destruction and use them if they should please, to hit "Alaska".......big woop so you kill some elk, frankly i dont care and niether do the rest of America.
Was it Kim who organized terrorist cells from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to take down the WTC and pentagon, no! So i dont worry about Kim Jung Il.
Hey kim, you know we have 30,000 nuclear warheads, and we will never be able to use any of them, so shut the hell up. You want a nuke fine, you think China, Russia and the US will let you luanch that as a premtive stirke to assume control of the penninula, um no. Also for that matter, you would risk fallout over Pyongyang, while annhilating the one beacon of hope to salvage your ravaged nation, thats right, the economic potential of Seol?
So I ask you this Kim, if you want to let your people starve and quite possibly rally in a one day coupe, organized by a more down to the earth leader, then by all means. I know its hard to give up abosulte power, but what would your father think? Kim, grow some balls, shut up and help your people.


Crash Course in Coping, how the other side adjusts to freedom

I was surfing the NY times, and this article caught my eye. Since we know htat North Korea is a uniquely different society, when defectors discover that they can openly read the newspaper, talk about politics, and enjoy the the joys of free market capitalsim, it can get overwhelming, so in South Korea they have deveoped a school to readjust the defectors to Western world normalcy. see here--> coping
"On a sprawling campus hidden in farmland here, about 300 North Koreans are learning that, no, actually, it was not the South that started the Korean War."--> this can be hard to cope with, since all you have ever known is that the USA was imperialistic dogs out to destroy the Korean people.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Kidnapped S. Korean

At the same time that the reunions between North and South Koreans have been occuring a South Korean who was kidnapped by the North when he was 16 was finally allowed to see his family again. INterestingly enough it seems he married a Japanese woman who was kidnapped but supposedly died and they had a daughter. It makes me wonder if they kept all of the citizens they kidnapped together and apart from ordinary North Koreans while they taught the North Korean spies. Click this to see the original bbc article.


A former student directed my attention to the following stories. The first is about a South Korean who moonlights as a Kim Jong-il impersonator. No pictures, alas, but a telling quote about how attitudes towards Kim and the DPRK have changed in South Korea:
But much has changed since 2000, when then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung went to Pyongyang for a historic summit with the North Korean leader. The impersonator's big worry now is that his imitation of Kim Jong Il could chill the warming relations between their countries. "I wouldn't want Kim Jong Il to be offended by anything I do," Kim said. "I don't want to portray him as an evil person."

The second article chronicles an abortive attempt to broker a deal between North Korea and the state of Israel. Things came to a head when two Israeli delegations, one from the Foreign Ministry that was in favor of the deal and one from Mossad that opposed the deal, found themselves on the same plane to P'yongyang. No doubt that was an interesting flight.
However, the Mossad thought otherwise. The then-head of the Tevel branch, Ephraim Halevy (later Mossad chief), and one of his officials, Dubi Shiloah, had heard about the move from the Foreign Ministry. They rushed off on a secret mission to Pyongyang in an effort to beat the Foreign Ministry delegation and to torpedo the initiative. But due to flight delays, they arrived in Pyongyang at the same time as the Foreign Ministry delegation. Embarrassingly, the two delegations encountered each other when they boarded the flight from Pyongyang to Beijing.

Happy reading.

North South Reunion

Seeing as how we were talking about the future of North South reunification i thought that this pciture of North Koreans saying goodbye as they leave a reunion that I came across at today would be interesting.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Missiles in Japan

I read this article about the US deploying interceptor missiles in Japanhere. iTs interesting because even though they're interceptor missiles they supposedly can't reach the kind of long range missile that the North Koreans are causing all of these problems over. Also, an official supposedly told a delegation of South Korean visitors to the North that there was no reason that his country would start a war and that they were arming to prevent such a war from occuring.

Why doesn't the Dear Leader ever wear suits?

By chance I came across some answers to this question of why we always see Kim Jong-Il in his jumper and not western-style business suits.As the Daily NK reports it anyways, Kim might choose the jumpers for one of two reasons- because he wants to embody and represent the masses, or because the combination of his protruding belly and a bulletproof vest don't do justice to his otherwise glorious physique. Whatever his reasons, it only seems appropriate that Kim shuns what the rest of the world's leaders consider etiquette. Other defectors have commented that Kim doesn't wear a suit because it makes him look short; indeed the article has an early picture of Kim in a suit, but wearing height-enhancing shoes. You can find the poorly translated article here:

Saturday, June 24, 2006

'Crash Course' for North Koreans

According to this article , the North Korean defectors are sent to resettlement centers, like the one in Anseong, which is about 50 miles south of Seoul, to receive three months 'crash- course' to get them settled into the South Korean lifestyle. However, it demonstrates that, even though both sides share a common language, there has been a substantial deviation in the two cultures for the defectors to familiarize with the South's capitalistic lifestyle too easily. One defector said it took him more than 10 years to understand how the South Korean society worked. Despite the fact that the North and the South Koreans are the same in essential, as the article goes to state, an enormous task is ahead if the two sides are to unite one day with 23 million North Koreans.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Who will be the next "Dear Leader"?

Several years ago Kim Jong Il’s eldest son, Kim Jong-nam, was believed to be the favorite to succeed him as the next leader of North Korea. However, his apparent drunkenness and an embarrassing incident in Japan have caused him to fall from favor. Now it looks like Kim’s half brother, Kim Jong-Chul, who was recently spotted at an Eric Clapton concert in Germany, may be the new favorite.

Of course there is no guarantee that the Kim dynasty will survive at all. There are rumors that Kim Jong Il is not respected by the military as his father was, and some generals tried to take power and execute him and his family in the 1990s. There have been other attempts to kill Kim also in recent years. Look at this article for a pretty good analysis of who might be the next “Dear Leader” of North Korea.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Do they want to leave or is home truly in the heart?

The North Korean people, I have found, from the videos we have watched and through our readings, are somehow, for the lack of a better word "content" with their lives. To us, the WEST, it is shocking to admit this. For the way most North Koreans live, brings no guarenteed heat, food, or even electricity. Going one step further the class system that is irreversable except for a downward demotion, would be worse enough for me to leave my nation. Yet, the North Koreans have simply lived with this all their lives. Any attempt to recruit spies to inflitrate their system and overthrow their governemnt has proven difficult due to the stubborn nature of the North Korean people who are trained to be suspicious of the west, and seek to take care of any problem domesticly, without interational intervention. Essentially, they are a proud people and choosing to flee as a refugee because you disagree with a decision by the Kims or are un satisfied by the current status quo, it seems, in a cut and run mentality, would admit that the West is right, and that Korean Communism is wrong. In admiting this you are admiting that a purly Korean take on communism, will never work. In doing this, you pin your nation back to square one, enslaved and ruled by a foreign peoples ideals and cultural practices.
Finnaly as heard in class on thursday, many refugees in South Korea soon discover, that "we dont like being in the South, lets try somthing else". Perhaps it is the North that they really long for but with a better social standing. Who knows, but one thing is for certian, if given a chance to start anew, North Korea is always their home.

PyeongChang South Korea, can an olympics bring peace?

Sochi, Salzburg, Pyeongchang for 2014 Games, interesting that they would select this area despite all of the missile talk going on? Perhaps the west thinks it can pacify the region by then or use it a means to help close the gap between the two nations some more. Just found it very intersting, that Korea almost won for the 2010 games as well
here and here

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Kim Jong Il

Interesting facts and descriptions on the Dear Leader.

Indeed, it is questionable whether his popular "irrational mad-man" image illustrated throughout the world is really a true reflection of the man who succeeds in leading his people to have utter 'faith' in him; utter loyalty and reverence. From our readings though, there seems to be other aspects of the Leader that works to inspire his people, especially his gift of practically incomprehensible senses for taste and hearing.
But still, in the article, it mentions how Kim Jong Il also follows international events closely through internet. He must surely then be in knowledge of how he is being perceived by the rest of the world. One would think, as a leader of a country, he would seek to change his appearance to create a better image to portray to the outside world; say, maybe try to look more charismatic, legitimate, authoritative etc., not just for his sake but for his people's sake too. By this I mean, maybe people of the world would be more 'understanding' if Kim did look like such a character for people to follow him unquestioningly. It is not so reasonable and superficial, I know, but a country's leader does seem to have some bearing on how the world perceives his country and countrymen.
But clearly, Kim seems to take no notice of his 'crazed-out' image, whether intentionally or not it is hard to know. Kim may want to be viewed as this irrational crazy person, totally unstable and unreliable. Such image does add fear to the outside world in some respect; no one can predict his behaviour or assume about his motives; there is not a clear direction to take to deal with such a character.
But even if it was not tended, there seems to be no reason to why he should care really when at home he is worshiped like a god, however he looks.

Who wants to go to the DPRK this summer?

For those of you pondering a trip to North Korea, here is an interesting link to a tour company specializing in guided group and individual tours; Of particular interest is the tour rules and tips link. I can think of other methods of attracting customers than repeated warning about putting your guides in serious danger by wandering around on your own.

Monday, June 19, 2006

98's/Current missile test and some ironies

Some of you might still remember...this current missile threat is not the first time.
On August 31st, 1998 without informing to anyone, North Korea shot the DaePo-Dong 1st. As Professor Larsen briefly talked about North Korea's missile, DaePo dong is consist of three different missiles. In 1998 missile test, the third part of the missile reached up to 6000km (distance from North Korea to Alaska). *The first part of the missile fell in Japanese side Pacific Ocean, but their patriot system did not detect it, so they were shocked. 4 days after missile test, KCNA said they launched the satellite KwangMyung 1 (the bright star). In following September, North Korea waived its missile program on the stipulatin that the US easing economic sanction on North Korea.

According to various sourses, the missile is beleived to be a long-range DaePo-Dong 2 (upgraded missile from 98's) test missile which could reach as far as the mainland of the US. The US is considering about reffering North Korea th the UN Security Council.

South Korean government's principle is to cooperate with the US on this missile issue, but they do not want this issue to be reffered to the UN. Former president Kim Dae Jung is still planning to go North Korea and meet Kim Jung IL during his visitJune 27-30. The purpose of visit is to celerbrate their summit meeting of 2000. North Korean delegation is currently visiting South Korea. They made two nonsense comments; 1. If Hanara (the opposition party to current S.Korean government) gets the power, the Korean peninsula will have another Korean War. They are the biggest obstacle for the unification. 2. South Korea should not be worried about North Korea's missile test. ( I really want to give my middle finger to them).

Ironically and Unfortunately, in South Korea, not many people care about the current missile issue because their all intentions are focused on the dramatic performance of the National Football Team at the World Cup. Also, Roh's government and his advisors are saying North Korea's nuclear weapon is for self-defense and the missile is for satellite.

'Magic' Water discovered in North Korea

While browsing through the KCNA website, I came across an article titled Chongsaengsu, Medicinal Water. The water supposedly contains over 80 elements. The over the top claim comes from the illnesses it allegedly cures "hepatitis, pancreatitis, gastroenteritis, diabetes, nephritis, pyelitis, hypertension, arteriosclerosis, myocarditis, myocardial infraction, leucopenia and cancerous diseases and the prevention from the radiation damage." Obviously these claims are medically unsubstantiated, but I found the article amusing to say the least. The water literally cures everything and helps intellectual development of children, strengthens the immune system, and prevents aging. Now only if we could get a sip of this magic water...

Who knew that our neighbors down under could help?

Japan, allies warn North Korea on missile launch. See link here-->Australia -- which unlike the United States and Japan maintains diplomatic relations with the North -- said it had summoned Pyongyang's ambassador and warned against a test. The missle has been confirmed to be real and will be launched, effectively it has been fully fueled. I find it very interesting that despite all of this, the Austrialians actually communicate regularly with Pyongyang officials on a freindly basis. A nation which had no reason to fear North Korea, as it has yet to step on anyones toes nor actively try to undermine the regime, wants to help stop a potential WWIII scenario that seems all to real should North Korea decide one day to build another "test missle" and use it to unite the korean pennisual by force.

A Nuclear Test for Diplomacy, If bilateral talks replaced the six-party forum

While i know this is a little dated, may 16th, I think it sheds a very interesting light on the nuclear talks in Korea as paralled to Iran and why they are so delecate. Especially with all the talk now if real missle ready to be fired from North Korea. This is an article by Henry Kissinger, who we know spear headed the cold war efforts of containment and held steadfast his views of stopping communism at all costs. see here

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Missile Launch

Some press reports from Japan say that N.K. has fueled some long-range ballistic missiles. N.K. might be planning more missile tests but there is some speculation whether the missiles will be launched or not. If missiles are launched, what will be the reaction from other countries? What would be Washington's response? According the article the "United States, in particular, said the launching of the Taepodong-2 will compel it to take action."

KPA Warning

The creativity of NKPR news propaganda continually amazes me in regards to its creative language and myopic scope. Nevertheless, in a recent article posted on the KCNA web site, a warning was issued to the American military in regards to spy flights. In light of recent claims that the DPRK is attempting to test a new missile, the warning carries some weight as one considers to the fashion that the intelligence was attained. Does North Korea possess the ability to respond? How will this warning influence US policy?

There has to be a way.

On Friday June 16th, I read an interesting article in the Washington Times that examined US economic sanctions on North Korea. The article focused on the counterfeiting issue involving Banco Delta in Asia and other alleged illegal action by North Korea. The article also highlighted the further isolation that North Korea has faced in light of actions such as this.

In light of stalled six party talks and a governing structure within North Korea that seems to contradict every principle of a free society, one must question international policies that aim to both engage and constrain. To put it simply nothing seems to work and within the context of a stalling economy and a desire to maintain a national prestige how will effective foreign policy be developed for North Korea?

The 'First Family'

I found this article which gives brief descriptions of Kim Jong Il's 'secretive' family. I didn't know he had three wives and three sons, who are virtually kept completely out of the spotlight. It would be interesting to contemplate, if it were to happen and is probably likely to happen, which son might succeed the Dear Leader and how the son will go about in achieving the same kind of legitimacy, the god-like images, his forefathers had.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Team America and Kim Jong Il

Continuing on with the political cartoons shown in class yeterday, I've posted two clips below from the puppet based film "Team America." I found the satirical depictions of Kim Jong Il hilarious, especially the part when Hans Blix requests to inspect all of Kim Jong Il's palace, and he says something to the effect 'or else we will be very very angry with you, and write you a letter telling you how angry we are.' Please enjoy the clips for its entertainment value not factual or academic value.
WARNING: The video contains profanity.

North Korea missile test may be imminent

In a recent Reuters article,US government officials expressed their concerns Thursday of an imminent North Korean missile test. There seems to be military and diplomatic factors behind the possible test. As stated in the article, Pyongyang is dissatisfied with the shift of the international attention towards Iran. A test of the Taepodong-2, a long range missile which experts believe can reach portions of the United States; will certainly put North Korea back on the international spot light. On the military front, Taepodong-2 remains untested; therefore it is in the military interest of the DPRK to test out the multiple stage missile.
How will the missile test affect the six party talks? It may negatively affect the six party talks, but the talks as it stands today is in a stale mate, therefore I don't foresee a significant impact on the six party talks. According to an AP article, democratic senators Hillary Clinton, and Carl Levin sent a letter to the White House requesting the Bush administration to change its ineffective current policy on North Korea. In light of the US accusations of an imminent missile test, North Korea is publicly accusing the US of intruding its sovereign airspace. North Korea reports an increased activity of a US spy plane off of its north eastern waters. North Korea is threatening to "punish" the US spy plane. If North Korea does decide to attack a US plane or ship, it will not be unprecedented. As discussed in class, the 1968 Pueblo incident is widely celebrated in North Korea, and the captured spy ship is showcased as a trophy in its victory against US aggression.
The recent escalation of tension in East Asia puts a dent to those hoping for a peaceful resolution to the nuclear weapons issue in North Korea. The Bush administration needs to recognize the failure of the six party talks and needs to redraft its policy. I feel as though we are taking backwards step in international relations with North Korea, and I believe it is largely due to poor leadership and policy by the United States. If North Korea does indeed go ahead with the missile tests, I feel North Korea will achieve its objective of attracting international attention, and validating its military capabilities assuming the test is successful. The US will be sidelined as a spectator unless more proactive steps are taken to diplomatically engage with North Korea

Unseen North Korea

I found some interesting pictures on the BBC. They were taken by a Western businessman who traveled throughout North Korea. In contrast to the video TK Park posted, these pictures show the good side of North Korea. The organized and industrious North Koreans keep the seldom-used roads well maintained, and their small yards are kept neat and tidy. The people seem that they are making the best of a bad situation, as if they have lost all hope of change in the DPRK. Nevertheless, I feel that there are still a few who hope that the government will reform the system one day.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

North Korea congratulates the South

I was reading the sports newspaper of Ole (from Argentina) and I came across this article. Because it is in Spanish, I will translate some of the passages:

"Through Kim Yong dae, the vice president of the Supreme Popular Assembly (?), North Korea congratulated the South for its victory over Togo yesterday, and encouraged the South Korean players to reach the finals. He remembered that in 2002, South Korea had the privilege to be among the four best teams and said that North Korea wishes they reach that instance.

Furthermore, Ahn Kyung-ho, the chief of civil representatives (?) said: "Since we are a single "pueblo" (I would translate this into "people"), we were excited about South Korea's victory over Togo."

Did they really mean all this or is it just another way to show the world that not everything is bad in the relationship between the North and the South? Still, I believe it is good to hear these kind of things from the North. What do you guys think?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Video on North Korea

I was searching in video google to see if there were more videos like the one Austin posted, and came across this documentary. It is approximately 45 minutes long, but well worth watching. It shows orphans that are left roaming in the streets, ignored by the state (very different from what Kim Il-Sung used to do with the war orphans)... We also see what is shown at night on TV, including Kim Jong-Il's "on-spot guidance" for which his father was known for.
Enjoy the video.

2002 World Cup

As many people know, the World Cup started this past Friday in Germany. While reading an article at the New York Times, I came across an article that outlined the importance of this competition and how much it means to the countries involved. For example, the Ivory Coast was fighting a civil war a few months ago. However, they stopped the fighting as soon as the leader of the country said something along the lines of: "If this war continues, we won't be participating in the World Cup." Now they are a country united backing their national team (though what is to happen in August after the World Cup is over is yet to be known...). So what does this have to do with North Korea? Well, the article said that in 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup, South Korea's relations with the US, and its neighbor on the North were affected. "The South Koreans began broadcasting the World Cup across the demilitarized zone as a kind of propaganda tool. Then all of a sudden North Korea just started broadcasting the games themselves. They had no rights to the broadcasts. Part of the World Cup was held in Japan as well, so that long feeling of enmity between the two countries played out" (From the NY Times article, for those people who do not have a sign in name).

It is incredible what a game of futbol can do, don't you think?

More Travel to N.K.

I had some trouble posting the weblink in the comment so I'll just make a new post. The Korean Friendship Association (KFA) has annual trips to North Korea. Next one is in August I believe. They exclude South Korean passport holders though. The link also has a video promotion although the quality is quite bad. Some pictures from a past trip can be found here.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Mass Games

I came across this article on, a site recommended to be by another GW history professor, Prof. D. Yang.

Anyhow, it talks about a British filmmaker who is making a documentary about two girls' preparation for the Mass Games. The Mass Games are, apparently, a festival composed of acts like the ones we saw in the music video that Prof. Larsen showed us. These two girls are some of the best gymnasts in North Korea, and are finishing up preparations for the Games at the end of the summer.

It's interesting how the filmmaker, Daniel Gordon, made another film about North Korea, The Game of Their Lives, which is about the North Korean soccer team when it knocked off Italy in the 1960s (more information on this here).

Gordon claims that his access was more or less unfettered by the authorities, especially in light of his previous film, which is a source of pride for North Koreans. I found this in stark contrast to what Martin said about his visit there... has North Korea "loosened up" that much since then? I suppose it is plausible, but I still have my doubts. There were, however, "guides and translators" with the film crew the whole time. I guess that hasn't changed.

Also interesting is that this further illustrates the point Prof. Larsen was making about the collectivist nature of performance in North Korea. Heck, they're called the Mass Games. Where the U.S. has its Miss America pageants and such, these 11- and 13-year-old girls are living their dream of being part of the elite group, not individual glory.

Diplomacy of a kind

Just like the "Taekwondo diplomacy", there is also something called, the "cell-phone diplomacy". Last year, one of the biggest mobile phone companies in South Korea, 'Anycall', put together extraordinary and ambitious efforts to produce TV commercials aiming to promote not just its products but also the unification of the two Koreas. It brought about an occasion where, for the first time ever, a North Korean 'celebrity', together with a South Korean one, was casted as the main model. When I first saw the commercial, I was very surprised and also skeptical; skeptical with whether the North Koreans were 'real', including the celebrity. I was living abroad and did not hear much news about the commercial and so just took it as yet another 'fictionalized' situation for TV. When I found out that the whole thing was real(as in, they are really North Koreans), filmed in China, I was rather taken aback. I remember thinking out loud, when did the two countries become so 'close' to make such a commercial, also being shocked at the fact that North Korea actually allowed such a thing. Basically, I realized I had been way too ignorant with issues of my own country.

You can see the clip here. It is very obvious with the message it's sending.

Also, on the discussion of how different the two Koreas are, this clip emphasizes a lot of those differences; starting from the appearance of the two representive celebrities, what they are famous for etc. I think that the makers of this commercial may have brought out those differences more strongly than was neccessary, acknowleging the fact that we are very different and trying to convey that even though we are this much different we can still be one, using comments that emphasize familiarity and oneness; the slogan being "One voice/echo".

Is such a diplomatic tactic effective?
I think so, to a certain degree. Although I do not know if the commercial was ever shown in the North, it does bring close the issue of North Korea to the general population in the South, at least, for a while and 'superficially' and it does reflect a level of development in the relationship of the two sides. However, we saw in the film JSA, the soldiers do get along very well over 'superficial' issues, not seeming so different to each other. But when serious, fundamental issues were put on the table, we also saw the sudden tension, a dramatic change in the atmosphere; they all froze, seized in fear and shock.

Friday, June 09, 2006

A trip to North Korea anyone?

If only I was also a holder of a US passport, I would seriously have considered this chance to experience the "last bastion of communism on Earth". If anyone decides to go, I envy you! and DO share your experiences when you come back!

The Rift, how does the north see it with clear eyes, and not Kim Jung Il gogles

The movie Joint Security Area, that we are currently watching seems to portray the elders or high ranking officials as the ones responisble for the rift beteween the two koreas. Now that is from a famous South Korean director, who can say what he wants about society without persecution. I'm wondering, what if any, movie produced in North Korea, would show their viewpoint of the conflict. Because obviously Kim Il Sung or Kim Jung Il wouldnt be to blame in any film that is made for the public, but as a westerner i see that as a biased, does anyone know of any good North Korean moveis that would address this topic? A underground video that the North Korean people would have made? thanx

Fuel to the fire...

North Korean news agency released new findings on the Assination of Queen Min, stating that a
south Korean newspaper: Dong-A Ilbo reported about the discovery of the evidence proving the Japanese government's involvement in the murder of Queen Min. I saw this, here

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Other attempts to reunite Koreas

During a four-day meeting, the South’s Unification Ministry failed to persuade North Korea to agree on a trial run for train service between South Korea and North Korea. Yet this does not prevent South Korea from continuing to try to to reunite the Koreas. I read this article from the AP posted on Yahoo News about Taekwondo grandmaster Woo Jin Jung who is trying to unite the Koreas through the Taekwondo diplomacy. He compared this to the 'pingpong' diplomacy during the 1970's that led to better relationship between the US and China. I wonder if this kind of approach will be better than the government officials in the two countries who can't even arrange train service.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


There is a growing number of blogs that focus on various aspects of Korea in general and/or North Korea in particular. Among the ones that I take a look at from time to time are:

The Marmot's Hole: A good all-purpose blog on contemporary Korean affairs, culture etc. etc. GW North Korea even ranks a mention on this blog here.

NKZone: All North Korea, all the time.

One Free Korea.

Let us know what you've discovered on your own.

Shinhwa in North Korea

While searching for North Korean videos on, I came across the video below of South Korean pop group Shinwha performing in North Korea. The emotionless reaction of the North Korean audience is priceless, quite different from the reception Shinwha is probably used to in South Korea. I would not be surprised if the audience members were given specific instructions prior to the performance. Another factor to consider is that probably the invited guests were the privileged few, high ranking governments officials, hence not a true representation of North Korea. The broader questions is, can sixty years of division create this much cultural difference? As far as pop culture is concerned, two certainly distinct cultures seem to have emerged. As seen in the video, Korean pop music today draws heavy influences from the United States (the dance, beat, and even rap). I am curious as to what really went through the minds of the North Korean audience when they heard this 'foreign' music? I can think of two possible thoughts: 1) 'Wow, the music is so exciting, a breath of fresh air compared to the dull limited North Korean music.' 2)'South Korea culturally, has completely been swept away by the American imperialists. We the north Koreans are now the only remaining pure Koreans, true preservers of the Korean culture.' Did you notice the hanbok(Korean traditional outfit) worn by all the women in the audience? It certainly does not seem to be a coincidence.
Given the upbringing of the North Koreans today, my instincts tell me that the N Koreans would side with the latter view.
Enjoy the video, and do post your reactions!

Enjoy the video, and do post your reactions!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Japan vs. North Korea

I recently read this article on the New York Times. It seems that Japan wants to get ready if North Korea decides to do something...

Monday, June 05, 2006

Does History Repeat Itself?

It is easy to see the similarities between Iran and North Korea. Both are small nations of an anti-Western persuasion seeking legitimacy in the international community. If history can provide insight into the future, then perhaps diplomats discussing the possibility of a nuclear Iran, should look no further than to the “Agreed Framework” of the Clinton Administration.

While I will not be so bold as to offer an opinion on the situation in Iran, I will say the Iran-North Korea comparison is extremely interesting.

This article does a good/concise job of comparing the situations in Iran and North Korea.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Is N Korea following the footsteps of China?

I read an interesting article on the US-Korea free trade agreement. The possible future agreement is being viewed as "the biggest U.S. free-trade deal since the North American Free Tree Agreement and the most important development in U.S.-South Korean relations since the two countries signed their military alliance in 1953." There is no question as to the economic impact of the deal on the US-Korea bilateral trade. What really caught my attention was the issue of North Korea and the Kaesong industrial park. I googled Kaesong to find more information on the project. According to wikipedia, North Korean government designated part of Kaesong as an industrial zone which would allow foreign investment. It seems similar to that of the Chinese special economic zones that were established in China, which played a significant role in the Chinese economic development. In Kaesong industrial park, the wages are set at around 50$ a month, a great economic incentive for south Korean investors. 50$/month is artificially low wage, and a great bargain compared to the rising labor prices in South Korea. In addition, the workers are educated and there is no language barrier. North Koreans seem to finally understand the changing times of the global economy and seem ready to embrace certain elements of market economy. In my opinion, it seems like a win win situation for both South and North Korea, and signals the beginning of economic integration.
The US government does not seem to be pleased with the Kaesong Industrial Park, and the increase in trade between the two Koreas. Many lawmakers in the US congress believe the industrial park goes against the strict economic sanctions placed against north Korea.
Rather than criticizing the recent economic reforms like the Kaesong Industrial park, the US interest may be best served by encouraging economic integration. China is an example of how economic development can positively influence bilateral diplomatic relations. Other critics believe north Korean economic development will only help sustain the north Korean authoritarian regime. I believe economic integration will smoothen the political transition and with the ultimate goal of unification. The European Union comes to mind when thinking about how economic integration can lead to political integration. The EU originally was formed as the European Coal and Steel Community. The economic integration over the years led to political integration with the creation of the European parliament, and other supranational political bodies. If the US have it their way, North Korean regime may topple in the future, but it will most likely incur a heavy cost. Instead of letting the north Korea fall further deep into poverty, the most effective policy is to show a positive example and encourage change through moral suasion, an element of Confucianism.
What are your opinions on this issue?


Saturday, June 03, 2006

Left off the list?

I found a short blurb on BBC about a speech that Rumsfeld made, where he was ostensibly reaffirming the United States' continued interest in building and maintaining ties in Asia. It struck me as somewhat odd that it did not mention North Korea at all, especially with all of these new developments surrounding negotiation with them.

That's pretty short commentary but I also noticed something else on a site called TechCentralStation (one might say it's a conservative-leaning website, but I've also had it described to me as more 'rationalist' than anything else). Anyways, I read on that site that despite North Korea's reputation as a "pariah state," it still has extensive economic ties to China (who allegedly supply a large portion of North Korea's energy) and South Korean companies that have "significant" investments there. I somewhat doubt the accuracy of this site. There are many good articles about the U.S. and world economies, but I'm not sure North Korea falls under their particular purview. You can check out the article I read here.

I apologize for the slightly short nature of this post, but I have to say that honestly one of the reasons I'm taking this course is to be able to discourse with people about U.S. security policy, which is what most interests me right now on this topic.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Tokyo's good deed

During the period of their colonial rule, the Japanese treated the Koreans so brutally and inhumanely. I think the most humiliating to Koreans was to force them to change their names since one’s name symbolizes one’s roots and ancestry. Today, I’m delighted to read this article that the University of Tokyo has agreed to return to Korea 47 volumes of the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty that a colonial official took out of the country in 1913.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Japanese Rule over Korea, is it to blame for the two Koreas?

As we know, Korea is divided into two groups: Socialists in the north and free market capitalists in the south (as I see them today). Both of these groups grew out of a united Korea, which up until western persecution to get "with the times and become civilized" had been a very prosperous and peaceful nation. Should we blame the Japanese occupation and illusion of grandeur for "100,000 million heart beats for a single emperor" as causing the rift to occur?
On the one hand I want to say yes, if the Japanese didn’t invade and occupy, causing the horrific tragedies that it did the Korea perhaps would still be a united and peace loving nation (both halves that is). Kim Il Sung wouldn’t have become the ever immortal dictator, and today we wouldn’t be on the precipice of a nuclear conflict in the region.
ON the other however, it seems that perhaps Korea just was destined for this, they were shunned by the west when they tried to become westernized, they were shunned when they attempted to voice their redress about the Japanese, and yet they were persuaded by China and Russia who had socialist emerging basis. Perhaps we should be thankful that they nation did become split between two opposing views on how to handle exiling the Japanese.

Your thoughts?

North Korea Invites US Nuclear Envoy to Pyongyang

Is it a sign of the times? no pun intended. Have the North Koreans successfully given into the US demand to halt their program? As i was perusing the web i stumbled upon this article published today in the new york times:

"If the U.S. has a true political intention to implement the joint statement we kindly invite once again the head of the U.S. side's delegation to the talks to visit Pyongyang and directly explain it to us."

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

SK Opposition Likely to Achieve Sweeping Victories--NK Watches Closely

The Washington Post reports this morning that as South Koreans are casting their votes for local elections, the opposition party (GNP) seems to be leading in a majority of the races, according initial exit polls. The GNP was leading in 11 of the 16 major cities for the posts of mayor and provincial governor. The GNP leader, Park Geun-hye, is expected to be a candidate for the presidency in 2007 after Roh's term has expired.

According to the article, North Korea is avidly anticipating the outcome of the elections, as they may be indicative of future changes to South Korean policy, though no significant change is expected in the short-term. The GNP is known for their hard-line stance against North Korea, whereas Roh's government has taken a much more accomodating and concessionary approach.

It is my opinion (and somewhat obvious) that sweeping local victories for the GNP will greatly increase Park's chances of success in 2007. If these initial reports are correct and we have seen the GNP take control on a local level, is Park a shoe-in for the presidency, and/or will this have as great an impact on North/South relations as some of the GNP hardliners would like it to?

Monday, May 29, 2006

North Korean culture appreciated in the South

I recently read this article in the New York Times where it said that a North Korean restaurant was very popular despite its bad service. What was most surprising was the fact that this restaurant was in the South. Since when have South Koreans embraced North Korean culture? As far as I could remember (a few years ago, actually a couple of years ago when I last went to Korea) North Korea was supposed to be "BAD!"
It is weird how perspectives can change.

Check it out

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Kim: Socialist or Opportunist

In my reading of Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader, I have been particularly interested in the role religion played in the early years of Kim Il sung’s life. Specifically, Kim’s relationship with the Reverend Sohn Jong-do raises some interesting questions.

Kim is said to have been an active participant in the activities of the church that the Reverend supervised. The Reverend’s son described Kim, as although influenced by his desire for independence, “he was not strongly opposed to the Christian faith.

Although I had long accepted Kim as a dictatorial leader, I still clung to the belief that he was fundamentally devoted to the tenants of socialism. After reading the accounts documented in Bradley Martin’s book I have come to pose the following questions: To what extent was Kim a socialist? To what extent was Kim a freedom fighter? Was Kim simply an opportunist who utilized the institutions of organized religion and later socialism to reach the ultimate goal of Korean independence?

Ultimately, there are no definitive answers to the questions listed above. Nevertheless, they reveal the complexity that continually defines Korean history.

International Cultural achievments

I found an article on KCNA earlier this week about a North Korean contralto who the Giuseppe di Stefano International Vocal Concours in Trapani, Italy earlier this month. KCNA often highlights things like that. I was having a difficult time verifying it and finding any information on it. I finally found an article on the pro-north site Korea is one which had some pictures and detail. I always find it interesting when North Korea highlights the achievements of its citizens in the international arena. The fact that they chose to highlight a cultural achievement in a relatively obscure area shows that North Korea's achievements in the international arena are limited. KCNA reminds me of a small local paper in the US where you might find similar stories of local interest than a national news service.

'beautiful' North Korean women

These days, South Koreans put a great 'emphasis' on appearence, many wanting to look like celebrities, undergoing many plastic surgeries, going on diet, working out etc. With these "booms" came along such creation of phrases like 'ul-zzhang' and 'mome-zzhang'. 'Zzhang' means 'super' and basically those phrases mean' beautiful face' and 'nice body'.
The use of these expressions have become rather ridiculous with people naming certain convicted female criminal as 'ul-zzhang gang do', where 'gang do' means 'burglar'. And now people have also named some North Korean female soldier, policewoman etc. as 'ul-zzhang', where pictures of these so-called 'ul-zzhang' North Korean women have spread through internet with people commenting on their looks, comparing them to South Korean women and so on. I think it's ludicrous and also disconcerting in that such prevalence reflects to a degree where some South Korean people's minds are on the issue of North-South Korean relations.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Why not revolt? wouldnt Confuscious want that if he saw the state of North Korea today?

I find it amazing that the North Korean people it seems follow the Confuscion concept of unity, ie: do it for the group and not for the individual, which is what present day communism follows. Despite all this, their ruller Kim Jung Ill has inherited the presidency, and soon he will pass it on to his son. This is a dicatatorship in all shape or form: History is rewritten when it has to be, fear is used to keep the people in check, with immense punishment.
Maybe its becasue ive lived a life soley in the United States, but i simply can't see how the North Korean people have not yet revolted? It would just seem that they are almost androids, how can they not look to the south and see the amazing mircale that can come from caving to the western concepts of civilization...The Russians did....the French five times, the US did and yet still North Korea has taken it hand in hand for hte last 60 yrs, while everywhere else enormous economic strides have been made within the region, how much longer will this go on. Its simply insnase that so many people choose to follow the leader, for a lack of a better terminology....

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

North and South train travel

North Korea seems to want no contact with South Korea or with any outside country. Even a small train journey bringing people from the South is a problem for the North Korean military. I think that even though they agree to some small contact, the North Korean leaders know that if they allow too much, it may cause problems for their government. See this article from the BBC:


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Peace treaty with North Korea, has the US lost its edge?

I suppose it comes as a bit of a suprise to most people focusing on the negotiations with North Korea, but the US has begun "working on a peace treaty to take place on a parallel track with six-nation talks on disarmament, it will signal another major change of tactics." This for me is shocking as i thought the US was not going to budge with North Korea. We have yet to do so with Cuba.... could this signal that perhaps their nuclear program(NK) is not the threat we all thought? or is it that the US has tied itself down in Iraq and faces a new threat in the axis of evil chain, IRAN who does pose an imediate threat to the middle east, both Isreal, Iraq, and large amotuns of oil. see link below to NYT. I myself have long suspected it would come to this, as the aritcle mentions as well.


as y'all begin to see what the internet can reveal about North Korea, you can do worse than taking a look at a few of the following sites:

NK News: a valuable collection of indexed material from the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). Find out who the DPRK has officially branded as "human scum!"

Updated news from the same KCNA can be accessed here.

A collection of nice photos of the DPRK canbe found here.

Happy exploring!