Monday, December 13, 2010

The World Is Not Enough...

 ...we also want a James Bond-esque underground lair in which to keep it!

I remember being somewhat amazed at seeing this painting in Pyongyang's "Korean Art Gallery" partly because of how evidently proud the curator looked. I would have thought a more fitting emotion would have been embarrassment given how overtly megalomaniacal the painting is.

But perhaps the most disturbing painting on display was of Korean patriots trying to save the trees with the names of leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il carved into them. Again, it amazed me that the guides would show us a painting like this which seems to typify the difference in value that regular Koreans are held in when compared merely to the names of their leaders.

Unfortunately the picture is very unclear. If anyone has a higher resolution picture, I would be very grateful. This picture originally came from the Daily NK site, which, for some reason, my browser won't let me view.

Friday, December 03, 2010

B.R Myers Responds to Angrysoba!

I was delighted to receive an email from B. R Myers responding to a question I had posed to him on an earlier blogpost. Mr Myers had written in an op-ed piece for the New York Times that we must understand the Yeonpynong attack as an expression of North Korean ideology rather than any kind of tactical move on their part. I wondered aloud whether or not it could be both. Some analysts had suggested that it could be part of a ploy to either:

a) Position Kim Jong-un for succession by giving him military credentials.
b) As a demand to begin negotiations again in order to win concessions from the US, Republic of Korea and Japan.
c) An indication of a rogue hardline/hawkish element within the regime jockeying for power.

I had favoured (a) and had thought that evidence would soon be forthcoming that North Korean domestic propaganda was crediting Kim Jong-un with the artillery strike. Brian Myers has written to tell me that the evidence which might confirm this has simply not appeared but rather evidence which might falsify this theory has.

B.R Myers writes:

We must keep in mind that the personality cult of Kim Jong Un has not yet started in earnest. It's not even where the Kim Jong Il cult was in the 1970s…Case in point: I’ve been watching the North Korean TV news online for the past few days, and when they show photographs of Kim Jong Un accompanying his father on visits to factories, he’s usually shown in the background or off to the side, a few officials away from his father. Sometimes he’s grinning rather ignominiously over someone’s shoulder at what his father is doing. Sometimes he’s not even visible in the entourage. The sheer randomness of his appearances in the photographs of any given tour is quite striking. True, he is mentioned as the first name whenever the members of Kim Jong Il’s entourage are named, but still, it’s quite different from how Kim Jong Il was photographed with his father back in the 1980s, let alone from how KJI was photographed in the early 1990s, when he was being presented as the de facto commander in chief.

Indeed, Kim Jong-un doesn't appear to share the same warm relationship with his father as Kim Jong-il did with his, if these photographs are representative:

Mr Myers goes on to say that North Korean media didn’t emphasise Kim Jong-un’s role in the artillery barrage but instead there are grounds for saying that the succession is not an urgent priority right now. Kim Jong-il’s recent public appearances have shown him looking much healthier than at any other time since his stroke. Here’s a picture of how Kim Jong-il looked before:

Mr Myers does, however, point out that there could be some convergence of the view that the artillery attack was both ideological and tactical by saying:

But the regime's main problem, now as always, is not "How do we legitimize the succession?" nor is it "How do we get America's attention?" but "How does a military first regime justify itself and maintain popular support, if not with military successes?"

And I can't help thinking that that was my point to begin with. When I look at the photographs of the two Kims together it seems obvious to me that Kim Jong-un is being made more prominent with his Maoist uniform to stand out against the rest of the officers. The picture of Kim Jong-un pointing at whatever weird creature is swimming in the pond has the rest of the advisers cheerfully acknowledging whatever inestimably witty observation he has made. It may not be quite the same level of jovialness that existed between the Great Leader and his Dear Son but those were less austere times. It does appear, however, that Kim Jong-un is not popular among many North Koreans, which may be the reason for having him not too close to the Dear Leader at all times, just in case he needs to be jettisoned later.

Mr Myers also dispenses with (b) which was, I think, best exemplified by Andrei Lankov who has an article published at North Korea Economy Watch. He points out that the revelation of the uranium processing plant shows us what is on the mind of the regime. Coupled with the attack, it is, according to Lankov an attempt to get Washington's attention.

Finally, possibility (c) appears to exasperate Mr Myers:

This whole hardliners/hawks versus softliners/doves talk drives me up the wall, as does the talk of rogue generals. There is zero, repeat zero evidence of any significant ideological or strategic disagreement within the NK elite in regard to NK's foreign or military policy. Why Selig Harrison would suggest such a thing is obvious; for years he has been talking of how the US needs to make concessions to strengthen the "doves" in Pyongyang. The regime drops to him and other frequent Pyongyang-flying journos/academics heavy hints that such internal dissent exists (just as the USSR used to do during the Cold War), so that precisely this message will be conveyed by NK "experts" to the US State Dept...
But to take this obvious propaganda ploy at face value is to misunderstand the whole nature of a) a one-man dictatorship and b) Korean organizational culture c) ultra-nationalist regimes. The regime prides itself on its unity more than anything else. If there is internal dissent (highly unlikely) the last thing they would be doing is telling foreigners about it. This is what you get when tourism/anecdote is considered equal to or more important than research/analysis.
I very much appreciate Mr Myers taking the time to answer these questions.

Update 1:

I'm being obtuse.

This, "Mr Myers does, however, point out that there could be some convergence of the view that the artillery attack was both ideological and tactical by saying:" is wrong!

On reflection, my understanding of what Mr Myers is saying is this:

B.R Myers' point, as in his book, the Cleanest Race, is that as a military-first regime that doesn't provide enough food for its people it still must derive its legitimacy from somewhere. That is, in having military victories against an Aggressive Outside Enemy such as the Yankees and the Traitorous Puppet Regime in South Korea.
This attack was certainly trumpetted by the DPRK as a victorious strike ("merciless blows" etc...) against the invaders. This is how the regime survives; by playing on the idea that they are the only thing defending the very survival of the North Koreans even as so many of them starve.

Update 2: For more pictures of the robust health of Kim Jong-il, there is this website, Kim Jong-il Looking at Things.

Hat-tip: One Free Korea

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Devious Plan That Might Just Wor...D'oh!

South Korean government plans to retaliate [for the Yeonpyeong-do Attack] with words as ammunition, believing a military strike would be frowned upon by the international community.

Now-former Defense Minister Kim Tae-young said on Wednesday at a National Assembly hearing that “a psychological war is ongoing, and we will continue that war but I cannot detail how that will take place.”

The newly launched plan for propaganda will likely be in the form of fliers, which a government source said “are already printed.”

The fliers will be flown into North Korean territory on giant balloons, a tactic that civilian groups have used in the past to send propaganda fliers, usually to tell North Koreans about life in South Korea and appeal to them to leave their country.

[North Korea] will have no idea whether it came from civil groups or the government,” a South Korean government official yesterday told JoongAng Ilbo.


Yeah, why not show some pictures of those fliers that the North Koreans won't know came from the South Korean government?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

B.R Myers Weighs in On the DPRK's Act of Aggression

In an article titled, North Korea Will Never Play Nice, B.R Myers begins by distinguishing what is a "provocation" and what is an "act of agression":

WHILE it is cowardly and foolish not to resist an act of aggression, the best way to deal with a provocation is to ignore it — or so we are taught. By refusing to be provoked, one frustrates and therefore “beats” the provoker; generations of bullied children have been consoled with this logic. And so it is that the South Korean and American governments usually refer to North Korea’s acts of aggression as “provocations.”

The North’s artillery attack on a populated South Korean island is now getting the same treatment, with the South’s president, Lee Myung-bak, vowing that Pyongyang will be “held responsible” and that “additional provocative acts” will be punished “several times over.”

There is no reason that North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-il, should take those words seriously.

In fact, I think I also had referred to the attack as a "provocation", albeit the "worst provocation since the Korean War armistice"

Of course, he is right that Kim Jong-il needed take any words of holding anyone responsible seriously. The North Korean regime rarely has to worry about much more than a mild rebuke in the Security Council or largely meaningless sanctions.

But interestingly, he doesn't seem to agree with my own extrapolation of his idea about this attack being related to the succession.

The provocation view of North Korean behavior also distorts our understanding of the domestic situation. Analysts tend to focus too much on the succession issue; they interpret the attack on the island as an effort to bolster the reputation of Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-il’s son and anointed successor. Their conclusion is that North Korea will play nice once the young man is firmly in power.

In fact, I think there is no reason why it couldn't be an act of aggression to bolster Kim Jong-Un's reputation without leading to the conclusion that North Korea will "play nice" later. Myers points out that there has been a serious of increasingly serious acts of agression that the regime sees as necessary to bolster its military-first policies and to legitimise its militaristic rulers but isn't that exactly Kim Jong-Un's problem, right now? That he doesn't have any military credentials to go with his rank of four-star general so these acts might be necessary for the succession?

Well, I concur with his conclusion anyway:

There is no easy solution to the North Korea problem, but to begin to solve it, we must realize that its behavior is aggressive, not provocative, and that its aggression is ideologically built in. Pyongyang is thus virtually predestined to push Seoul and Washington too far, thereby bringing about its own ruin.

The Chinese should take note of this, since their rationalization for continuing to support North Korea derives from the vain hope that they can prop it up indefinitely. The military-first state is going to collapse at some stage; let’s do what we can to make that happen sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Like a Thief Crying, "Stop the Thief!"

The DPRK's explanation for shelling a civillian village in South Korea is that the South Korean military were conducting military maneuvres in what it considered its own waters.

The problem is a dispute over where the maritime border lies. In characteristically sober fashion, the KCNA explains:

The south Korean puppet group perpetrated such reckless military provocation as firing dozens of shells inside the territorial waters of the DPRK side around Yonphyong Islet in the West Sea of Korea from 13:00 on Nov. 23 despite the repeated warnings of the DPRK while staging the war maneuvers for a war of aggression on it codenamed Hoguk, escalating the tension on the Korean Peninsula.

The above-said military provocation is part of its sinister attempt to defend the brigandish "northern limit line," while frequently infiltrating its naval warships into the territorial waters of the DPRK side under the pretext of "intercepting fishing boats."

Well, given that the DPRK have frequently been caught intruding into both South Korean and Japanese waters isn't there a little room for maneuvre?

Should the south Korean puppet group dare intrude into the territorial waters of the DPRK even 0.001 mm, the revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK will unhesitatingly continue taking merciless military counter-actions against it.

Running Dogs

It should bear in mind the solemn warning of the revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK that they do not make an empty talk.

There is in the West Sea of Korea only the maritime military demarcation line set by the DPRK.
Apparently not.

Well, even the North Koreans aren't claiming that the South Koreans shelled North Korean territory, only that they fired rounds within waters which they claim as theirs but which aren't.
Pyongyang, November 24 (KCNA) — After kicking off the war maneuvers for a war of aggression against the DPRK codenamed “Hoguk” the south Korean puppet group perpetrated on Nov. 23 such reckless military provocation as firing dozens of shells inside its territorial waters around Yonphyong Islet in the West Sea of Korea. The revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK took such decisive military step as reacting to the reckless military provocation of the puppet group with a prompt and powerful physical strike.

Nevertheless, the puppet group dared make an uproar over “a provocation” from someone and cry out for “punishment” like a thief crying “Stop the thief!”

Yes, the "puppet group" dared make an uproar about having its civilians shelled in response to military maneuvres! How brigandish!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Why Did The DPRK Shell Yeonpyeong Island?

B.R Myers responds to this blogpost here.

In what is being touted the worst provocation on the Korean peninsula since the Korean War Armistice, the North Korean military have shelled Yeonpyeong Island including civilian areas.

Why have they done this?

Here are three possible theories (edited with updates and links):

a) The one I favour is an extrapolation of B.R Myers' idea that the North Korean regime can only retain legitimacy if its future ruler Kim Jong Un is given some military credentials to go with his rank of four-star general. If this is the case, then confirmation could come with some praise of the military action under his name. In which case, watch this space. Myers himself hasn't ventured a motive yet.

b) Andrei Lankov appears to believe this is an attempt to gain attention from the US. Others think it is an attempt to extort more food aid from South Korea given that it doesn't have enough to last the winter. This also seems like a reasonable possibility to me.

c) Selig Harrison seems to be going with his default belief that there are hardliners at work trying to scupper the recent brief thaw between the two Koreas:

The armed forces hawks don't like what they are seeing, and what they have done is a classic ploy in situations like this to stir things up and undermine the doves

And which doves is he referring to? Kim Jong-il?

According to this New York Times article, Lee Sung-yoon, a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, disagrees with Harrison and instead agrees with me!

“There is no ‘rogue elements’ theory applicable here,” Mr. Lee said. “This is how North Korea approaches negotiations — not through the conventions of diplomatic courtesy but through raising the stakes through provocations. It’s been a potent formula, this provocation-negotiation-concession schema.”


Mr. Lee and other North Korea analysts said the clash on Tuesday was likely intended to bolster the political standing and military credentials of the son. The North would likely claim, he said, that “this is how the young general showed his mettle.”

We'll just have to wait and see...

Of course, I also expect that some conspiraloon is going to wheel out the tired and tested holler of "false flag!" as if the North's sinking of the Cheonan (or previous "false flag" according to the same loons) wasn't enough of a cassus belli.

Update: Two civilians were also among the dead.

Friday, November 12, 2010

"The Simpsons" Predicted 9/11

Though the Sheeple predictably wave it away as "just a coincidence"!

The clip from X-Files spin-off, The Lone Gunman, on the other hand really is amazingly similar to the conspiracy theorists' idea of what happened on 9/11.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Battle of the Crazies

The Truthers and the Bigots go to war.

When a bunch of deranged and bigotted idiots become outraged at the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" such as harridan Pam Geller, Alan Partridge-like Pat Condell and the Koran-Burner-General, "Terry Jones"(!) the 9/11 Truthers have got to feel a little upstaged. Someone is clearly on "their patch" and putting their own brand of crazy in the shade.

This man is not happy!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Barry Jennings and Michael Hess

A lot of 9/11 Truthers claim that the testimony of Barry Jennings proves that bombs were planted in the World Trade Center Building 7 because according to him the building shook with explosions before the Twin Towers collapsed.

Alien Entity has already produced an excellent video which instead shows it is far more likely that Barry Jennings was confused about the timeline of the building collapses.

Now, a new video of Michael Hess calling from the 8th floor of Building 7 seems to demonstrate beyond all doubt that Hess and Jennings were still in the building after at least one, probably both, of the Towers had come down.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Billary At The DMZ

I liked this picture that I saw at One Free Korea and Mr Stanton's caption so much I thought I'd put them both here:

Clinton announced the sanctions as she visited the DMZ, while accompanied by SecDef Gates, and while displaying her supernatural frost-projection powers against a hapless North Korean border guard. I count at least three priceless expressions in this photo.

Anyone have any better captions?

Meanwhile, North Korea threatens a "sacred war" with the use of nuclear deterrent. *Yawn!*

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Kim Hyun Hee in Japan

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Kim Hyon Hui, a former North Korean spy responsible for the 1987 fatal bombing of a South Korean passenger jet, arrived early Tuesday in Japan on a Japanese government-chartered flight from South Korea to meet with the families of Japanese abducted by North Korean agents.


My review of Kim Hyun Hee's Tears of My Soul

Update: 25th July

Kim treated like guest of state / Critics question special handling despite no new info on missing

Some have questioned the propriety of the treatment given to one of the people responsible for the 1987 bombing of a Korean Air jetliner, as well as her contribution--or lack thereof--toward uncovering the truth behind the abduction of Japanese by North Korea.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

We Didn't Sink The Cheonan! (Honestly...!)

Having been given the benefit of the doubt in the Cheonan sinking by the United Nations, North Korea's propaganda posters now appear to be bragging about sinking the vessel. According to the Joongang Daily, the poster of a soldier smashing a corvette (the same class of ship as the Cheonan) bearing the message "Ready to crush any attack with a single blow!" was photographed by a Chinese businessman.

According to Radio Free Asia:

The businessman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that high-ranking North Korean traders he dealt with “expressed self-esteem in relation to North Korea’s military strength” and told him, “regardless of U.N. sanctions, we [North Koreans have] never stopped reacting.”

“It’s hard to understand how high-ranking officials can adamantly deny North Korea’s responsibility for the sinking of the Cheonan while propaganda posters showing a ship being broken in half by a fist are in circulation,” he said.

Update: I am currently reading B R Myers' The Cleanest Race and this propaganda poster, if genuine, is a perfectly good illustration of one of his main points in the book. Up until now, North Korea's stance on the Cheonan issue has been to cry foul at the hostile Yankees and their South Korean puppets for conspiring to blame them for something they had nothing to do with. Korean Central News Agency even collated their own articles in a special section here. And when their Foreign Minister spoke about the incident following the United Nations' absolution of the North from any blame he said: The recent development in which the overall situation on the Korean Peninsula reached a point of explosion in a moment due to a conspiratorial farce once again reminds us of the danger of the present cease-fire and the urgency to establish a peace-keeping regime. The DPRK will make consistent efforts for the conclusion of a peace treaty and the denuclearization through the six-party talks conducted on equal footing.

However, B R Myers warns:

Too many observers wrongly assume that the (North) Korean Central News Agency's English-language releases reflect the same sort of propaganda that the home audience gets. In fact there are significant differences. For example, there the DPRK presents itself to the outside world as a misunderstood country seeking integration into the international community, it presents itself to its own citizens... as a rogue state that breaks agreements with impunity, dictates conditions to grovelling U.N. officials, and keeps its enemies in constant fear of ballistic retribution. Generally speaking the following rule of thumb applies: the less accessible a propaganda outlet is to the outside world, the blunter and more belligerent it will be in its expression of the racist orthodoxy.

In this case, the poster doesn't depict anything that could be called racist but the rest of Myers' analysis of North Korean propaganda seems to fit this episode to a tee.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Arthur Goldwag's Cults, Conspiracies and Secret Societies

Kinokuniya are having a sale (20% off all imported books!) so I decided to break my pledge to not buy any more books and picked up an intriguing volume called "Cults, Conspiracies and Secret Societies" by a writer called Arthur Goldwag. Having never heard of the author before I had no idea what opinion he would have on conspiracism but I bought it anyway because I liked the cover! (Eyes right!) And also because it looked like an amusing and concise exposition of an eclectic run through of the various psychological stances people employ to make sense of the world.

As with most books I talk about I haven't read it yet but I flicked through it looking for references to Lyndon LaRouche and came to this brilliant passage that explains how conspiracy theorists like to engage in conspiracies themselves and organize on conspiratorial lines:

[T]he erstwhile science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986) and the ex-Marxist Lyndon LaRouche each claimed to have been the victims of a cabal of international bankers. Both the House of Windsor and the Bush family have been the objects of intense suspicion in conspiracist thinking. 9/11 Truthers are as likely to be right-wing racists as left-wing anarchists, but they all loathe their government with equal intensity. Some of these people are mentally ill: their personalities and ideations are shaped (or distorted) by the same pathologies; they don't so much agree with each other as exhibit the same symptoms. Because they are narcissistic, they think of themselves as gods; because they are paranoid, they are secretive and defensive; because they are grandiose, they fancy themselves the victims of vast conspiracies - or they organize and even execute vast conspiracies themselves.

Whilst LaRouche has hardly been that successful in executing his vast conspiracy he is the founder of his grandly named Executive Intelligence Review which distributes press releases such as this : "LaRouche Announces the Role He Will Play in a Post-Obama Administration". And his followers have managed to infiltrate the Democratic Party such as Kesha Rogers who has won a Congressional candidate nomination whose own press releases are shaped (or distorted) by the same pathologies as Lyndon LaRouche - in particular his belief that the British Royal Family is still running the world:

June 3, 2010 -- Let the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico be a lesson to the American people: the British and those who run British Petroleum, still consider the United States as one of their colonies. The time has come to expropriate these British SOBs, kick them out and let them take their puppet Barack Obama with them back to Britain.

Anyway, enough of this digression, I'll try to get round to reading Goldwag's book and hopefully to reviewing it too. In the meantime, his blog is here.

Update: Arthur Goldwag has helpfully provided some links to information regarding Lyndon LaRouche's antipathy towards Obama. This cocktail of racist invective, lasciviousnes and conspiracism is taken from a speech LaRouche gave in 2008:

Obama is a racist. I mean, with an African father–he wasn’t much of an African father, but was an African father of Kenya. He was part of a British operation, which took over Kenya, through MI5′s operation. But this guy was away from Kenya, and he married a Margaret Mead type, a woman who had a number of successive husbands, like Margaret Mead did. Went out to the poor, brown people, in Asia, and had sex with them! It was called “Coming in Samoa.” [groans, laughter] And she wore through a number of successive husbands, and by them, had various children. And therefore, you’ll find Obama’s ancestry, if you chase his family tree, everybody’s climbing and swinging from the branches there–from all over the world! All parts of the world! This guy is the universal man. Every monkey in every tree, from every part of the world, has participated in the sexual act of producing him. And he works for organized crime–which is a branch of British intelligence.

Some more on LaRouche here and here.

More Art From The DPRK

Apparently, more like it is available at the Shinchon-Ri Museum in Pyongyang.

Cheonan Controversy

North Korea has hailed as a "victory" a UN Security Council statement that condemns the sinking of a South Korean warship but avoids blaming Pyongyang.


The Korean Central News Agency gives the DPRK's official response:

FM Spokesman on Presidential Statement of UNSC on "Cheonan" Case
Pyongyang, July 10 (KCNA) -- A spokesman for the DPRK Foreign Ministry on Saturday gave the following answer to the question raised by KCNA as regards the issue of the presidential statement of the United Nations Security Council on the "Cheonan" case:

The south Korean authorities brought up the case for discussion at the UNSC, but it concluded the discussion on this issue by issuing its presidential statement devoid of any proper judgment and conclusion without adopting any resolution on it.

A particular mention should be made of the fact that the UNSC took heed of the reactions of the countries concerned including the DPRK which clarified that it had nothing to do with the case.

The discussion could not have ended up otherwise as the UNSC hastily tabled and handled the case before the truth of the case has been probed.

This clearly proves what a foolish calculation the U.S. and south Korea made when they were recklessly behaving in so great haste to do harm to the DPRK for no reason.

We take note of the presidential statement saying that "the Security Council encourages the settlement of outstanding issues on the Korean Peninsula by peaceful means to resume direct dialogue and negotiation through appropriate channels."

The "Cheonan" case should have been settled between the north and the south without referring it to the UN.

The DPRK remains unchanged in its stand to probe the truth about the case to the last.

The south Korean authorities should strictly preserve the scene of the incident including the state of seabed as they were till the inspection team of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK reaches there.

The recent development in which the overall situation on the Korean Peninsula reached a point of explosion in a moment due to a conspiratorial farce once again reminds us of the danger of the present cease-fire and the urgency to establish a peace-keeping regime.

The DPRK will make consistent efforts for the conclusion of a peace treaty and the denuclearization through the six-party talks conducted on equal footing.

If the hostile forces persist in such provocations as demonstration of forces and sanctions in contravention of the presidential statement which calls for "avoiding conflicts and averting escalation" on the Korean Peninsula, they will neither be able to escape the DPRK's strong physical retaliation nor will be able to evade the responsibility for the resultant escalation of the conflict.


And Nature magazine has an article in which it airs the conspiracy theories over the sinking of the Cheonan.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Russia, With My Backing, Will Soon Destroy Your Ass!

Interesting story in the Telegraph:

["Alleged" Russian spy Mikhail] Semenko - known as Misha - lived in a shabby flat in Arlington. The flat had been arranged for him by Mark Grueter, a former Peace Corps volunteer who had taught him English at Amur State University in Blagoveschensk in the Russian Far East in 2001 and 2002.

"Unlike many of the Russian students, he had a generally favourable attitude toward America," Mr Grueter recalled. "He didn't carry any of the xenophobia or anti-American baggage that many of them had. He wasn't really interested in politics.

"He was just interested in learning, in soaking up knowledge. When I saw him in America, he seemed happy and he seemed to really like it here. I was impressed by how much his English had improved."

Update: Mark's adventures in espionage are now told in full here.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


An article in a Chinese state publication defined the Korean War as an invasion by North Korea. It is an incredible statement for a state news publication to have made.

In its feature on the 60th anniversary of the start of the 1950-53 Korean War, the International Herald Leader, a newsweekly of the Xinhua News Agency, said the North Korean army launched the war by crossing the 38th parallel and seizing South Korean capital Seoul in three days.

The article immediately drew attention, with some placing significance on China’s first admission of military aggression by North Korea at the start of the war.

However, the article was soon removed from the weekly’s Web site as well as the sites of Xinhua and other portals. It is suspected that the Beijing government had a hand in removing the pieces, fearing the repercussions from North Korea.

JoongAng Daily

H/T One Free Korea

Sunday, June 27, 2010

DPRK Propaganda

Kim Jong-il in his role as comforting parent of the entire Korean people mourning the loss of Kim Il-sung
(more pictures here)

B. R Myers, whose book The Cleanest Race sits unread on my bookshelf, believes that the key to understanding North Korea is in its propaganda and that while it is sometimes almost impossible not to laugh at its po-faced naiivete, the themes that emerge are genuinely believed in. He also thinks that some of the assumptions made about North Korea are shown to be incorrect when the propaganda is carefully studied. In particular Myers points out that Communism, or even the official Juche philosophy, is only given lip-service by the Kim regime and that the real driving ideology is an extreme nationalism that has elements of racial superiority. According to him the DPRK sees Koreans as a unique race that can only be protected from a hostile outside world by the Kim family, whereas the decadent lackeys of Western imperialism in the south are allowing this unique blood to be sullied by outsiders. In an FP article in which he sketches out his theory he writes:

"Our nation has always considered its pure lineage to be of great importance," a North Korean general told his South Korean counterpart during a 2006 meeting to discuss realignment of the maritime border between the two states. "Since ancient times our lands have been one of abundant natural beauty," he said. "Not even one drop of ink must be allowed."

Kim Canute

The belief in a specifically Korean natural beauty that must be defended against a hostile outside world is sometimes depicted as in the pitcure above of Kim Jong-il on a wave-swept beach staring defiantly at the storm. Myers sharply observes in his book that Kim Jong-il took advantage of such imagery when Bill Clinton went to the DPRK to negotiate the release of the reporters Euna Lee and Laura Ling as the group photograph of Kim sitting (again with a somewhat defiant or stroke-addled expression) in front of more paintings of waves behind them shows.

This propaganda can only work, however, if foreigners - particularly the Americans and the Japanese (from whom Myers says a lot of North Korean propaganda slogans were adopted) along with support from their south Korean lackeys  are depicted as incorrigibly dangerous and anti-Korean. Along the streets billboards showing the Yankee soldiers succumbing to massive Korean fists are common while children are given any and every opportunity to learn about their hated enemy.

Here's a picture I took of a children's game at the funfair in Pyongyang. I think it may be called, "Kill the Yankee Imperialist Aggressors", although Myers gives some rather more alarming examples of indocrination in his article.

Even the English-language propaganda isn't shy about using racial epithets that are completely unacceptable in the West these days. So, for example, the programme I bought for a revolutionary opera called Sea of Blood has a couple of eyecatching captions:

Myers sees something distinctly ominous about this racially-driven propaganda in the likely impossibility of an agreement being reached on the Korean peninsula.

What is especially significant and perhaps unique about North Korean nationalism is its emphasis on the vulnerability of the race. Whereas World War II-era Japan's racialized worldview equated virtue with strength, the North Koreans are taught that their virtue has rendered them as vulnerable as children in an evil world -- unless they are protected by a great leader who keeps a watchful eye on military readiness.

Unfortunately for the United States, there is no place in this for any improvement in relations between the two countries. Were Kim Jong Il to abandon his ideology of paranoid, race-based nationalism and normalize relations with Washington, his personality cult would lose all justification, while his impoverished country would lose all reason to exist as a separate Korean state.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Quote of the Day

"angrysoba was never banned, but he is a pain in the ass. I really wouldn't mind if he dropped dead. Feel free to go over to his blog and denounce North Korea with him."

Kim Hyun Hee on the Cheonan

Kim Hyun Hee, believes that Kim Jong-il ordered the Cheonan sinking.

Story here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

North Korea in the World Cup

Uh-oh! North Korea caught illegally broadcasting World Cup Games!

But North Korea's first game was a pretty impressive performance against Brazil in which they lost 2-1.

c/o One Free Korea

Update: Portugal 7 - North Korea 0 LOL!

Update 2: In light of the DPRK's highly embarrassing defeat at the hands of Portugal, some people are worried about the fate of the players.

A good article here:

When the US soccer team is getting slaughtered, Americans tend to turn their TVs off before the game's over. When Portugal slaughtered North Korea's soccer team Monday night, it was the government who turned the TVs off.

After Portugal delivered a humiliating 7-0 defeat to North Korea, the game's broadcast there immediately shut off. The team hasn't played at the World Cup in 44 years, and the authoritarian state's Korean Central TV Broadcasting Station aired Monday's game live, purportedly North Korea's first-ever live Cup broadcast. With the communist country's history of human rights violations that include public executions, many are worrying for the safety of the North Korean soccer team. Are those fears well-founded?

Please read on to find out.

Update 3: Well, that wraps that up: North Korea 0 - Ivory Coast 3

Monday, June 14, 2010

North Korean Art

Excellent collection of North Korean art here.

And here's one I took in Pyongyang:

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

North Korea Kills Chinese Citizens

In further attempts to shrug off its image as a country run by deranged and psychopathic leaders and to appear normal, North Korea has shot dead three Chinese citizens across the DPRK-China border at Dandong.

This has even tested the patience of the Beijing government which tries hard not to get excitable about such things.


The ever-excellent Barbara Demick has a report on this story in the LA Times:

The irony of China's protest over last week's shooting was not lost on South Korea.

"This time it is their citizens who are killed, and they show they are not so naive after all about North Korea," said Kim Tae Jin, a North Korean defector and human rights activist in Seoul. However, he applauded China's protest of the shooting. China needs to show North Korean leader Kim Jong Il "that he can't get away with whatever he wants," Kim said.

Resistance is Useless!

Ahmadinejad Stresses Need for New World Order

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday called for cooperation among world states to forge a new world order.


HT: Screw Loose Change

I wonder if he'll be at Bilderberg this year.

"no, AS"


On page 65 of Christopher Hitchens' memoir "Hitch 22", during a chapter in which he recounts his experiences at a school for posh nobs in Cambridge, he writes:

More intriguing to me and my young contemporaries, restlessly modern as we aspired to be in the early 1960s, was the chance to walk past the Cavendish Laboratories and see where the atom had been first split, or to pass by the Rose and Crown pub, into which Crick and Watson had strolled with exaggerated nonchalance one lunchtime to announce that with the double helix they had uncovered "the secret of existence."

In the same way Hitchens crossed out the quote from conspiraloon Gore Vidal on the back of his book and scrawled, "no, CH" I had to do something similar over the twee-sounding "Rose and Crown" in the above quote as it was The Eagle in which the eminent scientists Crick and Watson toasted their discovery.

This picture is of the plaque on the wall of The Eagle and was, apparently, taken by someone going by the name of Richard Carter. So, thanks for the picture.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Andrei Lankov Predicts Russia's Verdict on the Cheonan Sinking...

Speculation is high as a team of Russian experts, sent to South Korea to review the findings of the multinational investigation into the [sinking of the Cheonan] incident, returned home Monday to report to Moscow, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

But regardless of what its experts determine, a prominent North Korea expert here expects Russia to avoid taking a firm stance on the findings, as it has too much to lose by supporting either side...

..."It might have indeed been North Korea," [Lankov] said, taking the voice of the Russian government. "But the evidence is not sufficient and so it is better not to jump to conclusions and drive tensions higher. Let's forget about this unfortunate incident as soon as possible."

Korea Times

Essentially, Andrei Lankov believes Russia has nothing to gain by concluding too firmly whether or not they agree with the international investigation's conclusion into the sinking of the Cheonan.

B R Myers on the sinking of the Cheonan


Thursday, June 03, 2010

Crazy, Irresponsible Yankees Rule Out Nukes!

In not-particularly surprising news the Yankee Imperialist Aggressors "United States" has ruled out blasting the ocean floor with a nuclear bomb to cap an oil-well which it abetted its neo-imperialist greed monkeys, BP, Transocean and Halliburton into bursting. As mentioned before there had been some speculation that a nuclear bomb would be the only thing to stop the oil leak not just from spewing more of its poison into the ocean but from killing off all worthwhile life on Earth!!!1! (i.e not including cockroaches and other stuff like that).

The New York Times has a story about how such "crazy" talk is just crazy talk and that there is no way the US is going to resort to nukes to stop the relentlessly oozing spill:

The chatter began weeks ago as armchair engineers brainstormed for ways to stop the torrent of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico: What about nuking the well?

Decades ago, the Soviet Union reportedly used nuclear blasts to successfully seal off runaway gas wells, inserting a bomb deep underground and letting its fiery heat melt the surrounding rock to shut off the flow. Why not try it here?


Stephanie Mueller, a spokeswoman for the Energy Department, said that neither Energy Secretary Steven Chu nor anyone else was thinking about a nuclear blast under the gulf. The nuclear option was not — and never had been — on the table, federal officials said.

“It’s crazy,” one senior official said.

Government and private nuclear experts agreed that using a nuclear bomb would be not only risky technically, with unknown and possibly disastrous consequences from radiation, but also unwise geopolitically — it would violate arms treaties that the United States has signed and championed over the decades and do so at a time when President Obama is pushing for global nuclear disarmament.

So, it's all just crazy talk, eh? And yet, even the article itself points out that this is just the kind of crazy talk that the New York Times engaged in too...

But if it really is crazy talk this does, of course, raise the uncomfortable question: "Got any better ideas?"

The atomic option is perhaps the wildest among a flood of ideas proposed by bloggers, scientists and other creative types who have deluged government agencies and BP, the company that drilled the well, with phone calls and e-mail messages. The Unified Command overseeing the Deepwater Horizon disaster features a “suggestions” button on its official Web site and more than 7,800 people have already responded, according to the site.
Among the suggestions: lowering giant plastic pillows to the seafloor and filling them with oil, dropping a huge block of concrete to squeeze off the flow and using magnetic clamps to attach pipes that would siphon off the leaking oil.

Well, that's reassuring! This, on the other hand, is not:

Not everyone on the Internet is calling for nuking the well. Some are making jokes.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Friendly Fire?

Sunday, May 30th saw a big demonstration against the findings of the international investigation that blamed North Korea for the sinking of the Cheonan.

South of the border, there is also a high degree of skepticism that North Korea were responsible for the Cheonan's sinking. According to Bloomberg:

Prime Minister Chung Un Chan ordered the government to find a way to stop groundless rumors spreading on the Cheonan’s sinking, the JoongAng Daily said yesterday. Prosecutors questioned a former member of the panel that probed the incident over his critical comments, the paper said. The Joint Chiefs of Staff sued a lawmaker for defamation after she said video footage of the ship splitting apart existed, a claim the military denies, Yonhap News reported.

Almost one in four South Koreans say they don’t trust the findings of the multinational panel, according to a poll commissioned by Hankook Ilbo on May 24. North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency yesterday accused the South’s “puppet military of trying to cover up the truth about the sinking” by seeking to silence opposition lawmakers with the lawsuit.

Indeed, North Korea's Defence Commission held a press conference in which they brought up what they see as inconsistencies in the report...

The Press Conference is reported, in typically temperate North Korean rhetoric, here.

But while North Korea are furiously denouncing those who blame them for the sinking of the Cheonan and it is reported that many in South Korea don't believe the official report, B R Myers points out that anger towards North Korea is quite limited in South Korea. He points out that anti-American protests in the past have far surpassed the anger levelled at North Korea right now:

This urge to give the North Koreans the benefit of the doubt is in marked contrast to the public fury that erupted after the killings of two South Korean schoolgirls by an American military vehicle in 2002; it was widely claimed that the Yankees murdered them callously. During the street protests against American beef imports in the wake of a mad cow disease scare in 2008, posters of a child-poisoning Uncle Sam were all the rage. It is illuminating to compare those two anti-American frenzies with the small and geriatric protests against Pyongyang that have taken place in Seoul in recent weeks.

Now, this is something that could lead a conspiracy theorist to wondering whether or not the sinking of the Cheonan by the North Koreans is a cover for the possibility of a "friendly fire" incident by the United States. It is quite clear that should the United States have sank the Cheonan instead of the North Koreans then the outrage would indeed be spontaneous and stronger than that of the anti-North Korean protests right now.

One of the proponents of this view is Kim Myong Chol, who is an "unofficial" spokesperson for North Korea who lives in Japan.

Kim Myong-Chol has argued that it is impossible for the Cheonan to have been attacked unawares by a torpedo from a North Korean submarine given that the Cheonan was on naval maneouvres at the time and one of its main jobs was to detect submarines and other enemy vessels. This is a repeat of what he had asserted before, here.

Of course, what he has to say on the incident should be taken with a pinch of salt given that he then goes on to threaten:

The Korean People's Army has been put on combat readiness. Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il is one click away from turning Seoul, Tokyo and New York into a sea of fire with a fleet of nuclear-tipped North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles.

But, I'd be interested to know what anyone has to say about his accusations...

Friday, May 28, 2010

No One To Blame But Themselves...

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea has a history of rewriting history as the title of the book above suggests. Although not always going as far as DPRK propaganda, some Western academics have also been keen to exonerate the Hermit Kingdom for its behaviour, sometimes with embarrassing results.

Given the fact that the causes of the Korean War are still being disputed sixty years after the DPRK initiated it, it isn't too surprising to see that the latest round in that conflict also can't be agreed upon. Despite the findings of the international investigation , China is still publicly saying that it hasn't been convinced of North Korea's guilt. This probably won't surprise Andrei Lankov who believed after the report was issued, that China would still declare themselves unconvinced even if showed a video of a North Korean submarine attacking the Cheonan:

However, China has now said it will not protect those responsible which presumably includes - in fact, can only refer to - North Korea, if it can be persuaded the North was responsible. It may begin to look isolated if a Russian team who have gone to South Korea to investigate end up agreeing with the earlier investigation.

In the meantime, while tensions have always been high on the Western maritime border between North and South Korea - also known as the Northern Limit Line - they look set to become more dangerous as North Korea cuts its hotline to South Korea that was originally set up to prevent naval clashes such as those detailed in this Global Security report.

Perhaps it is likely this will all "fizzle out" soon enough as Lankov says in the video and as B.R Myers suggests is wanted in South Korea.

The Russians Are Coming!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

North Korean Puppets Assail South Korean Puppets!

When South Korea announced it was set to resume propaganda broadcasts into North Korea including the old Cold War tactic of literally blaring broadcasts from speakers from the border across the "demilitarized zone", North Korea similarly resumed its tough talk against the "puppet government" of South Korea:

Pyongyang, May 26 (KCNA) -- As already reported, the south Korean puppet military gangsters have carved slogans for anti-DPRK psychological warfare on walls of MP posts in the Demilitarized Zone along the Military Demarcation Line and are busy resuming the loudspeaker propaganda as part of the said warfare...

...If the south side sets up even loudspeakers in the frontline area to resume the broadcasting, in particular, the KPA will take military steps to blow up one by one the moment they appear by firing sighting shots because such action will be tantamount to a blatant abrogation of the north-south military agreement and a military provocation against the DPRK.
Moreover, measures will be taken to totally ban the passage of personnel and vehicles of the south side in the zone under the north-south control in the western coastal area.
The south Korean puppet war-like forces would be well advised to act with discretion, bearing deep in mind that such measures of the KPA will not end in an empty talk.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Kim Hyun Hee: Tears of My Soul Part 1

The recent sinking of the Cheonan seems to have perplexed a few people who question why North Korea would commit such a brazenly provocative act, while some analysts suggest Kim Jong-il himself ordered the mission. But it isn’t by any means the first time North Korea has acted this way. So here is Part One of a review of a book that describes another fairly recent occasion.

I first heard about Kim Hyun-Hee from a student who told me two things about the North Korean spy that didn’t quite gel. First, that she had placed a deadly bomb aboard a South Korean airliner and second that she now lived in Seoul. “But why was she not in prison?” I asked incredulously. My student said he didn’t know but ventured it may have been because she was very beautiful.

The official story of how Kim Hyun-Hee became transformed from a mass murdering terrorist who stowed a liquid bomb aboard KAL858 killing 115 people to a victim evoking sympathy brainwashed by the evil North Korean state is partly told in her memoir The Tears of My Soul. The book is apparently intended as an act of contrition with the proceeds going to the families of the bombing victims.

Kim’s story is an insight into the rise of the daughter of a North Korean diplomat which tells of her early life first living in Cuba and then in Pyongyang – making her one of the privileged elite – also shedding light onto her school and university years and her induction into Foreign Intelligence. She explains that her and other school children would be told to redact the names of those who had become “unpeople” in purges from the textbooks and of certain chores such as having to collect maggots from the excrement of public outhouses and then the excrement itself which was to be used as fertilizer in the countryside (this practice still apparently continues in North Korea but due to food shortages, it has diminishing returns).

In the Youth Corps she is made a leader with the responsibility of reprimanding others who don’t show enough zeal:

“You claim to have not met your quotas because you didn’t have enough time. And yet yesterday I myself saw you playing with other children. I find it hard to believe that you had time to play but not to work. Such an excuse shows you have violated the lesson of Our Great Leader [Kim Il-sung], who teaches us to be faithful to a group life.”
She says that others would often eagerly make stronger denunciations:

“Comrade student, you don’t deserve to study in the bosom of Father President. You should be expelled from school at once.”
She does well at school and gets herself accepted to the Pyongyang Foreign Language Center in which she majors in Japanese. Her language abilities and dedication fatefully attract the eye of Party Agents and she is inducted in to a military college to be trained as a spy with the codename Kim Ok Hwa. Her Japanese teacher there is named Eun Hae.

Kim Hyun-Hee explains that Eun Hae was a Japanese citizen from Tokyo who was abducted by North Korean agents while playing with her children at the beach and forced to become a Japanese tutor for North Korea’s spies. Although Eun Hae’s life is miserable, in which she spends a lot of time drinking and pining for her children in Japan, Kim rationalizes Eun Hae’s abduction by saying that Japan’s crimes in World War Two were far worse. There’s a remarkable account of both of them sneaking out of the military college to arrive at a nearby village in which the people live in far worse poverty than is seen in Pyongyang.

Eun Hae insisted, on Sunday evening, that we visit the village, because she had never seen ordinary North Koreans before. We found a decrepit cluster of houses and filthy children running around the streets, some naked. I was ashamed at this and tried to pull Eun Hae away. But she stared at the children with tears in her eyes…
“So this is your brave new world, Ok Hwa,” she said with unmitigated scorn. “I pity you”.

Eun Hae is, in fact, Yaeko Taguchi who the North Korean government insist is now dead.
The chapters involving some of her ninja-style training are actually quite grippingly told. She has to infiltrate a mock-embassy, break a safe and memorize a message. In order to add to the realism of the exercise she is allowed to beat the guards unconscious. She is also trained in the three Korean martial arts, taekwondo, tangsoodo and hapkido, which she later puts to good effect when she is accosted by a madman in the lingerie section of a Belgrade department store (!)

Finally, she is summoned to meet the Director of Foreign Intelligence and learns of a top secret and important mission that she is to fulfill:

“Comrades,” he said “I will start with the conclusion first. Your mission will be to destroy a South Korean airplane.” He paused, allowing the words to sink in. I felt butterflies in my stomach and stared at him.
“The order, you may be interested to know, was written by Our Dear Leader himself, Kim Jung Il [sic]. Handwritten, that is…This whole mission is in fact Our Dear Leader’s own idea…Our entire national destiny will depend on it.”

The Director goes on to explain that the destruction of the plane would prevent South Korea from being able to hold the Olympic Games as other countries will stay away in fear and that the change in the constitution of South Korea from a dictatorship to a democracy will be sent into turmoil with the country eventually falling apart and having to unify with North Korea under the leadership of the Kim family.

Well, if that doesn’t sound quixotic enough of a plan Foreign Intelligence went even further in compromising the mission by partnering Kim - who would go by the Japanese name Mayumi Hachiro - with an almost infirm and aging chain-smoker Kim Seung-il who would pose as her father, Shinichi, and having them fly from Belgrade to Baghdad and then to Abu Dhabi (where they would alight) allowing them to escape as the plane continued on to Seoul with a bomb in the overhead luggage compartment. Fortunately, if anything went wrong they each had a packet of Marlboro cigarettes to console themselves with. Each contained one with a slight ink smudge on it indicating it was laced with cyanide.

Kim Seung-il has some reservations about this strangely incompetent plan which increases his anxiety and illness. Future Axis-of Evil North Korea's agents were to fly in to Saddam International Airport to pick up this bomb while the two other future Axis-of-Evil nations Iraq and Iran were locked in a war. Unsurprisingly security is very tight and yet the two men who deliver them the bomb arrive at the airport disguised as…well secret agents…dressed in identical suits with identical sunglasses and both named Choi!

To be continued...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

How Inconvenient!

This picture, which appears at the Foreign Policy blog purports to show a piece of the torpedo which sank the Cheonan diplaying the Hangul script. I'm dismissive of conspiracy theories that claim the evidence is fabricated or of those who react to the discovery of Korean script on the torpedo with, "How convenient!" simply because it is in no way convenient to South Korea or any of the other countries that sent its experts to be part of the international investigation such as the US, UK, Australia and Sweden.

The DPRK has offered to send its own investigators:

The Democratic People's Republic Korea (DPRK) on Saturday urged South Korea to receive an inspection group to be dispatched by the National Defense Commission (NDC) of the DPRK to verify evidence related to the sinking of a South Korean warship in March, the official KCNA news agency reported.

But they have been refused:

According to the KCNA, Seoul's rejection of the DPRK inspectors "can not be construed otherwise than a move to prevent the true nature of its conspiratorial farce and charade from being brought to light."

The South Korean side has already given its reasons for rejecting this delegation no doubt seeing the murder of 46 of its seamen to be humiliation enough:

But South Korean Defence Minister Kim Tae-Young on Friday rejected the North's demand as "outrageous", saying it would be "like a robber or a murderer insisting he must inspect the crime scene".

South Korea said Friday the North should instead attend military talks with the US-led United Nations Command (UNC) after the command wraps up its investigation to review the findings of the investigation and determine the scope of armistice violation that occurred in the sinking.

It seems that it could also be inconvenient for North Korea in this final straw will be the end of the "Sunshine policy" of engagement with North Korea.

The Wall Street Journal's editorial insists that Kim Jong-il's regime no longer be seen as legitimate:

The larger strategic insight is to recognize that North Korea won't change until Kim dies or his regime falls. The goal of the West should be to increase pressure on the North toward the latter goal, especially given signs of increasing discontent in the North...

...The [US] Administration could also announce that its "future vision" is for a united and democratic Korea, similar to the united and democratic Germany that Mr. Obama celebrated in his famous Berlin speech. Supporters of engagement will decry this as provocative, but it will put the North on notice that the U.S. no longer accepts its legitimacy as a given.