Quotulatiousness

April 16, 2014

North Korean embassy officials upset over London hair salon ad

Filed under: Asia, Britain, Business — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

BBC News on the apparent diplomatic incident taking place at M&M Hair Academy in South Ealing:

Kim Jong Un bad hair day adNorth Korean officials paid a visit to a London hair salon to question why it had used their leader Kim Jong-un’s picture in a poster offering haircuts.

The poster in M&M Hair Academy in South Ealing featured the words “Bad Hair Day?” below the leader’s picture.

Barber Karim Nabbach said embassy officials were shown the door and the salon’s manager spoke to the police.

The Met Police said: “We have spoken to all parties involved and no offence has been disclosed.”

The salon put up the poster on 9 April and the next day two men claiming to be officials from the North Korean embassy visited the salon and demanded to meet the manager, Mo Nabbach.

Karim Nabbach said: “We put up posters for an offer for men’s hair cuts through the month of April. Obviously in the current news there has been this story that North Korean men are only allowed one haircut.

H/T to Eric for the link.

April 1, 2014

The Unauthorized Autobiography of Kim Jong Il: Q&A with Michael Malice

Filed under: Asia, History, Humour, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

Published on 28 Mar 2014

Kim Jong Il, who was the supreme leader of North Korea until his death in 2011, was a leading authority on gymnastics, cinema, literature, war, cooking, and the arts. He wrote 1,400 works when he was in college, including a senior thesis that was an achievement comparable to Columbus’ discovery of America. He revolutionized the opera, personally discovered that Paleolithic man originated on the Korean Peninsula, and came up with a theory of art that was as impactful on modern culture as the Copernican Revolution. Why did the supreme leader always wear sunglasses? That’s because his eyes were constantly bloodshot from staying up all night figuring out ways to help his country.

These are details from celebrity ghostwriter (and former editor of Overheard in New York) Michael Malice’s new book Dear Reader: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Kim Jong Il, a strange, tragic, and humorous first-person account of the supreme leader’s life. On March 18, 2014, at an event held at New York City’s Museum of Sex and sponsored by the Reason Foundation, The New York Times columnist John Tierney sat down with Malice to discuss the book.

Highlights from the event included a discussion of how Malice came to write Dear Reader (1:28); why Kim Jong Il is despised by North Koreans (7:00); how North Koreans are forced to engage in regular self-criticism sessions in which they’re denounced by their peers (9:00); why it was a surprise that Kim Jong Il succeeded his father, Kim Il-sung (12:00); why there’s no hope that political change will come to North Korea anytime soon (20:20); Ayn Rand’s influence on Malice (23:20); why Kim Jong Il hated the Mona Lisa (27:15); an example of a North Korean joke (29:15); why Malice thinks the media’s coverage of Dennis Rodman’s relationship with Kim Jong Un is deplorable (31:35); the story behind the 1987 bombing of Flight 858 by North Korean agents (33:20); the origins of the Korean famine (41:00); Kim Jong Il’s “spot on critiques of U.S. foreign policy” (42:00); why North Korea allows its citizens to reunite with family members from South Korea (43:30); the relationship between China and North Korea (50:00); and North Korea’s nuclear capabilities (51:15).

For more on Malice’s time in North Korea researching the book, read his account from the August/September 2013 issue of Reason.

March 9, 2014

Prime Minister jets off to South Korea for trade deal photo-op

Filed under: Asia, Cancon, Economics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:32

It’s not clear whether Prime Minister Stephen Harper is going to Seoul to actually sign a free trade agreement with South Korea or if it’s just another grip-and-grin photo-op to announce an as-yet-unfinalized deal:

Harper said on his 24 Seven webcast that this would be Canada’s first trade deal in the Asia-Pacific region.

“It adds, obviously, to the important deals we have in the Americas and in Europe now. And it’s really given the Canadian economy as good, if not better, free-trade access than virtually every major developed economy,” he said.

Harper added that South Korea is “a relatively open economy, a relatively, very progressive economy and advanced democracy, and it has trade linkages all through Asia itself.” He said it’s “probably the best gateway you can get into long-term trade agreement access into the Asia-Pacific region.”

NDP trade critic Don Davies said growing trade with South Korea and Asia in general is a good thing. But he was skeptical that the week’s coming ceremonies would amount to much more of a repeat of Brussels.

“Are they going to go just to shake hands, have a photo-op and sign an agreement-in-principle without the actual details or text to be released?”

Davies again assailed the government for a total lack of transparency, and questioned whether the deal would be able to protect jobs in Canada’s auto sector.

“In trade deals, it’s details that matter,” he said.

“The Conservatives have the least transparent trade policy probably in the developed world. They are closed, they are secretive and they don’t involve a lot of stakeholders; they don’t involve the opposition.”

The deal would mark progress toward expanding trade with Asia, a major economic priority of the Harper government. Coming on the heels of the Canada-EU pact, it would allow Prime Minister Stephen Harper to trumpet his first significant free-trade deal in Asia, and give impetus to other negotiations, particularly with Japan.

February 17, 2014

The dirty not-so-secret about Olympic venues

Filed under: Sports — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:44

Every time somebody suggests that Toronto be seriously involved in an Olympic bid, I become a big supporter of the other competing cities. Toronto is dysfunctional enough without adding the cost, disruption, and anti-democratic central planning aspects of hosting the Olympic games. In Samizdata, Michael Jennings looks at the shenanigans going on both in Sochi with the current Winter Games and in future venues:

The 2018 Winter Olympics are in Pyeongchang county in South Korea. Assuming that North Korea does not collapse or try to start a war between now and then, this will be straightforward, as these things go. A vast amount of money has been spent building new world class ski resorts at Alpensia and Yongpyong. These have largely been built already. They were built in anticipation of Pyeongchang winning the Winter Olympics. Pyeongchang also made unsuccessful bids for the games of 2006 and 2010, and has therefore been building for some time. There are already large financial black holes from the construction of these venues, but one cost overruns will be anywhere near as bad as have come from the highly corrupt race to get things built on time that took place prior to Sochi. Plus there have been and will be time for lots of test events to get the venues right. Of course, there are still highly expensive new highways and railways to be built, and a lot of indoor venues to be built for the ice events in the coastal city of Gangneung. As national pride is at stake, South Korean taxpayers will undoubtedly suffer painfully, but South Korea is a rich industrial democracy with competent people in charge. These games will likely go smoothly, but they will cost a lot — just not as much as Sochi.

The venue for the 2022 Winter Olympics has not yet been decided, but the IOC announced last year there were six final bidders: Stockholm (Åre), Sweden; Oslo, Norway; Krakow, Poland (Zakopane, Poland and Jasná, Slovakia); Almaty, Kazakhstan; Lviv, Ukraine; and Beijing (Zhangjiakou), China. [It has always been the case that the indoor ice events would be held in a city and the outdoor snow events in a mountain resort. In recent times the need for the city to be close to the resort has been relaxed somewhat, and I have listed the mountain resort(s) in brackets if it is a long way away from the official host city].

Sweden has already withdrawn their bid, and Norway appears to be close to doing so. The reason: they are seeing the immense expense and horrible shenanigans going on in Sochi. A little secret of the Olympics is that many of the the same people run it every time — the host city largely just picks up the bill. Once the event has ridiculous expenses and large amounts of outright corruption attached to it, this all comes with it to the next venue. Receiving kickbacks on construction projects becomes what it is all about.

Relatively uncorrupt places like Norway and Sweden look at this, and find that they want nothing to do with it. As great centres of winter sport, they have many of the right facilities already, meaning less scope for construction industry kickbacks. This means that for some of the IOC the fact that a country is already prepared for the Games is actually a negative rather than a positive.

Anyway, though, the point is that the two countries best able to host the games end up not being serious candidates.

As for the others: Poland and Slovakia would run the games just fine, but a fair bit of infrastructure and facilities would need to be built. Krakow is a lovely city. Zakopane is a lovely resort, and the Tata mountains are a suitable place for the games, even if the best downhill resorts are on the Slovakian side rather than the Polish side. (Some of the infrastructure construction would not be too counterproductive: Poland built lots of new roads, railways stations and airport terminals before the Euro 2012 soccer tournament, most of which were needed anyway and were part of Poland’s long term post-communist infrastructure modernisation). The Olympic games are not what money should be spent on in the present economic circumstances, though, and one also hopes that the richer countries of the EU are past paying for the Olympics to be held in the poorer countries of the EU (see Athens 2004). But with the EU, who knows?

February 15, 2014

South Korea’s high-speed broadband (censored) internet

Filed under: Asia, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:43

The Economist looks at the gosh-wow technical specs of South Korean internet access, governed by the sensibilities of a restrictive, censorious regime:

Why South Korea is really an internet dinosaur

SOUTH KOREA likes to think of itself as a world leader when it comes to the internet. It boasts the world’s swiftest average broadband speeds (of around 22 megabits per second). Last month the government announced that it will upgrade the country’s wireless network to 5G by 2020, making downloads about 1,000 times speedier than they are now. Rates of internet penetration are among the highest in the world. There is a thriving startup community (Cyworld, rolled out five years before Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook, was the most popular social network in South Korea for a decade) and the country leads the world in video games as spectator sports. Yet in other ways the futuristic country is stuck in the dark ages. Last year Freedom House, an American NGO, ranked South Korea’s internet as only “partly free”. Reporters without Borders has placed it on a list of countries “under surveillance”, alongside Egypt, Thailand and Russia, in its report on “Enemies of the Internet”. Is forward-looking South Korea actually rather backward?

Every week portions of the Korean web are taken down by government censors. Last year about 23,000 Korean webpages were deleted, and another 63,000 blocked, at the request of the Korea Communications Standards Commission (KCSC), a nominally independent (but mainly government-appointed) public body. In 2009 the KCSC had made just 4,500 requests for deletion. Its filtering chiefly targets pornography, prostitution and gambling, all of which are illegal in South Korea. But more wholesome pursuits are also restricted: online gaming is banned between midnight and 6am for under-16s (users must input their government-issued ID numbers to prove their age). Sites from North Korea, including its state newspaper, news agency and Twitter feed, are blocked, as are those of North Korea’s sympathisers. A law dating back to the Korean war forbids South Korean maps from being taken out of the country. Because North and South are technically still at war, the law has been expanded to include electronic mapping data—which means that Google, for instance, cannot process South Korean mapping data on its servers and therefore cannot offer driving directions inside the country. In 2010 the UN determined that the KCSC “essentially operates as a censorship body”.

December 16, 2013

Denunciation generator

Filed under: Humour, Politics — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:34

If you feel the urgent need to denounce a class traitor or arch imperialist running dog, the site you need to visit is the North Korea Press Release Generator:

Welcome to the North Korea Press Release Generator, which produces random denunciations based entirely upon last week’s official announcement and various other statements put out over the years by the DPRK’s official journalistic organs. You can even denounce your friends, and share news of their imminent execution on Twitter and Facebook! Refresh the page for a fresh official condemnation.

More: the BBC recently published an article explaining why North Korea’s official insults are so over-the-top. I would also be remiss not the point to the pioneering NK Random Insult Generator, created by NK News in 2005.

October 30, 2013

Fertility and denial – East Asia’s demographic shift

Filed under: Asia, Japan — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:57

In sp!ked, Stuart Derbyshire looks at the unprecedented drop in total fertility rate in most of East Asia:

Fertility rates in East Asia have fallen catastrophically since the early 1970s and are now the lowest in the world. In all parts of Asia, the total fertility rate (TFR) has fallen by half or more in the past 35 years. In Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, the TFR hovers between 1.0-1.3. For a population to replace itself, the TFR needs to be above 2.1. Thus, if these trends in fertility are not substantially reversed, the population of Asia will rapidly shrink as the continent heads into extinction. How did this happen?

Most commentators are inclined to blame the falling rate of TFR on the influence of modernity on women. Speaking in 1983, for example, Singapore’s then prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, infamously remarked that educating women and bringing them into the workforce had undermined their more traditional role as mothers: ‘It is too late for us to reverse our policies… Our women will not stand for it. And anyway, they have already become too important a factor in the economy.’

[...]

Falling fertility in Asia involves not just the rejection of motherhood but a broader rejection of intimacy and responsibility of many kinds. About two fifths to one third of women in Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan are choosing not to marry. Increasing numbers are not even bothering to date. When I ask my students why this is, they shrug and talk about the hassle and expense, as was highlighted in a recent article. Children are expensive and they are also demanding, intrusive and may not turn out how you desire. Similarly, relationships are messy and difficult, with the ever-present possibility of disappointment. It is easier to live at home, hang out with friends and avoid intimate contact.

The problem in Asia is not modernity but rather the postmodern self-conscious denial of human agency and subjectivity. Young Asian men and women deny that they can be independent and deny that they can forge meaningful intimate personal relationships and so, instead, they accept the relative comforts of living with parents and the relative ease of being single. This denial of independence, intimacy and responsibility is a problem across the world and is bound up in a disregard for human agency typical of mainstream commentary on the environment, terrorism, economics and most other scientific and social issues. The impact in Asia may be more devastating because of the relatively sudden displacement of traditional Asian values without any broader narrative of what modern Asia is. Unlike America and Europe, Asia does not have a clear continental story, no obvious heroic past, unifying welfare state or pan-Asian vision that might blunt a turn towards the denial of the self.

September 2, 2013

South Korea decides against the F-35 and the Eurofighter Typhoon

Filed under: Asia, Military, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:40

The South Korean government is in the same situation as the Canadian government: needing to purchase replacements for Cold War era combat aircraft and having a very limited budget to do so. After analyzing their specific needs, South Korea isn’t going to buy either the F-35 or the Eurofighter Typhoon:

On August 18th South Korea selected Boeing’s F-15SE Silent Eagle as the sole candidate for Phase III of its Fighter eXperimental Project (F-X) over Lockheed Martin’s F-35A and the Eurofighter Typhoon. The decision has drawn vociferous criticism from defense experts who fear the selection of F-15SE may not provide the South Korean military with the sufficient Required Operational Capabilities (ROCs) to counterbalance Japan and China’s acquisition of 5th generation stealth fighters.

In hindsight, Zachary Keck of The Diplomat believes that Republic of Korea’s (ROK) preference for the F-15SE over two other competitors was “unsurprising.” After all, Boeing won the previous two fighter competitions with its F-15-K jet. In 2002 and 2008, South Korea bought a total of 61 F-15K jets from Boeing. South Korea’s predilection for the F-15SE is understandable given its 85% platform compatibility with the existing F-15Ks.

However, the most convincing explanation seems to be the fear of “structural disarmament” of the ROK Air Force should it choose to buy yet another batch of expensive fighters to replace the aging F-4 Phantom and F-5 Tiger fighters. Simply stated, the more advanced the fighter jet, the more costly it is. The more expensive the jet, the fewer the South Korean military can purchase. The fewer stealth fighters purchased, the smaller the ROK Air Force.

Here is a mock-up of the F-15SE, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Mockup of the F-15SE Silent Eagle

Mockup of the F-15SE Silent Eagle

July 24, 2013

A visit to North Korea

Filed under: Asia — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:27

In this month’s Reason, Michael Malice recounts his tourist trip to the Hermit Kingdom:

As background reading for my trip, I devoured several books about the nation (though Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader by Bradley K. Martin and Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick should be sufficient for anyone planning a visit). Like most other don’t-call-me-a-hipster New Yorkers, I also watched The Vice Guide to North Korea on YouTube, in which Vice honcho Shane Smith claimed that in North Korea, “there’s nothing normal that happens ever.”

My experience ended up being completely different from Smith’s — about the only thing we shared in common was that we coincidentally ended up staying in the same hotel room. I witnessed vast amounts of human normalcy in the most abnormal society on Earth. When I waved to teenage girls, they giggled. When I smiled at toddlers, their grandmothers beamed with pride. The people on the streets of Pyongyang are often alleged to be actors staffed for the benefit of tourists, but there is no amount of training in the world possible for a theater production of that scale.

The first step to entering North Korea is getting debriefed by the Western tour agency that acts as your liaison. I expected a long litany of do’s and don’ts from Phil, our Western guide in Beijing, but his advice was actually quite relaxed. “The North Koreans really like and admire their leaders, so we need to respect that. We will be laying flowers at the statue of Kim Il Sung and bowing before it. Does anyone have a problem with that?” No one did. “That’s about it. Just don’t be a jerk and everything will be fine.”

[...]

We tend to think of North Korea as being stuck in time, but that is an incoherent description. One can get stuck in traffic or in line at the airport, but “time” is a very big place. In the parking lot encounter, for example, the soldier was dressed in a 1950s military uniform. The woman wore the sort of cringeworthy 1980s pantsuit that a fresh-off-the-boat Soviet immigrant might view as the acme of style back home. Both were “stuck in time,” in different times, like a flapper talking to a hippie.

So while the contemporary Internet might be forbidden in North Korea, there’s a thriving black market in VCRs — the better to watch foreign videotapes on. Though I didn’t think of it at the time, the woman and the solider provided a perfect metaphor for where the modern dynamism in North Korea lies. The army is stuck in a Cold War rut, while the black marketeers — more often than not female — become “wealthy” and powerful by flouting the laws and bribing whoever they need to bribe. It’s capitalism de facto, not de jure. And it’s growing, as the poverty-stricken government becomes increasingly unable to feed its enforcers.

Although North Koreans are kept ignorant of much that happens outside the state — and just as much that happens inside it — they’re not completely isolated:

I couldn’t figure out how to ask Kim about world events or history. I knew this would be a touchy subject leaving for little back-and-forth. Picking her brain would easily come off as arguing, and would cause her native paranoia to kick in. I wanted to ask about the Holocaust, but knew World War II was an extremely sensitive area. I thought of the most world-famous event I could that would have little bearing on North Korea, and so at one point simply asked Kim if she had heard of 9/11.

“Of course,” she said, rolling her eyes at my obtuseness. “We saw it on the television.”

Her reaction was telling. She clearly felt that, though the media might be biased, it wasn’t particularly censored. In her view, the state media wouldn’t keep such major world events a secret.

I still remain quite surprised that they played the actual video. Despite the obvious reveling in America taking a hit, one can’t show 9/11 footage without showing something that most of us no longer register in those shots: the New York City skyline. The closest thing in Pyongyang is the 100-plus story Ryugyong Hotel (“The Hotel of Doom”) a never-finished monstrosity that’s been dubbed the worst building in the world and usually excluded from official photos. The comparisons between the wicked New York of their propaganda and the glowing skyscrapers, calling to immigrants like sirens of myth, could not be any greater.

May 27, 2013

Kim Il Sung’s 1974 higher education management text is “a perfect book for our times”

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Humour, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:45

Alex Usher can’t stop recommending On Improving Higher Education, by Kim Il Sung, going so far as to call it “a perfect book for our times”:

Pay raises, for instance are Right Out. “As long as you make an issue out of remuneration, you cannot be a revolutionary,” says Kim, righteously noting that nobody paid Marx to write Das Kapital (the fact that Marx died before completing it might have had something to do with that, but no matter). North Korean intellectuals had the privilege of giving lectures and writing books, “and yet they insist on receiving money for this wonderful task,” Kim splutters.

Work rules, too, come under serious scrutiny. Responding to complaints that “university and college professors lecture a thousand hours a year”, which some consider to be too much, Kim is clear: “You are wrong! Fundamentally speaking, calculating lecture hours is not the attitude of a revolutionary. If you are true revolutionaries who serve the people, you would never calculate the hours; you try hard by all means to work as much as you can”.

(I make the following offer to university administrations across Canada: if any of you decide to try to outflank your faculty union to the left by telling them their views are evidence of captiveness to bourgeois ideology, I’m buying the first round.)

April 17, 2013

Within the Hermit Kingdom

Filed under: Asia, Military, Pacific — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:02

“Sir Humphrey” posted this a few weeks ago, but given the ongoing weirdness emanating from North Korea, it’s still fully valid:

North Korea is one of the most unusual and terrifyingly Orwellian states on the planet. Imagine a nation where every member of the population has spent the last 60 years being told that they live in a paradise, and that they have the greatest living conditions on earth. Add to this complete state control of the media and broadcast, a network of spies and informants and a gulag archipelago that would make Stalin jealous. Presiding over this nation of some 23 million utterly indoctrinated and militarized people is a tiny elite who enjoy a pampered and privileged lifestyle which provides them with any manner of goods and services. At the very top of this is the ruler Kim Jong Un, who has inherited his position from his father Kim Jong Il. The Kim dynasty are treated almost as gods, and no criticism of any form is officially tolerated.

[. . .]

It is telling that there have been multiple photos of Kim appearing in the media while making visits to the armed forces. Kim Jong Il used to do something similar, whereby he would make a regular ‘guidance’ visit to various KPA units and reiterate advice on how things could be done better (a trait of Kim Jong Il was his unerring ability to be a world expert at whatever he turned his mind to apparently). If anything Kim Jong Un has been more prominent in these sorts of visits, where he seems determined to establish his credentials as a military leader. Not a military man by background, and with no real party power base to speak of, he needs to ensure that he can count on the loyalty of the armed forces to support his regime. Photos of him delivering guidance may appear somewhat hammed up to the Western audience, but in North Korea they serve as evidence that Kim has an understanding of the threat and is prepared to meet it.

The use of the rhetoric against South Korea and the US is important — it provides a unifying theme and helps focus attention on repelling the long expected attack. At the same time, the attempt to conduct a crude form of ‘nuclear blackmail’ by conducting tests of devices and rockets helps demonstrate Kims credentials as a credible world leader, with the most advanced technology and the ability to dictate terms to the wider world. The problem though is that as Kim is discovering now, it is difficult to back down from the pedestal when the other side don’t react as you expect them to.

April 7, 2013

Possible reasons for North Korean bellicosity

Filed under: Asia, Military, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:10

Michael Walker in the Eurasia Review:

What the North Korean leadership is hoping to achieve by its belligerence is anyone’s guess. As a “senior U.S. official” told the Reuters news agency that, when it comes to Kim’s strategy, “It’s a little bit of an ‘all bets are off’ kind of moment.” Several possible explanations suggest themselves, though. First, it may be that Kim is simply attempting to secure his power base by standing up to the “imperialists” in Washington. It would be understandable if he felt the need to bolster his position domestically, for he is a mere 30 years old and faces the monumental task of solving the country’s “chronic economic problems,” while at the same time keeping the 1.2 million-strong army on his side.

A second possibility is that he is employing former U.S. President Richard Nixon’s “Madman Theory”: Give the other side the impression you are capable of doing anything, including using nuclear weapons, in the hope of winning concessions at the negotiating table. Again, considering the DPRK’s perilous economic circumstances, this strategy would make some sense.

A third, and less probable, explanation is that Kim really wants to provoke a military clash with the United States and its allies. Given the isolated nature of his regime, there is at least a chance that he believes the DPRK has the means to emerge victorious in such a confrontation.

Another unknown quantity in this supercharged state of affairs is Park Geun-hye, South Korea’s first ever female president. Her month-old administration is already reeling from a series of scandals, leaving her weak at a time of potential national crisis. She would be under enormous pressure to reply with force were the North to launch even a limited military strike. Her predecessor was castigated for his vacillating response to North Korea’s alleged sinking of a South Korean ship and bombardment of a disputed island in 2010, which led to the resignation of the country’s defense minister.

April 6, 2013

The madness of Kim Jong Un

Filed under: Asia, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:09

In his weekly “Goldberg File” email, Jonah Goldberg explains why he is much more concerned about North Korean provocations and expostulations:

The problem — I fear — is that Kim Jong Un has himself been duped. I could very well be wrong, but my concern is that unlike his father and grandfather, he’s come to believe the propaganda. Like Hitler in the bunker ordering that non-existent armies be moved into position, I fear he doesn’t realize that his country is, militarily speaking, like a giant bee. It can deliver a horrible sting, but once it does, it will die.

I also think he’s more than a few fries shy of a Happy Meal. People used to say he spent time in the West and so he can’t be all bad or too crazy. I love this kind of horsehockey. You know who else spent time in the West? Lenin, Marx, the Ayatollah Khomeini, Pol Pot, Ho Chi Minh, Sayyid Qutb, and Michael Jackson just to name a few. Now Michael Jackson may not have been a mass-murderer or advocate of murder, but he was Coo-Coo for Cocoa-puffs. Why? Because from childhood on he lived in a bubble. My guess is that Kim Jong Un’s bubble has always been a good deal thicker than Michael Jackson’s — at least Jackson went on tour. I fear the only difference between King Joffrey in Game of Thrones and Kim Jong Un, is that Joffrey is better looking, albeit with more ridiculous clothing. I wouldn’t be surprised if Un has told his aides that if Obama attacks, “I’ll give him a red smile.”

I’m only partly kidding, but it wouldn’t surprise me all that much if a contributing factor to Un’s belligerence was the recent release of the Red Dawn remake on DVD. If you’re a crazy dude who spends his days in pajamas drinking Long Island ice teas in your bunker as Romanian prostitutes let you win at Call of Duty and Dennis Rodman texts you compliments, that movie might just be all the proof you need that the Americans understand what a threat North Korea is. The message of the film, in Nork-Crazy-Talk at least, is that Americans should keep fighting even after the North Koreans crush our military.

Never Again, Again and Again.

Even if we end up appeasing North Korea yet again, and we kick the can down the road yet again, something needs to be said that isn’t said — or at least appreciated — enough. North Korea is really, really, really, evil. And one day, after the regime is finally gone, historians will look back on the Hieronymus Bosch hell that North Korea has been for decades and condemn us all for letting it endure as long as we did. Forced abortions, mass starvation of whole generations of children, torture, oppression and institutionalized cruelty of every imaginable kind is what distinguishes Juche as an ideology.

I am not arguing for invading North Korea — not because it would be wrong to do so but because the price of doing so is just too high. If we could overthrow the regime with a snap of the finger, I would spend my days snapping my fingers until King Jong Un and his whole pajama-clad clan were hanging from their feet in the streets of Pyongyang. But costs and benefits must be considered in foreign policy, and the costs of deposing the band of murderers is just too high. That said, the costs of not doing anything are high too. But since we don’t feel them, we don’t pay them. Doing nothing probably means consigning at least another generation of children to grow up physically stunted and deformed from hunger and mentally stunted and deformed by institutionalized barbarism. That is, if they are granted the privilege of growing up at all.

April 5, 2013

Is the North Korean government crazy like a fox or just plain crazy?

Filed under: Asia, Military — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:47

Tim Worstall has actually had dealings with North Korean military officials. On the basis of those experiences, he’s much more worried that things will go very, very wrong:

My experience comes from working in Russia. The Norks had a special deal on freight rates on the railways. So, if you had a metals deal that would only work if you got cheap rail freight (say, aluminium alloy from Chelyabinsk in the Urals to Japan) then you’d chat to the local Nork KGB guy and cut them in on the deal. Which is how one day I ended up wandering through the Nork embassy, past the mural of Kim Il Sung standing on the mountain top, to present $10,000 in fresh $100 bills to my freight rate fixer.

Do note this was a couple of decades ago when such shenanigans were indeed legal. Not necessarily moral, but legal. This then led to more contacts, including being asked to rewrite into real English the collected works of Il Sung (at $100 a volume, not me, matey) and a request to provide aluminium alloy into N Korea itself for “window frames”. That the purchasing commission for these “window frames” was to go to three generals made us think that perhaps the windows were going to be on the rockets that you can also make from aluminium alloy. Fortunately my lust for lucre was never really tested as this sovereign nation was unable to come up with a Letter of Credit for $250,000 as required. Their “western” bank simply didn’t think they were good for the cash so refused to issue it. Which is one interesting little fact about the place.

But it was that long-ago meeting with those generals that makes me worried about what the Norks might do now. For they were entirely, completely and totally unaware, ignorant, of how the wider world worked. Even my demand for an LoC surprised them. But surely I would just do what the State desired of me? And who could doubt that the State would indeed pay me if it was in my or the State’s interest to do so? Umm, yeah, right.

We’ve all heard of groupthink, even of brainwashing. And the problem is that the people at the top of this State really do seem to believe their own propaganda: that the world really is out to get them; that their army, were they to unleash it, would sweep all before them; and even that lobbing a nuclear bomb at wherever would make all quail before their mighty power. They seem not to have considered the option obvious to the rest of us: that doing so would turn Pyongyang into a shiny glass parking lot for the assembled armies of the world.

Update: Just a bit of context from Wikimedia:

North Korean missile ranges

March 28, 2013

US responds to North Korean rhetoric with symbolic B-2 bombing exercise

Filed under: Asia, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:15

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