Archive | March, 2009

Today’s Korea Photo

31 Mar

To Be Young., originally uploaded by Dax Melmer.

Pyongyang Forces Washington To Deal Directly

31 Mar

(via DPRK Forum)

Reuters certainly reacts as if Pyongyang is trying its patience, even as it holds two unfortunate Americans, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, arrested when the Current TV journalists “…ventured onto the ice to get some footage…” on the Tumen River separating PRC and DPRK. That LAT article by Barbara Demick underscores something many documentaries and books on the North Korean regime have almost comically exposed: North Korean border guards are thoroughly corrupt.

Just how porous is the border? I learned on my first trip when visiting a riverfront park farther south on the Yalu.

Out from a thicket of weeds emerged a pair of North Korean border guards, their uniform pants rolled up to the knees, as they waded through the water, grinning broadly and eager to chat.

Did we have drinking water? Cookies? Cigarettes? What nice sunglasses I was wearing. How much did they cost? Would I give them away? How about my watch? Or even a watch battery.

We eyed somewhat anxiously the Kalashnikov assault rifles they had slung over their shoulders. A young South Korean women who was one of my traveling companions asked if they were real.

“Of course, it’s real. You don’t think we would carry toy guns,” answered one of the North Koreans. Flirtatiously, he took it off his shoulder and extended the weapon for the young woman to hold.

After a few minutes of banter, we gave back the gun, along with a bottle of beer and a case of Choco Pies, a South Korean junk food that the Northerners accepted with delight. We all waved cheerful goodbyes, declining their invitation to visit the other side.

Poor Ling and Lee just didn’t have enough Choco Pies to pay the crooked price when Pyongyang was most probably looking for a diplomatic distraction.

I’m disappointed with Reuters‘ simplistic correlation of this set play with the impending prospect of a Taepo-dong-2 and a possible subsequent volley of shorter-range missiles. It misses two aspects of Pyongyang’s strategy. One is the satire of the Western legal system. Pyongyang is tossing all of Washington’s legalisms and UNSC resolutions back in the form of a show trial.

This was the first reported case in which a U.S. citizen will be indicted and tried in North Korea, South Korean officials said. The North’s criminal code calls for between 5 and 10 years of “education through labor” for people convicted of “hostile acts” against the state.

In a “severe” case, the code allows more than 10 years in labor camp.

Fred Lash, a U.S. State Department spokesman, said the U.S. government has seen the report and was working diplomatically to “achieve a favorable outcome,” Reuters reported.

Washington has no diplomatic ties with Pyongyang, but a Swedish diplomat based in Pyongyang met the journalists on Washington’s behalf.

On Tuesday, North Korea said it would allow the reporters consular access and treated them according to international laws.

Pyongyang is also single-mindedly focused on compelling Washington to negotiate with it as formal equals, state to state, holding two Americans as hostage (some nifty speculation here). Choe’s essay above also highlights the role Pyongyang’s detention of a South Korean national for “…inciting North Korean workers to defect to the South…” in the Gaeseong industrial zone for mollifying ROK President Lee Myung-bak’s response to a North Korean missile launch. Pyongyang, with its legal system and military deterrent has always demanded bilateral ties with the US, explicitly excluding Seoul in any role.

It’s not personal – and hardly crazy – it’s all state to state. De jure recognition it’s not, but DPRK has extorted de facto recognition Washington will never be able to abjure.

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Today’s Japan Photo

30 Mar

Pier – Inage Beach, originally uploaded by cocoip.

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