White Mountain Links, 5-23-12

23 May

133773110390_20120523.jpg All-Korea Edition!

Realizing former president Roh’s dream must, paradoxically, begin with denial of Roh himself. It involves moving beyond the taxidermized Roh Moo-hyun, the deified Roh Moo-hyun and the thoroughly beautified Roh Moo-hyun. We must infuse Roh’s spirit with new life and make it into a foundation set firmly into the ground of reality, rather than floating in the air. In order to do this, we must start by adopting honest and modest mindsets. We must not be afraid of admitting the failures of Roh’s policies. We must not attempt to avoid responsibility through excuses and sophistry. We must clearly admit the achievements and limitations of the past, seek new alternatives for the future and prove them in the present.

Roh left us with the words, “The organized strength of enlightened citizens is the last bastion of democracy.” The strength of enlightened citizens is the keyword that will determine the direction of politics this year, and by extension, the future of the state. The opposition must hold on to a deep awareness, however, that awareness and spontaneous political participation on the part of citizens can never occur through self-righteous assertions or emotional appeals alone.

Now is the time to send Roh Moo-hyun on his way. We must cut away the imagined Roh and create a new one. A longing for change may in fact be the most important element of Roh’s spirit. Let us put our hands together and pray that the deceased can lay down all the baggage he carries and rest peacefully in the next world.

Aside from the creepy feeling I get from images of “taxidermized Roh” playing in my head, how can any self-respecting person, man, woman, or believer, square Roh’s ‘The organized strength of enlightened citizens is the last bastion of democracy.’ with “We must cut away the imagined Roh and create a new one.” (And, why does everything any Korean ever says or writes in public sound like a weird blend of a Hitler/Stalin oration?) At the risk of offering one more risible quote, to replace two risible Korean ones, “I’m Sparticus!” (Or, if you didn’t like that movie, “I’m Malcolm X”) Really, “Just do it!” (Advertising is everything, you know!”)

A central hope of engagement with North Korea is that increased cross-border exchange will encourage the strengthening of institutions, and eventually, a moderation of the country’s foreign policy. Our unprecedented survey of Chinese enterprises operating in North Korea reveals that trade is largely dominated by state entities on the North Korean side, although we cannot rule out de facto privatization of exchange. Little trust is evident beyond the relationships among Chinese and North Korean state-owned enterprises. Formal networks and dispute settlement mechanisms are weak and do not appear to have consequences for relational contracting. Rather, firms rely on personal ties for identifying counterparties and resolving disputes. The weakness of formal institutions implies that the growth in exchange does not conform with the expectations of the engagement model and may prove self-limiting. The results also cast doubt that integration between China and North Korea, at least as it is currently proceeding, will foster reform and opening.

South Korea is working on a plan to forge a military cooperation pact with China, the defense ministry said Monday, in what appears to be an effort to soften the possible backlash a similar accord with Japan could cause.


Kim also dismissed speculation that military cooperation agreements between South Korea and Japan could escalate regional tensions as it would bring South Korea, Japan and the United States more militarily close against North Korea, China and Russia.

“We plan to push for military agreements between Korea and Japan after carefully taking various issues into consideration, such as the unique status of the relations between the two countries,” Kim said.

The article took pains to say that this did not signal a deterioration in relations between China and North Korea despite the implications of some reports by Western media organizations. It quoted North Korean officials as saying that relations with China remained “friendly.”

The official People’s Daily, which ran a one-sentence report on Monday saying the fishermen had been released, ignored the incident on Tuesday. But it devoted a large part of its front page to an article on developments related to the Tumen River area, where China and North Korea as well as Russia, South Korea and Mongolia are cooperating on economic development.

The Chinese fishermen returned to the port of Dalian on Monday just ahead of a visit to China by Glyn Davies, the U.S. envoy on North Korean affairs. Davies is expected to meet Chinese officials on developments on the Korean peninsula during his stay in Beijing.

UPDATE 4:24 pm: The North Korean embassy in Beijing declined to comment, but China Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei offered Beijing’s most extensive comments on the incident to date at a regular press briefing Tuesday afternoon. Here is what he said: “The Foreign Ministry attaches great importance to the incident. The Foreign Ministry and Chinese Embassy in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea maintained close communication with the DPRK in Beijing and Pyongyang, securing the release of the fishermen and fishing boats. The Chinese side urged the DPRK to observe agreements, including those on consular visits and notifications. China also demanded the DPRK ensure safety and humanitarian treatment of the fishermen. Based on our understanding, the Bureau of Fisheries is conducting investigation.”

Are many North Korean kids as clean and well-fed as those in AP’s photos, or are more of them like the sick and hungry orphans who have been filmed haunting the country’s markets? Do many North Koreans really worship their leaders, as Ms. Lee’s reporting suggests, or are most of them more like the tens of thousands who have fled their homeland or died trying? As long as these aspects of North Korea are absent from AP’s reporting, its dispatches will remain suspect.

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