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DPRK: The Land Of Whispers

10 Jun

DPRK-The-Land-of-the-WhispersI’m ambivalent about the notion of visiting North Korea, and I wish the 1000-2000 foreign tourists who go there every year wouldn’t make a group tour sound like an experience. I would welcome closure – the chance to connect faces and scenery to the voices of intelligence targets I monitored. But, I couldn’t square handing over my savings to an odious government that commits so much brutality and illegality, as well as generally being quite twisted.

The director/producer/star of DPRK: The Land of Whispers admits to this ambivalence as well.

It was a tricky process because I wanted to make sure everyone in North Korea stays safe. I wanted to make sure that the people who assisted with my travel/film don’t get negatively affected and, at the same time, I wanted to be honest and truthful about my thoughts and experience. That’s nearly impossible when I got such extremely different views on each end of the spectrum, but I am really proud of the good balance I feel I was able to achieve in the film. I still stand by the film fully and I feel it was as objective as possible, especially considering the circumstances.

So, forgive me, but I hope this post about this movie doesn’t inspire any readers to visit North Korea.

Selective Memory Day

28 May

Hero of WarOn Memorial Day, it’s fitting to recall, that not all Americans considered the day worth celebrating.

In its original incarnation as a product of the Civil War, Memorial Day was divisive and triumphalist, a Northern institution. If it were more widely remembered that the day began with this focus, we might be less enthusiastic about it today. After all, we have mixed feeling about having fallen into civil war in the first place. Perhaps re-purposing is central to our commemorations today.

Progressives have long been uncomfortable with the idea of a day dedicated to soldiers killed in the nation’s wars. Conflicts like James K. Polk’s Mexican War, William McKinley’s Spanish-American War, Teddy Roosevelt’s Philippines War, Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam War, and George W. Bush’s Iraq War were wars of aggression, seeking territory or resources or both. No one would want to exalt these seedy episodes in American history, however much we regret the soldiers’ lives expended.

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When Barack Met The Yushin Princess

8 May

When Barack Met the Yushin PrincessFor the photo-op that summits generally are, the important events in inter-Korean relations are happening on the Korean peninsula, not at the R.O.K.-U.S. summit in Washington, D.C. Optimism is rampant, in what one official called a “provocation pause” following the redeployment of two Musudan missiles to a non-operational mode. And, the Bank of China has halted transactions with North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank. Finally, Pyongyang threatened South Korea with retaliation for allied drills conducted near the Yellow Sea.

In the highly conditional threat, the section of the Korean People’s Army responsible for operations in North Korea’s southwest said it would hit back if any shells fall in its territory during the drills, which began Monday and are to end Friday. Should the allies respond to that, it said the North Korean military will strike five South Korean islands along the aquatic frontline between the countries.

The area includes waters that are claimed by both countries, and is the most likely scene of any future clash between the rival Koreas. North Korea disputes a boundary unilaterally drawn close to its shores by the U.S.-led U.N. Command after the war, and has had three bloody naval clashes with the South since 1999.

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