Friday, January 23, 2009

Hey Obama, What About North Korea?

WaPo media columnist Howard Kurtz asks, on the second day of the Obama Presidency:
It is well past time to ask the question: What has Barack Obama really accomplished as president, anyway? ... Think I'm being a tad impatient?

Well, maybe a little. Still, it's not too early to complain that Obama's not doing enough to solve the DPRK/ROK problem, at least according to a column in the Asia Times titled 'Hey Obama, What About North Korea?':
If Korea appears as a secondary issue, it's not for want of trying on the part of North Korea. Why else has the North Korean propaganda mill been churning out alternately shrill and conciliatory statements? One day Pyongyang wants to make nice with the Obama team, the next it accuses the US of being up to its old tricks. ...
If Obama has signaled anything about Korea, it is that North Korea will have to try a lot harder for him to cast a glance in that direction, much less name a special envoy with the luster of [ex-Sen. George] Mitchell or [longtime diplomat Richard] Holbrooke.

I don't think Obama has signaled anything about Korea, except the phrase from his Inaugural (I realize it was so long ago we've all forgotten) that "we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." However, his newly confirmed SecState has talked about the need to deal with NK's nukes--heck, she even knew the difference between plutonium and enriched uranium, and says nuclear instead of nucular.

IHT reports on a Xinhua story that DPRK leader Kim Jung Il received a delegation from China on Friday--which seemingly occurred unannounced in the midst of a flurry of press conferences out of Pyongyang (covered five posts below). One explanation:
"North Korea must have timed the meeting in part to demonstrate once and for all that Kim remains in charge," said Kim Yong Hyun, a North Korea expert at Dongguk University in Seoul. "As the new U.S. president Barack Obama is said to support dialogue with North Korea, Kim needed to signal to Washington that he is well enough to accept an envoy."

Backing up a little, yeah, Hillary got confirmed, but I read that Attorney General-designate Eric Holder is being delayed so the Senate Republicans can become the official pro-torture party. Holder has publicly declared that waterboarding is torture. In the words of John Cornyn, asshole from Texas, "I want some assurances we're not going to be engaging in witch-hunts" by prosecuting US personnel who engaged in torture of people with weird names, minority religious beliefs and dark skins, even though those torturers ignored two hundred years of American legal history.

Bonus Photograph: E-Mart salesgirls in traditional hanbok placing their lunch order in the food court. Before any holiday, the "seasonal" area of E-Mart is full of gift boxes hovered over by these ladies.

honbok-clad salesgirls in E-Mart

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