Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Different This Time, And The Same

I am referring to the North Korean show of force last week that left two Korean civilians dead.  While it's true that the North has racheted-up its "acting-out behaviors" as we educators say of snotty-nosed little assholes, in recent months, the shelling of a fishing village on a border island called Yeonpyeongdo, was highly unusual.

North Korea has broken the peace several times in the nearly sixty years since the truce was declared at Panmunjom--most recently, apparently, in the sinking of a "Pohang-class" corvette cruiser named ROKS Cheonan--but its targets are pretty much always military or governmental.  Forty-six sailors died aboard the Cheonan, two marines were killed at Yeonpyeongdo.  True, there was the Geumgangsan resort shooting--but that was the case of a (possibly soju-addled) ajumma shot by a pimply-faced recruit who panicked.   Meanwhile, tens of thousands in Kim Jong-il's concentration camps have withered away, been stoned to death or shot for attempted escape....

It's also different this time in the reaction of many South Koreans.  They have been angered by aggressive action from the North before this, of course, but there seems to be a feeling of betrayal this time--they killed regular Koreans, not soldiers, but their brothers!  We send them rice, we keep them from freezing to death in the winter cold, and they kill their own relatives?  Enough!

So that's what's different.  What's the same?  First and foremost, of course, are the reasons behind Pyongyang's actions:; scholarly concensus and newspaper punditry agree (read here my favorite source, the Daily NK):
Why did the Kim Jong Il regime carry out this act of aggression?The priorities for the Kim Jong Il regime are as follows, in the order given; 1. Maintain the current system; 2. Hand down power with stability; 3. Draw up domestic and foreign policies to solve problems such as feeding the people.
North Korea's attack on Yeonpyeong Island, and its revealing of a uranium enrichment facility earlier this month, are directly related to priorities 1, 2 and 3, and move the country one step closer to its stated goal of becoming a “strong and prosperous nation” by 2012. The regime's intention to steer the Lee Myung Bak North Korea policy towards failure is clear, and there are two reasons for this; the short-term goals that lie openly before our eyes, and North Korea's oft-repeated, broader goal of 'resolving fundamental issues between the U.S. and North Korea'.

Also the same: international condemnation, roundly stated, but basically futile as long as China doesn't make an effort to rein in the Dear Leader.  That DPRK continues to see the US as its primary enemy and the ROK as her "puppets" should be no surprise, since there's no other way NK soldiers could stomach aiming at their kith and kin.  This is not an exaggeration--I mentioned in the post immediately preceding this one how relational the Korean language is, no matter which side of the 38th parallel you are on. 

But what most stays the same is the refusal of the North Korean cadres to conform their world view to the observable circumstances around them: for instance, the per capita income north of the 38th parallel is 7.0% of what it is south of it on the Korean peninsula.  South Koreans have a more-or-less fully functioning liberal democracy in which every vote counts--hell, election day is a holiday here!  While the media here is rather blinkered and conservative, it has few governmental limitations and is sure-as-hell-NOT some kind of US proxy! 

Here is a photo from DongA (thanks to blogger bud Adeel for this) showing North Korea as seen from Yeonpyeongdo, with a less-than-subliminal message for the masses:

위대한 수령 김일성 동지 혁명사상 만세 -
"Long live the revolutionary ideas of the Great Leader Kim Il-sung"
 Interestingly, it was the DongA, of all the paps today, that reported anything other than the resignations/firing of Lee Myung-bak's two main military dudes (is this really the best timing for that?)  due to some verbal miscues in the immediate aftermath of the Yeonpyeongdo incident.  The story focused on Cheongwadae's dealings with Chinese leaders to act.  Titled China begins action on defusing inter-Korean tension, the story provides hope, but little, alas, in the way of concrete measures China is taking, or even promising to take.  I mean, "China is committed to peace and stability on the [Korean] peninsula?"

Who the hell isn't?  Except Kim Jong-il, of course.


SuperDrew said...

Who the hell isn't? Except Kim Jong-il, of course.


kevin.thurston said...

verbal miscues, did you say?

Sarah Palin’s choosing sides in the conflict between North and South Korea–and picking Kim Jong Il?

Couldn’t be. But there she is on Glenn Beck’s radio show saying just that: “This speaks to a bigger picture here that certainly scares me in terms of our national security policy. But obviously we’ve gotta stand with our North Korean allies.”

The host helpfully corrects her, “South Korean allies.”